When you hear the term “emotional ads,” chances are you’re thinking of the cry-and-buy ads like Subaru’s tear jerkers or the SPCA + Sarah McLaughlin ads.
Case in point.
Now these ads are powerful, yes, but you don’t have to move your customers to tears to have an effective emotional ad. Nor do you have to have music and video, or even images in some cases. In fact, there are plenty of businesses just like yours who are marketing with emotion through their ad copy. And that’s what we’ll be diving into today. So read on for 13 types of emotional ad copywriting techniques, 21 ad examples that demonstrate them, and 85+ words and phrases inspired by them to use in your copy.
Choose your mood
Click to jump to any emotional ad copy style.
Negative emotional ad copy examples
Negative emotions tend to be more powerful motivators than positive ones—when used correctly. Here are some ads that nail it.
The doubt seed planter 🙁
Sometimes the tiniest seed of doubt is all it takes to motivate action. In this Facebook ad example below, Mailchimp writes “Freelancers know they need to hustle to succeed—just don’t hustle too hard. Why?” Then it shares some stats about overworked freelancers generating less revenue. In the ad creative, it also asks the question, “Are you overdoing it?”
Well shoot. Maybe your reality as you know it is not quite what you thought. Are you overdoing it? Better download that report to find out.
Words and phrases to plant doubt seeds
- But do you really
- Can you be sure?
- When was the last time you checked your…
- Do you know what your ___ is?
- You can’t always rely on your instincts
The hard truth teller 😧
No doubt or mystery here. 360Learning takes a firm stand by telling you that traditional elearning “isn’t cutting it anymore” and is “set up to fail,” causing “the greatest learning crisis in recent memory.” If I’m in search of a learning management software, I’m not about to invest my money into something that, according to science, is set up to fail. I think I’ll go’head and do some learning about learning.
Words you can use for hard truth
- Isn’t cutting it anymore
- Set up to fail
- On the fast track to failure
- Fall short
- The truth is
- We hate to break it to you, but
- We’ve got good news and bad news…
- The only thing is…
The indignant anger stirrer 😤
In some cases, you can address a pain point in your ad that your customer might not be fully aware of. For example, this ad starts off with “The majority of the day should NOT be spent waiting in the pharmacy.”
Now someone who has never used a different pharmacy than their current one, or even an older individual who might have the patience to wait—might not realize that there’s a better option out there. This Facebook ad copy introduces the pain point and encourages a feeling of assertive pursuit of what you deserve.
Here’s another example. SoFi (one of my favorite conversational tone brands) has a video of a woman being left out in the rain with copy that reads, “Broker leaving you out in the cold? Warm up to an investing relationship wtih SoFi—and pay $0 in commission fees..” Then the Facebook ad headline says “break up with bad brokers.”
And finally, this Google Ad copy from a law firm reads “Don’t let the insurance co. push you around. Take back control. Discuss your rights today.”
Words to stir up indignant anger in your ads:
- You deserve better
- Stay away from greedy ____
- Put a stop to
- You should not have to
- The ____ game is over
- Don’t let ____ walk all over you
- You’re not a doormat
- You’re worth more than ____
The playful warning 😜
These ads strive to make you laugh while also not really laughing…
In this ad, we see a picture of a wide-eyed cat with ad copy that reads, “That feeling when you forget to download Capital One Shopping and overpaid online.” Then we see a little more urgency below with “You’ll want to check this out ASAP.”
Words & phrases to warn
Now this strategy can be used with any emotion, but if you want to convey regret/panic, these trigger words and phrases can work:
- Oh shoot
- If only
- Could have spared yourself
- Coulda shoulda woulda
- Don’t miss your chance
- Missed opportunity
- Better safe than sorry
- Seemed like a good decision at the time.
- But is it?
The subtle threat 😐
These ad examples below are for Talkspace’s Employee Stress Check Report. There isn’t an explicit threat—just stats. At least 25% of employees are underperforming regularly due to stress. More than 40% of employees are likely to consider a job change to resolve stress. Then you’re told you can learn more with the report. Then the subtitle of the report is “The tipping point between retention and resignation.”
See what they did there? Managers and HR employees…we’re not saying your employees are about to quit…but lotssss of them do….so, just sayin’.
Words & phrases to drop a subtle threat
- On the verge
- Only X (minutes, clicks, experiences) away from…
- When you least expect it
- Under the radar
- Fail to realize
- Accidentally neglect
The overt threat 🤭
You could also just go with a flat-out statement like CallRail does. In this display ad example, it reads “You’re wasting money on marketing.” Then the call to action says “Find out where, free.”
