Ghosh, A., & Deb, M. (2022), Universal emotional arc structure in advertisements and their favorability. European Journal of Marketing.


This study aims to propose a novel way to explore the narrative structure of advertisements, a nascent area of research, through the protagonist’s emotional arc progression.

The multi-methods approach is used. In Study 1, the authors explore the basic universal emotional arcs through the analysis of narrative advertisements from six key economies. In Studies 2 and 3, the authors experimentally test hypotheses concerning the narrative structure and viewers’ attitudes toward the narrative using representative samples (317 and 193 ads, respectively).

The authors identify five broad emotional arcs of the protagonist in audiovisual advertisements. Different emotional arcs are found to induce different attitudes in the audience. Narratives ending in a positive mode and the narrative arcs with higher emotional shifts are more favorably evaluated by the audience.

Research limitations/implications
The present study is limited to textual stimuli tested in a US population and does not consider protagonist characteristic portrayal.

Practical implications
Understanding consumer preferences for different emotional arcs can help practitioners to develop more clutter-breaking and relevant advertisements.

To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this study is the first to explore the narrative structure theory in the context of advertisements using a positivist approach.