Editor’s Note: Do emotions really drive advertising effectiveness? Although certainly other measures still have primacy in research, the evidence increasingly points to the answer being “yes”. This isn’t just an academic question; it’s vitally important to generating ROI for marketing programs.
To bring more attention to the role emotional engagement plays in advertising effectiveness, 2 years ago BrainJuicer launched FeelMore50™ – a ranking of the 50 most effective, emotional ads. Today is the unveiling of the 2015 edition, and it’s an important benchmark for the industry in validating the role of emotions in effective campaigns.
I chatted with Alex Hunt, President of the Americas for BrainJuicer on the details of how they did, why, and what they are hoping to accomplish with this significant endeavor. Before you dive into Tom Ewing’s post on the topic, you should definitely check out the interview to get some more context.
By Tom Ewing
At BrainJuicer, we’ve been beating the drum of emotional advertising for a decade. If you feel more, you buy more – so brands should make ads that get people feeling something. Two years ago, we launched the FeelMore50, an annual ranking of the world’s most emotional ads, to show that in action. The new listing, ranking 2015’s ads and award-winners, launched this week – you can check it out at http://feelmore.brainjuicer.com.
The question is – what does it tell us? What trends, developments, and insights can watching fifty feelgood ads provide? Here’s what we learned from this year’s list – fifty great ads boiled down to five key learnings.
- Emotion Is Winning
Ten years ago, the idea that ads should harness pure emotion was near heresy. At best, people believed in the “iron fist in the velvet glove” model – wrap your core, persuasive brand message in something warm and fuzzy to get better results. Academic studies proved that wrong, but it’s taken time for the industry to wake up. But wake up it has: this year has seen more 5-Star ads (the highest rating) in the FeelMore50 than ever, and a higher overall baseline score. And in the US, emotional ads are no longer clustered around the Super Bowl – ads that make people feel are released all year round. This year’s most emotional Super Bowl ad, McDonalds’ “Pay With Lovin’”, didn’t even make the global FeelMore Top 20.
We’d love to take full credit for the emotional revolution, but while we’re proud to have given individual brands and ads a helping hand, overall it’s not our doing. It’s mainly a function of the rise of digital to advertising dominance (see point 2 below). Online video gives brands an opportunity to stretch out, take risks, and tell stories. That doesn’t always work out – there’s no direct correlation between length and emotional effectiveness – but when it does, the results are fantastic.
- A Banner Year For Content Marketing
The winner of this year’s FeelMore50 is a notable first. “Puppyhood”, the charming and funny short video created for Purina’s Puppy Chow brand, is the first FeelMore50 winner not to appear on TV. It’s also the first winner to have been developed, not by a traditional agency, but by a media partner – “Puppyhood” was put together by Buzzfeed Videos and launched on that site.
So “Puppyhood” is a thoroughly modern ad – a piece of content marketing, designed as a lead-in to both a series of branded videos, and a bespoke Puppyhood microsite managed by Purina. And a piece of Native Advertising, using the expertise of Buzzfeed in crafting videos people love. The results – a record score on our Emotion-into-Action metric, as well as millions of views – speak for themselves.
- Emotion Pays Off For Former Winners
Of course, we simply don’t know yet how much benefit “Puppyhood” will give to Purina’s bottom line. But the experience of last year’s winner, Le Trefle’s hilarious “Emma”, suggests it will pay off handsomely. “Emma” showed a put-upon French housewife get her revenge on her technophile husband, who believes in a tablet-centric, paperless existence. When he runs out of toilet paper at an awkward moment, she slides his precious tablet under the lavatory door – with a picture of a roll. Not all paper is replaceable.
“Emma” had no media spend before its 2013 TV debut, but still managed 25 million YouTube views and caused stocks of the toilet paper brand to run out. Le Trefle were surprised and delighted by its unexpected success, and used it across 7 European markets – originally they’d intended to stick to France. Short term sales jumped 130%. And a year later, the brand’s French market share has almost doubled. Like toilet paper, emotional advertising is an essential, not a luxury.
