The Digital Psychology of Online Advertising

In a world so consumed with digital technology, it’s almost impossible to imagine what life was like before the internet. New businesses are born online, and brick-and-mortar stores struggle as consumers keep their wallets in their pockets.

Consumers have never been more aware of the brands around them as they are now, and companies need to take advantage of this fact. The internet has become the most influential platform for advertising, with studies showing that online ads are particularly persuasive on consumer buying behaviour.

Emotions and Advertising

Research suggests that advertisements are more likely to be remembered when individuals experience happiness, sadness, fear, and disgust while watching them.

These four emotions are called the core emotions because they have been identified from a very early age through facial expressions. They also happen to be relevant in online advertising situations.

We don’t like irrelevant ads, and we respond better to those that catch our attention. But what is it about an ad’s message or targeted audience that helps online ads successfully engage consumers?

The answer lies in psychology. Understanding how people process information and why certain ads work so well can help every advertising agency hone its approach. Taking a closer look at how we process advertising content is the key to optimizing the return on investment for your online advertising campaign.

Emotions Make an Ad Memorable

Our brains are designed to remember things that are emotionally relevant, not just useful. The more emotionally charged an ad is, the more likely it will be remembered. Similarly, ads with unique content are more likely to gain attention than those without.

When making an ad, consider what emotion you want to evoke. Is your goal excitement? Humor? Comfort? And, if so, what type of humour are you going to use – sarcastic or slapstick? Dramatic or funny?

How does an ad evoke the desired emotion varies depending on the product being advertised. For example, using humour in a medical ad would seem inappropriate because people are not usually comfortable laughing about serious things like illness.

Understanding Ad Recall

If your goal is to make people remember an ad, one effective strategy is to go negative. In a study done by “The Journal of Consumer Research,” it was found that recalling information about a product became easier when the participants were first asked to recall something they disliked.

People seem to have a sense of finding gaps in knowledge and filling them in.

It makes sense when you think about it. If you are faced with the choice of being introduced to a product or being told that someone dislikes it, your response will likely be, “tell me more.”

What’s important is to ensure that whatever ad you design has something unique about it. People are bombarded with online ads, so if your ad doesn’t stand out, it will simply blend in and get lost in the competition.

Targeting is Essential for Successful Returns

If you want to get a good return on investment for your advertising agency, consider this: finding people who are already interested in what you’re selling will be more effective than trying to convince people that they need it.

Targeting people who are already interested in what you’re selling can be done by understanding their interests. For example, if your product is a game with five levels, you could target users who play games on Facebook if you wanted them to download the game.

Another way companies are using targeting effectively is by showing ads to people who have already downloaded similar products. For example, if a user has downloaded a photo editing app, it would be more effective to advertise an image cropping app than it would be to advertise anything else.

Brands Are Becoming Media Companies

Today’s digital media and social networking environment mean brands need to adapt and become media companies in their own right.

For successful online advertising campaigns, advertisers need to provide information that is useful to consumers for them to engage with the content. For example, an ad for a business networking site could be followed up by a blog post about tips on making the most of your business networking opportunities. By supplying relevant content, the advertiser gains the trust of its audience and becomes a valuable source of information.

The Boundaries Are Blurring

The digital world is merging with the physical world in some unexpected ways. For example, companies are using mobile devices to track consumers’ movements throughout stores to better understand shopping habits.

For example, Top Shop has even started using barcodes, which are normally only used to mark products, to track shoppers, allowing them to determine who is shopping, how they are feeling about their purchase, and what kind of return the shopper expects.

By understanding human behaviour through digital data, companies can create more effective advertising campaigns that connect with consumers on a personal level. For example, two people returning from a trip might see the same ad for the same resort, but it would be created to appeal to each of them differently because of their demographics and how they’ve interacted with that specific resort.

It’s also worth noting that the boundaries between “online” and “offline” are becoming more blurred. For example, by adding a barcode to your company’s catalogue, you can now track how many people are interacting with it online.


The success of digital advertising relies on many different factors. The consumer’s experience, preferences, and education all play a role in engaging with ads online. By using digital data effectively and carefully respecting an individual’s privacy, however, brands can provide a personalized experience that is more likely to capture the attention of its desired audience, increasing its likelihood of a positive response.