OPINION15 January 2016

Brands draw on emotions in best advertising

Asia Pacific Europe Latin America Middle East and Africa North America Opinion Trends UK

From sentiment to romance, melancholy to sympathy, emotions of many sorts are used to full effect by the brands appearing in BrainJuicer’s FeelMore50 list of the most emotional ads of the year. By Tom Ewing

The FeelMore50, our annual ranking of the year’s most emotional ads, is a pleasure and an education to work on. A pleasure, because you get to see a fabulous array of advertising creativity from around the world. An education for the exact same reason.

The ads featured have an array of business objectives, but only one emotional objective: make people feel something. If you feel more, you buy more. Last year’s FeelMore50 winner, ‘Emma’, for toilet paper brand Le Trèfle, doubled its market share in a year as a result of the commercial. Even so, some might worry this is a limited ambition, particularly when you consider that the most important emotion is always happiness. Aren’t there only a few ways to make people happy with a commercial?

No, there are thousands, particularly when you factor in cultural preferences. American audiences, for example, love sentiment, especially when it involves a cute baby or a cuter animal. Those topics do perform well on the FeelMore50 list – and, yes, the US and World #1, Purina’s ‘Puppyhood’,  is a dog ad, though a very good and very modern one, made by Buzzfeed Video and launched to massive viral success.

But elsewhere on the American list are romantic comedies like ‘The Story Of Sarah And Juan’, a millennial update of classic boy-meets-girl gum ads (see image). And nonagenarian badasses, in Dodge’s ‘Wisdom’. And surrealist bro-fests, in Mountain Dew’s ‘Come Alive’. Even dog ads can have a bit of bite, as Pedigree’s ‘The Walk’ shows – a rare ad which dares to acknowledge the tension in today’s America, as well as what unites it.

That’s just the US roster. Look further afield and other approaches prevail. The 2014 list, launched last January, was a great showcase for Asian ads. In particular, Thailand’s unique approach to melancholy, heart-tugging storytelling performed well. In ‘Garbage Man’, a Thai Life Insurance ad from this year’s list, nothing is really resolved – the schoolboy who helps his street cleaner mother is no better off. But he’s found understanding, and that counts for a lot. It’s lachrymose, for sure, but it’s also an emotionally mature approach to advertising the rest of us could learn from. And it made its audience feel very, very good.

This year, it’s the turn of Latin America to surge forward, placing multiple ads in the Top 10, which often stand out because they take a rather edgier approach to provoking happiness. Take shoe company Mizuno’s ‘Invisible Runners’, for instance – hours and hours of footage of Brazil’s inner-city binmen condensed into two adrenalised minutes of athletic small-hours rushing and chasing set to a pounding soundtrack. It even crams in a festive twist, making it the unlikely winner of this year’s ‘best Christmas ad’ accolade.

Watching fifty emotional ads in a row – out of the hundreds we test for the list – you can’t help but pick up on themes and tropes which are currently working. A remarkable number of the top ads, for instance, focus on how technology can help disabled people – a subject that combines human sympathy with the highly shareable wow factor of tech. And if that’s not specific enough, several more ads feature automated vending machines which surprise or delight members of the public.

The vending machine ads fall into the broad category of ‘stuntvertising’, and are rooted in the decades-old TV practise of springing surprises on the public and filming the results. Stuntvertising at its best can change perspectives and win hearts. Even if ads like Molson’s ‘Canadian Beer Fridge’, with Canadians warbling their national anthem at a refrigerator, don’t have that ambition, they’re still entertaining.

Like a lot of the FeelMore50 ads, stuntvertising pieces have the feel of being built for sharing as much as viewing. My own favourite of the 50, though, a Spanish ad for their national lottery, could have been made at any time in the past twenty years. ‘No Bigger Prize’ is beautifully paced, tight and superbly acted storytelling about the only man on the block who didn’t buy a winning lottery ticket, and how he swallows his disappointment to congratulate his friends anyhow. In my opinion, it’s emotional storytelling at its best. And yet so highly do this year’s ads score, it’s only 42nd on the list. But that’s the other great thing about the FeelMore50. It can always start an argument.

 Tom Ewing is senior director at BrainJuicer Labs

1 Comment

4 years ago

Classic sampling error; you go looking for feelings and only after that for whatever the top-ranked advertisers were doing differently. It's like trying to learn about blood pressure by only looking at a small group of patients who all have high blood pressure.

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