Some Thoughts On: Outrage?!

There’s a well known scourge on the mobile game industry – fake ads. Anyone who’s ever dived into a ‘ad-supported’ mobile game likely know the ones. (If you don’t, there’s a bunch of examples here and here and below.)

In short – they’re ads unrelated to the game that include things to trigger attention through intense emotion.

Common themes are:

  • Disgust (weirdly – a common theme is smelly feet),
  • Empathy/Sympathy (often including pregnancy, homelessness and sexual manipulation)
  • Outrage or Arousal (through hyper-sexualisation and suggestive themes)
  • Frustration (through obvious mathematical or geometric puzzles that the person playing on the ad always seems to mess up. The aim is to have you feeling the unbearable sense that “I can do better!” )

These are acute emotions.

In a world of numbness and ‘doom-scrolling’ – with the average internet user spending over 2.5hrs a day on social media – acute emotions stand out.


As a funny proof of the point here, my 6yr old (who is sitting next to me) keeps asking to see the example picture I used above. These things are designed to captivate and buy attention, and they’re good at it!


So why do these companies run these ads that are so completely different to their core game?

Well, the numbers seems to stack up for them.

Outrageous ads get more clicks. And even if 90% of clickers go on to immediately uninstall the app when they realise they’ve been duped – that’s 10% that stay and become monetised.

The battle for our attention is brutal and social media algorithms reward attention. 10% of 10,000 clicks is more than 50% of 1,000.

The question for you, dear change leader, is

How are you deploying acute emotion into your projects?

I’ve found that people tend to like it when you deal directly with reality. So don’t ignore the power of frustration, outrage and disgust, and don’t shy away from highlighting the things that suck.

Final thoughts

As an interesting, but related aside – I’ve been experimenting with putting my phone into ‘black and white’ mode to give my senses and dopamine receptors a break.

It’s really quite effective. If you finding you’re picking up your phone just a little too much – I’d recommend giving it a go.

See you all next week.