- United Emotions, Diverse Executions
The FeelMore50 always aims to be a global list, as much as possible. Last year saw a European winner, but the big news was the prominence of Asian advertising, with Top Five placings for Japanese and Thai ads. This year, it’s Latin America’s turn in the spotlight – ads from Argentina, Colombia, Brazil and Mexico all make the Top 20. It’s a Brazilian ad, in fact, which snatches the crown of “Best Christmas Ad” away from its traditional British winners. Mizuno’s Invisible Runners (#10 in the listing) is an example of how diverse execution can be – it’s like no holiday ad we’ve ever seen in the UK, with a pounding electronic soundtrack, heaps of garbage and burning refuse, and heroic binmen constantly running to try and hold back the tide of chaos. Of course, they get a bit of Christmas cheer in the end.
As you enjoy the FeelMore world tour, keep an eye out too for an effervescent visual extravaganza from Perrier in France (#20), and for a selection of Indian ads – the first to make the FeelMore list. Cadbury’s Bank Robbery (#47), starring a pair of well-known Indian comedians, is a particular quirky delight. The dominant power in emotional advertising remains America, but the FeelMore list is a great opportunity to get a look at what makes people’s hearts pound and eyes dampen across the world.
- The Three As – Age, Adversity… and Adorable-ness.
We know brand growth is driven by the 3Fs – Fame (does the brand come readily to mind?), Feeling (does it make me feel good?) and Fluency (can I recognize it quickly?). Emotional advertising builds all three. The wide reach of a great ad boosts a brand’s Fame. The positive emotion it causes creates strong Feeling. And the clever use of unique assets – from logos to slogans to iconic characters – drives Fluency.
This year’s list has plenty of all three. But in terms of the subject matter that’s driving this year’s emotional ads, it’s all about the three As.
First off, Age – many of the ads feature older people. Some in the context of their relationship with their kids – just look at our #3 ad, dtac’s How Your Parents Fell In Love, from Thailand, giving older people a voice in a fast-moving and youthful country. Some in the context of negotiating modern life, or just plain being awesome – I don’t know where Milka found the long-standing Argentine couples in the #2 ad, Most Tender Selfies, but they got lucky: some of them are instant stars whose warmth and wit provides a big emotional kick.
Second, Adversity – a recurrent theme this year is overcoming the challenges of life, or finding help adapting to them. It’s a topic that makes for uplifting storytelling – from Turkey, for instance, comes the #11 ad, Hearing Hands, which finds Samsung pulling out all the stops to give one hearing-impaired man a glimpse of “a world without barriers”. Not all life’s challenges are physical – Pedigree deserve applause for our #8 ad, First Days Out, in which two former prisoners find their rehabilitation outside jail is massively helped by rescue dogs. It’s a brave approach which has been a massive success in Brazil and will be rolled out worldwide in 2016.
And third, Adorable-ness. It’s no secret that babies and animals make people happy, and as usual this year some of the ads turned the cute factor up to eleven. Android’s Friends Furever, a compilation of unusual animal friendships, took a simple approach and became the most shared ad in history. It’s at #17 in our listing. Another compilation of found footage, Olive Garden’s montage of family life at #13, is threaded together by a little girl singing.
Three very different themes, linked by their ability to create Feeling and build Fluency and Fame for brands. But they have something else in common, too. All of them revolve around real people. Yes, there are plenty of well-acted stories in the FeelMore50, not least Puppyhood, our winner. But so many of the year’s best ads made people happy by showing us the happiness of others. A decade into the social media age, consumers around the world still haven’t got tired of seeing each other on screen. Whether being tricked by benign stunts like the Molson Beer Fridge (#7), rejoicing in being able to ‘feel’ an unborn baby through 3D printing (Huggies’ Meeting Murilo, #12), or simply telling their stories like the couples in the dtac ad, genuine humanity touches people. The biggest star of modern advertising is still… us.