We created the FeelMore50™ to celebrate emotional advertising. How did we choose and test the ads, and how do we measure their emotional effectiveness?
The FeelMore50™ is a list with a difference. At BrainJuicer we’ve copy-tested more than 4,000 ads for our clients, helping them spot and mold the 5-star emotional ads that can make their brands famous. (For why emotion is so important in advertising, see “Why Emotion Matters” below.) We also invest a lot in self-funded testing, to find out what’s working emotionally and what isn’t.
With the FeelMore50, we tested over 200 extra commercials to create the ultimate rundown of emotional advertising – the 50 ads that made America feel most.
Tens of thousands of new commercials are made every year in America – so how did we decide which to test? First of all, if they aired on TV they had to have aired in the USA. Beyond that, we used four criteria.
First was industry acclaim. If a commercial won any level of award at any of the major ad industry awards – Cannes, the Effies, the Jay Chiat awards, the Art Directors Award or the Andys – it was in.
Second was popular acclaim. If a commercial reached the Top 10 of the Adweek chart, it was in.
Third was viral success. If an ad reached half a million shares for the first time in 2013 – we used Unruly’s Viral Video Chart to track this – it was in.
And fourth was the Super Bowl. Ads created for a Super Bowl airing simply tend to be more emotional and special. If it reached the Top 20 on USA Today’s Super Bowl Ad Meter, it was in.
In 2013, success for advertising is measured in many ways. With these criteria we captured the main ones – award winners would fight it out with viral smashes and popular hits to create a terrifically diverse list.
We tested the ads using our award-winning ComMotion® ad testing system. This asks viewers how an ad made them feel, prompting them with faces representing each of the 7 basic human emotions (defined by psychologist Paul Ekman) as well as neutrality. We then ask how strongly they felt that emotion – again using faces. And, finally, we ask why.
This all feeds into the Emotion-into-Action (EiA) score you see next to each ad on the list – a measure that has been shown to predict business effectiveness. We convert EiA into a “Star Rating” from 1 to 5 – because aiming for and celebrating a “5-star ad” feels better than shooting for an abstract metric.
Every commercial here earned its place by making its audience feel something. But not all the ads on the list gained 5 stars. As you go down the list you’ll see elements creeping in that often hold ads back emotionally – a reliance on voiceover, or simple product demonstrations, for instance. There is always room to make people feel more – and when they feel more, they buy more.
Why Emotion Matters
Emotion is the key factor in advertising effectiveness. That’s the message from the latest independent studies – it also fits with our knowledge of how human decisions really work.
The work of independent analysts Les Binet and Peter Field – in the books “Marketing In The Era Of Accountability” (2008) and “The Long And The Short Of It” (2013) – provides strong evidence that emotional ads are far more likely to bring brand fame and business success. Their central finding is that campaigns with an emotional emphasis are almost twice as likely as rational, persuasion-based campaigns to create very large business effects – meaning profit gain, share gain, or a decline in price elasticity. Simply put, emotion drives advertising effectiveness and business results.
This evidence lies behind the emotional testing philosophy of the FeelMore50. If people feel nothing, they do nothing. If they feel more, they buy more.
The reason why this happens lies in how human beings make decisions. As Daniel Kahneman shows in his bestseller Thinking, Fast And Slow, human decisions are guided more strongly by our fast, implicit System 1 thinking than our slow, considered System 2. And emotion plays an integral role in guiding System 1.
Conventional advertising theory believes that at the moment of decision, a consumer’s System 2 brain will recall and weigh up the messages and product information it has offered and be ‘persuaded’ to buy. By contrast, emotional advertising bets the consumer’s System 1 will be guided by the positive emotional associations and be ‘seduced’ to buy. Since we hate thinking hard and it’s System 1 that guides decisions, emotional advertising beats persuasion-based advertising every time, for those brands brave enough to use it.
Brands and Agencies of the Year
Which advertisers and agencies made Americans feel the most in 2013 with consistently emotional advertising? We name the FeelMore50™’s top performers.
We looked at all the advertisers and agencies represented on the FeelMore50™ and simply added up their Emotion-into-Action scores – a simple measure of who created most emotion. Congratulations to them all, and especially to PepsiCo – our emotional advertiser of 2013 – and Wieden + Kennedy, our emotional agency of the year.
