A recent innovation in advertising is the use of AI or predictive analytics to target readers via emotion. AI has learnt: ““sadness” ads are popular with “socially responsible brands targeting women.””
The NYT has been collating the data and selling it to advertisers so they can better key their product to the consumer (https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2019/5/21/18634323/new-york-times-emotion-based-ad-targeting-sadness). If your brand speaks to socially conscious women, then you ask NYT to put your ads next to sad news stories. Sale!
On the one hand, Adam Smith would not be surprised that aligning a product with a consumer through the conduit of sentiment works. This is what his work on sympathy would predict. Smith would also think the practice moral.
On the other, Thomas Aquinas might be equally interested, but for very different reasons. In his 1272 De malo, he argues that demons do not literally invade the body of the possessed, but speak to them. Demons first observe the emotions their target is especially given to, then craft a story to so intensify those emotions that they topple the person’s rationality. Without reason, our wills can be easily compelled: possession is a kind of madness induced in us by speech.
Sounds familiar, right? Aquinas would not approve.