The Effectiveness Recipe for NFP Ads

In my previous article, I explored how emotions play a big part in Not-For-Profit ads, showing how happy and positive emotions boost long term effectiveness; while sadness only results in short term growth.

This time I’d like to consider the other elements that make successful NFP ads. My colleague Orlando Wood, in his latest book with the IPA, explained that ads can appeal to either the right or the left part of the brain and that most effective ones are usually those that talk to the right brain.

Decades of pop psychology have meant the realities of the left/right brain divide are poorly understood and may even be seen as a myth. Wood’s book Lemon draws on the most recent science in this area, particularly the work of neuroscientist Iain McGilchrist. The key to understanding the divided brain is to realize that the two hemispheres do not do different things – instead, they do things differently.

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While the left-brain abstracts things from their context and represents the world through mental models, favoring repeatability and predictability; the right-brain understands the world through connections and relationships, with a sense of proportion and perspective. The right brain is also responsible for broad and vigilant attention and is in charge of flagging anything of interest to the left brain, so if advertising wants to get noticed it needs to appeal to the right brain.

NFP ads are no exception, some of the best scoring ads in 2019 according to System1 Ad rating tool, which measures emotional impact of advertising, are predominantly the right brain. Emotional strategies are twice as likely to lead to profitable growth in the long-term than campaigns that rely on rational messaging. System1 determines brand growth through Star Rating, a 1-5 Star scale, with 1-Star leading to 0% brand growth and 5-Stars to 3%-plus.

The recent ad from Cancer Research UK, with an impressive 5.1 star rating, tells a happy story of a patient receiving the great news of being free from cancer. This ad is packed with right-brain elements such as dialogues, a strong narrative and a sense of betweenness. This particularly successful ad doesn’t only spread positive emotions such as hope and joy to the audience, but it also appeals to the right brain; the perfect mix for effectiveness!

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The Christmassy ad from The Guide Dogs For The Blind Association is another successful example of NFP ad, with a score of 4.8. Happiness and right-brain elements are again the key elements, the cartoon story about a sweet dog and Santa leaves the viewers with a joyful spirit, a right-brain sense of place is also present throughout the ad.

Not all brands got the effectiveness recipe right, if we look at this year’s 1-star Trocaire ad, aimed at helping families fleeing from conflicts, we see a number of short clips showing people in difficult situations. This ad mostly includes left-brain features, there’s no dialogue or definite sense of place, and the emotions that viewers are left with are definitely negative.

Another 1-star scoring ad is the one released by the Movember Foundation this year, although it isn’t based on negative emotions or shocking images it includes strong left-brain features with the repetition of a number of abstracted mouths with moustaches and the absence of dialogue, resulting in a low score.

The recipe for effectiveness is not easy to crack, but with some right-brain elements and a sprinkle of positivity, NFP ads can definitely reach for the 5 stars!

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