FeelMore50™ Brands Of 2013
1. PepsiCo – Emotional advertiser of 2013 with three ads on the list: “Goat 4 Sale” (#4), “Test Drive” (#11), “Fashionista Dad” (#37)
2. Coca-Cola with three ads on the list: “Security Cameras” (#5), “Grandpa” (#21), “007 In You” (#36)
3. Samsung with three ads on the list: “Huge Bear Surprises Crew” (#15), “Cute Baby vs Motion Sync” (#20), “Sound & Shot” (#31)
4. Anheuser-Busch with two ads on the list: “Brotherhood” (#1), “Flight” (#19)
5. Mars with two ads on the list: “Love Ballad” (#3), “Horseless Headsman” (#25)
FeelMore50 Agencies Of 2013
1. Wieden + Kennedy – Emotional agency of 2013 with five ads on the list: “Best Job, Thank You Mom” (#9), “Whisper Fight” (#12), “Proud Sponsor Of Moms” (#29), “Just Do It: Possibilities” (#45), “Life Raft” (#48)
2. BBDO with four ads on the list: “Love Ballad” (#3), “Wheelchair Basketball” (#8), “Beer Chase” (#14), “Horseless Headsman” (#25)
3. Goodby Silverstein & Partners with three ads on the list: “Goat 4 Sale” (#4), “Jingle Hoops” (#13), “Fashionista Dad” (#37)
4. Deutsch with two ads on the list: “Viva Young” (#10), “Get In Get Happy” (#24)
5. The Viral Factory with two ads on the list: “Huge Bear Surprises Crew” (#15), “Cute Baby vs Motion Sync” (#20)
Congratulations to Budweiser’s Clydesdales Brotherhood ad – number one on our 2013 FeelMore50™. It’s a 5-star ad that made a lot of people happy, but its secret formula may have been making them sad first.
Brotherhood was a success on every measurable level. It topped the USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter and went on to become the night’s most shared spot. It’s easy to see why. It’s pure emotional story-telling. It uses a well-known song (Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”) that shapes the mood. It avoids unnecessary voiceovers. And – let’s face it – people love horses, and particularly Budweiser’s iconic Clydesdales.
But you understand the real power of Brotherhood when you look deeper at its emotional arc.
Simply put, emotion drives advertising effectiveness and business results. But even very good ads usually generate a small amount of negative emotion. Mostly, negative feeling for ads scatters across various different emotions – like anger, contempt, and sadness. Brotherhood was different. It created one particular negative emotion – sadness – and it dared to use it very strongly. When the trainer is parted from his horse, we see a surge of sorrow, at a level which might kill an ad if left unresolved.
What makes Brotherhood special is how completely and triumphantly Budweiser resolved it, ending the spot with a triumphant spike of happiness and wiping out all previous negative feeling. It’s a study in using negative emotions well – introducing them deliberately then cleanly replacing them with happiness. That’s what made Brotherhood not just a great 5-star emotional ad, but the best of 2013.
To create the FeelMore50™ we tested a host of commercials – most made in 2012 - which won awards in 2013. Some were 5-star winners but some failed to make the cut. Do awards reward the right qualities?
For as long as there have been ad awards, there’s been a debate about the balance between creativity and effectiveness. It re-ignites every year – are the Cannes Lions about sales or just slapped backs? But creativity is essential for sparking emotion. There are plenty of decorated ads which didn’t make people feel that much – but the FeelMore50™ shows that awards committees know dazzling emotional creativity when they see it.
You probably know P&G’s Olympics ode-to-moms, “Thank You Mom, Best Job” (#9), from 2012, but included because of when it bagged its awards (2013). But you might be less familiar with Honda’s short video giving an indie band the opportunity of a lifetime, “Surprising Monsters Coming Home”, (#7), or Coca-Cola’s heart-warming “Security Cameras” (#5), which shows how emotional vignette advertising can get. These are 5-star emotional ads that were recognized at Cannes, in the Andy’s, or by the Art Director’s Club.
It’s worth giving credit, too, to where individual awards committees recognized great ads that their peers didn’t. Dove’s ultra-viral “Real Beauty Sketches” carried home a ton of prizes, but its tighter, shorter follow-up, “Camera Shy” (#17), was even more emotionally effective, and the Jay Chiat Awards noticed.
Upcoming awards are sure to recognize some of the 2013 ads on the FeelMore50™, and we look forward to testing their more left-field choices next year. What will do well? If the 2013 awards had a blind-spot, it was animals – a reliable route to creating famous emotional spots, but apparently frowned upon by committees. Will “Brotherhood” (#1) prove an exception? We’ll have to wait and see. Meanwhile, thank you to the awards committees for recognizing fresh ways to make viewers feel more.
The FeelMore50™ brings award winners and popular favorites together with viral hits. What is it about viral ads that make them spread so quickly?
At BrainJuicer we’ve looked closely at virality using the Super Bowl as an ideal test case – several dozen ads, launched at the same time and with the same TV audience. Which become viral hits? There will always be an element of good fortune – and clever seeding – in viral success, but we learned it does also relate to emotional response.
