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As more advertising spend migrates online, there’s a need to understand differences between online ads that drive short-term sales and those which drive long-term, profitable brand growth. Moving the profit needle digitally has never been so important, but it’s never been so hard!

This was the issue facing digital agency Undertone when they contacted System1 Research in 2016. The key factor we explored was the role of emotion in digital advertising. But emotion tends to be underplayed as a profitability factor in digital advertising, because of the emphasis on driving short-term clicks and sales rather than driving long-term sustainable brand growth and profitability.

The first part of this paper lays out the central research needs and digs into the theoretical background of the project. The second part discusses some of the methodological challenges we faced. And the third presents the conclusions and wider industry learnings.