Overt threat words
Tell your audience they are…
- Wasting money
- Losing time
- Throwing away precious ____
Positive emotional ad copy examples
Now you don’t want your emotional words and phrases to always be prompting negative feelings. Here are some positive examples and tactics to balance things out.
The hero 🙏
This Facebook ad creative first reels you in by capturing that feeling of dread and defeat. It’s a mother in complete disarray in her living room with text overlaid that reads “My house used to be clean, then school let out…”
Then the primary text reads “That feeling when you realize the house will be a wreck until August…but hey, no need to stress! The Maids can help control the chaos with regularly scheduled cleanings, or a deep clean to reset the house after school starts in the fall.”
In just a few seconds, we go from stressed to relieved, thanks to this cleaning service.
Words to bring relief
- But before you panic
- Don’t stress
- We’ve got you covered
- No worries
- Fear not
- Good news
- ____ is hard….until now
- The struggle is [real, strikethrough] over
- From woes to wins
- Don’t sweat it
The reassurer 👍
If there’s one thing that every human wants, it’s control, and what better way to convey that than with a play on words. This ad from a local moving company reads “You’re in the drivers seat at Red Rover. You load the unit, drive the truck & we store it!”
Plus, in less than 10 words I know exactly what to expect from this service. This is concise copy that sells.
Words to help your customers feel in control
- You call the shots
- You set the pace
- Take control
- Take back
- You’re in control
- Hey, we get it
- Head honcho
The curiosity sparker 🤔
This one is nothing revolutionary, but it’s a tried and true copywriting technique. This ad by GRIN inspires a mix of curiosity and exclusivity with “We compiled insider tips from 14 leading ecommerce brands. Discover the secrets for yourself.” Words like “insider,” “discover,” “take a peek,” and “secrets” give me the feeling that there’s gotta be something in there that I don’t yet know. And even if I’m a know it all, now I have to download the guide to confirm this.
Words to inspire curiosity
- Want to learn more?
- See the proof
- Let us change your mind
- Try not to ____
- Take a gander
- There’s something in here for everyone
- You’ll wish you knew sooner
The visionary 🙌
Evoking a sense of potential or possibility is a great way to approach your customers’ pain points. Instead of saying “we help you do X,” this ad puts the focus on the customer with “imagine being able to compare your surgical data to other US surgeons. Our integrated mobile app puts this data at your fingertips.”
Here’s another one:
Words to help with possibility and contemplation
- What if you could
- What if we told you
- Picture this
- Ever wonder
- Push boundaries
The go-getter 🏃🏾
The “stop X-ing start Y-ing” approach is a solid way to exude confidence (apart from including a photo of yourself in a power stance on a rock). You’re commanding your reader to take action that is in their best interest. This ad reads, “Stop dreaming about owning your own travel agency franchise and start living it!”
Words to inspire confident action in your ads
- Enough waiting….do X already
- What are you waiting for?
- Isn’t going to do itself
- You’ve waited for far too long
- This doesn’t have to be a dream
- If not now, when? If not you, who?
- The time is now
- This is your time
- Pull the trigger
- Your move
The wooer 😚
This ad has a similar feel, but it’s less about telling your customer to go out and get something and more about honoring something that’s already there—or something you know they want to be there. It reads, “You’re an innovator at heart. Your curiosity sparks ideas. Every day at HPE is a new opportunity to make your mark.”
Words to woo your customers
To try this technique, think about how the individuals in your target audience would want to be described. But if you need some starting points:
- Hard worker
My core values list can also help you out here.
The idealist 😊
The ad below reads “You’re justs clicks away from equity-free funding through Shopify Capital—built to flow with your business as you scale.” Then there’s a screenshot in the creative of a notification that reads “You’re eligible for funding.” In another ad for this product, the pretext has phrases like “There’s an easier way to sell online and in person” and “Skip the stress and switch.”
See what’s going on here? Clicks away…equity-free…flow….eligible…easier way…skip the stress. While the Maids approach above uses the pain-agitate-solution copywriting formula, this one just immerses you in the relief of the solution. You’re invited to get a taste of all these green lights, so to speak—not to mention the green theme in the ad creative).
Words and phrases to emulate that ideal state
- With ease
- In minutes
And that’s a wrap! Which emotional copywriting technique are you going to try out? Maybe woo your customers with words of affirmation? Or drop a subtle threat with an eye-opening stat? Here’s the list to recap:
- The doubt seed planter
- The hard truth teller
- The indignant anger stirrer
- The playful threat
- The subtle threat
- The overt threat
- The hero
- The reassurer
- The curiosity sparker
- The visionary
- The go-getter
- The wooer
- The idealist