What drives emotion and physiological arousal in adverts? The critical role of figurative operations
Houghton, D., Littlemore, J., Ford, S., Harfield, C. and Marder, B. (in press 2022). What drives emotion and physiological arousal in adverts? The critical role of figurative operations, In A. Athanasiadou and H. Colston, Figurativity and Human Ecology. Figurative Language and Thought Series, Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
The inclusion of figurative operations in marketing videos has the potential to improve the effectiveness of marketing campaigns due to their reported ability to trigger emotional responses, thus making the campaigns resonate more strongly with the viewer. This study explored the relationship between the presence of three figurative operations (hyperbole, metaphor and metonymy) in campaign videos and the levels of physiological arousal and emotion that were triggered by those videos. Seven videos were coded for these three embedded figurative operations. Participants watched the videos in laboratory conditions, where their levels of electrodermal activity and self-report emotional responses were recorded. The ability of these figurative operations to trigger physiological arousal was compared to that of two other features that have been shown to promote arousal (the presence of humour and unmarked contrast). The presence of hyperbole led to higher levels of arousal than humour and unmarked contrast, the presence of metaphor led to higher levels of arousal than humour, and the presence of metonymy led to higher levels of arousal than humour, but lower levels than unmarked contrast. Associations between these arousal levels and the reported emotions are discussed, and collectively provide insights into the optimal use of figurative operations in marketing campaign videos. Our findings contribute to a deeper theoretical understanding of the relationship between figurative operations and arousal, and provide practitioners with information regarding which figurative operations are likely to evoke a stronger emotional response when used in marketing videos.