Modern digital advertising platforms allow ads to be targeted in a variety of ways, and generally aim to match the ad being shown with either the user or the content being shown. In this study, we examine the effect of matching in emotional content of ads and the video on which the ad is shown on consumers’ engagement with the ad. On the one hand, ads that are emotionally matched with the content video could lead to greater engagement with the ad because of the desire for consumers to extend the emotion they are experiencing. On the other hand, emotional mismatch between the ad and content video can lead to greater perceptual contrast, thereby drawing more attention to the ad. Additionally, consumers viewing a video with negative emotions might have a preference for positive emotions in the advertising to get themselves to a happier state.
Thus, whether emotional matching is more effective in driving ad engagement, and thereby potentially consumers’ evaluation of, affect towards, and purchase of the advertised good is an empirical question. We study this question through a field experiment run in collaboration with VDO.AI, a video and ad serving platform.
In this experiment, we manipulate the video/ad combination consumers see, with variation across the experimental conditions in the emotional content of ads and videos. We find that in our setting incongruence, where emotional content of videos and ads are mismatched, leads to greater ad engagement. We find suggestive evidence for attention being the mechanism through which incongruence leads to better outcomes. Our findings contribute to the literature on advertising, and provide an important targeting variable for firms in the AdTech space.