Which Ad Image Tugs Most at Folks’ Hearts?

Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that an advertiser was inclined to manipulate the emotions of potential customers and, as the old saying goes, “tug at their heartstrings.” Which of several images would be most likely to serve that purpose?

An AdweekMedia/Harris Poll posed such a question last month, yielding the responses you see summarized in the chart here.

While it may not be surprising that women were more likely than men to say “a baby” would play most strongly on their emotions, the gap was almost as wide when it came to “a puppy”: 45 percent of women, vs. 37 percent of men, said that’s what would set their heartstrings twanging.

The other big gender gap was in the number saying “none of these” would do the trick, with men almost three times as likely as women (29 percent vs. 10 percent) to choose that answer.

The survey’s 18-34-year-olds (an age bracket including many who have yet to reproduce) were less likely than their elders to pick “a baby.” Thirty percent of them made that choice, vs. 39 percent of the 35-44s, 38 percent of the 45-54s and 34 percent of the 55-plusers. There was no significant variation among age cohorts in the numbers who chose “a puppy.”

One might have expected the poll’s more aged respondents to provide some support for “a sweet old lady” or “sweet old man,” but they were having none of it. Just 2 percent picked each of those options. The 18-34s, who might have sweet old grandparents still living, were the most likely to pick “sweet old lady” (5 percent) or “sweet old man” (4 percent).

The cold-hearted “none of these” choice was most popular among the 18-34s (22 percent) and 55-plusers (21 percent), while it lagged slightly among the 35-44s (16 percent) and 45-54s (17 percent).

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