The higher an ad’s Emotion-into-Action score, the higher its viral potential. The FeelMore50™ bears this out – using shares data from the Unruly Viral Video Chart, we found that 5-star ads were shared more than twice as often, and picked up far more shares per view, than the 3- and 4-star ads on the list.
As the virals in the FeelMore50™ show though, these are not your typical commercials. They’ve already earned some of your attention by the time you click, so they can stretch out a little more than a TV spot and run longer. And they’re also breaking down national barriers – on our list are ads like Evian’s “Baby And Me” (#2), made by a French agency but widely spread in the US.
Many of this year’s emotional viral hits fall into two types. There are product demos – it’s a measure of our excitement over technology that demos for Google Glass (#38) and Phonebloks (#28) can make us so surprised and happy. And there is prankvertising – stunts staged by brands on alleged members of the public, like LG’s disappearing lift floor (#18) or PepsiMax’s disguised stunt driver (#11). Check out Samsung’s EcoBubble spot (#15) for an ad that gently mocks both the prankvertising and product demo genres.
Often, though, the best viral videos are also simply great ads. Evian’s boogie-ing babies and Budweiser’s “Brotherhood”, our FeelMore50™ winner, topped viral charts, but would have been emotional smashes anyway. When people feel nothing, they do nothing – and that applies to sharing too.
From 3 Stars to 5 Stars
There are plenty of good ads which are a tweak or two away from being great. But they can be held back by flat story-telling or too much voiceover – as examples from the FeelMore50™ show.
Great ads make people feel more, but there are plenty of ways to achieve that and no single set winning formula. It is true, though, that some techniques have a proven track record. As an example, we’ll look at two ads in our FeelMore50™ – Ram Trucks’ “Farmer” (#40) and Guinness’ “Wheelchair Basketball” (#8).
Both of these are strong, emotional ads designed to inspire, uplift and remind viewers of important human truths – the bonds of friendship for Guinness, and the value and resilience of farmers for Ram Trucks. Both proved viral successes. So why did “Wheelchair Basketball” net 5 stars while “Farmer” got 3?
What the Guinness ad does very well is build a story. Many of the ads in the FeelMore50™ have a strong storyline with an emotional twist, which can transform negative emotions or boost happiness. The montage approach favored by “Farmer” can lead to flatter emotions. “Wheelchair Basketball” also has a very brief voiceover and gets its point across via image and music. Voiceovers are common ad devices, but they often put a ceiling on an ad’s emotional potential – distracting from the images, not enhancing.
Would “Farmer” have rated 5 stars with music, a cut-down voiceover, and an implied narrative? We don’t know – that’s the point. They might have killed the starkness that makes the ad special. These aren’t rules, they’re hypotheses and the next step would always be to test them. With music and voiceover in particular, it’s the work of a few hours to create alternate versions for testing, and we’ve seen big improvements in ads when brave agencies take this route. Small tweaks can make huge emotional differences that ultimately lead to 5-star ads.
Once again the Super Bowl sparked much of America’s great advertising. In the land of the hard sell advert, the Super Bowl seems like a grand once-a-year experiment in emotional advertising. But why doesn’t the patent success of many of the ads aired lead advertisers to make fame building advertising all year round?
11 of the 50 ads in the FeelMore50™ aired during the Super Bowl – including 3 of the top 5! It’s a remarkable haul for one single night of the TV year. There’s no mystery why there’s such a concentration of emotional ads on Super Bowl night – it’s not just a massive at-home audience, it’s the one time of year when ads truly get media attention.
So we anticipate a big crop of ads on the next Feelmore50 will come from Super Bowl XLVIII. What might we expect? Dorito’s found success in crowdsourcing its ads in 2013 – see “Goat 4 Sale” (#4), created by Ben Callner, and “Fashionista Dad” (#37) by Mark Freiberger. One of the trends of 2013 we saw bubbling through in the FeelMore50™ is vignette advertising – ads that are compilations of user-generated content, or ‘found’ content in the case of Coke’s “Security Cameras” (#5). We know vignette ads can have 5-star results when done well – perhaps we’ll see one or more of these shine at the next Super Bowl.
It’s also a solid bet that whichever ad does win the race for Super Bowl attention, it’ll be highly emotional. The event seems to liberate brands from low return advertising and enables them to aim for the heart. Other national calendar events have big emotional potential; both a Halloween spot - Mars’ “Horseless Headsman” (#25) - and the NBA’s “Jingle Hoops” (#13) went viral at the end of 2013.
But ultimately, why restrict emotional advertising to only certain times of the year? Famous 5-star emotional advertising is a winner at every time of year – and in an era of viral hits, it can be news at any time of year too.