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How Does Personification Impact Ad Performance and Empathy? An Experiment with Online Advertising

How Does Personification Impact Ad Performance and Empathy? An Experiment with Online Advertising
How Does Personification Impact Ad Performance and Empathy? An Experiment with Online Advertising

This research, led by Joni Salminen, explores the value of personas for supporting professional advertisers designing social media advertising.

We test if a personified user group (PUG), when provided to online ad designers, results in better ad performance than when using a non-personified user group (NUG) that had no face picture or name.

Our experiment has 30 participants that created Facebook ads using both PUG and NUG.

We found that using PUG increased the advertising click performance of ads created by people who are more experienced with both ads and personas.

Moreover, an analysis of the ad texts showed that the use of PUG increased the empathy of the created ads, supporting the foundational empathy benefit cited in HCI literature.

However, the use of PUG did not significantly increase purchase intent.

The results imply that using PUG for online ad design evokes more empathy and improves click-through performance. More empathetic ads can have a positive impact on social media users, given that they appear to increase relevance.

Salminen, J., Kaate, I., Sayed Kamel, A., Jung, S.G., and Jansen, B. J.  (2021) How Does Personification Impact Ad Performance and Empathy? An Experiment with Online AdvertisingInternational Journal of Human–Computer Interaction, 37:2, 141-155, DOI: 10.1080/10447318.2020.1809246

By Jim Jansen

Dr. Jansen is a Principal Scientist in the social computing group of the Qatar Computing Research Institute, and a professor with the College of Science and Engineering, Hamad bin Khalifa University, and an adjunct professor with the College of Information Sciences and Technology at The Pennsylvania State University. He is a graduate of West Point and has a Ph.D. in computer science from Texas A&M University, along with master degrees from Texas A&M (computer science) and Troy State (international relations). Dr. Jim Jansen served in the U.S. Army as an Infantry enlisted soldier and communication commissioned officer.