October 5th, 2016

Inspiration and Empowerment Are Key Themes of Top Breakthrough Ads of Q3 2016


Ace Metrix

Similar to Q1, when advertising excellence is driven by the Super Bowl, in Q3 we saw the creative bar raised by the high emotion of the Olympics and Paralympics, with brands taking advantage of immense reach on TV and online. Other high visibility events like the Emmy’s and the first presidential debate also contributed to the flight to quality of creative in the last quarter. Despite brands creating memorable ads, viewers are empowered more than ever to avoid, skip, and block advertising. For this reason, the ability to break through and command attention is the standard we are using to rank the ads, and the Ace Metrix components of Likeability and Attention are a proxy for these ad experiences.

We often see ads use at least one of three creative techniques to impress viewers and the top Breakthrough ads are no different. We saw highly inspirational ads, timed to the Paralympics, centered on athletes and everyday people overcoming unimaginable obstacles to achieve greatness. Other ads on the list captivated viewers with mesmerizing visuals. And some chose a humorous path to viewer engagement.

Nike has clearly mastered the art of creative storytelling. This summer’s “Unlimited” campaign delivered three ads on this list, an impressive feat. The ad achieving the highest Breakthrough in Q3, “Unlimited Scout Basset”, is a 2:25 digital ad that tells the story of a Paralympian who states, “I was born to be a runner.” Nike worked with agency Dirty Robber to produce this piece. In the Ad Personality below, we see that in addition to Breakthrough strength, viewers also found it very informative. With the message overwhelmingly named the single best thing about the ad (37% of viewers), the ad evoked incredible levels of emotion, with 64% of viewers using words like “inspiring”, “empowering”, and “powerful”.

                                                    “Unlimited Scout Bassett”

                    Ad Personality                                               Emotional Word Cloud

Ace Metrix -Inspiration and Empowerment Are Key Themes of Top Breakthrough Ads of Q3 2016

The fifth ad on the list, “Unlimited Will”, stars Kyle Maynard, who is the first quadruple amputee to climb Mount Kilimanjaro without the aid of prosthetics. If that’s not the essence of inspiration, I’m not sure what is. “Unlimited Youth”, discussed in an earlier post, brings us the story of the Iron Nun. Created by agency Wieden+Kennedy, “Unlimited Will” and “Unlimited Youth” also managed to be humorous through the use of a narrator who weighs in with unnecessary concern for heroes of each ad.

Emotion also ran high in the second highest Breakthrough ads (tie), Frosted Flakes’ “Making of “Let Your Gr-r-reat Out,” which follows 11-year-old Nicola as she unleashes her greatness at a skate park in her wheelchair. Olive Garden’s long form digital ad, the longest ad on the list with 3:30, tells the story of two college freshmen starting college without their families there to help move them in, and how the Never Ending Family Table helps bring families together. Of these spots, viewers gushed:

  • “This commercial leaves you feeling happy and inspired. It celebrates the young girl’s bravery, beauty, and who she is. It is a very motivational and uplifting” – F21-35
  • “Best Olive Garden commercial I’ve ever seen. I’m fighting back tears here! I know how important family is, especially when going off to college, so that tugged at my heartstrings immensely!” – F21-35

Shifting gears to ads that were visually stunning, BMW’s “Built for Gold”, Audi’s “Desolation”, and GoPro’s branded tie-in with the “The Secret Life of Pets” all impressed viewers in this way. On a side note, Audi (along with agency Venables Bell & Partners San Francisco) is the only brand on the Q3 list that returns from a previous Top Breakthrough list this year. The brand’s Super Bowl ad, “Commander”, was 6th on the Q1 list. Top words in viewer comments for “Desolation” include “unique”, “clever”, and “exciting”. Similarly, GoPro’s adrenaline-fueled ride drew comments such as, “Its very artistic, fun and explosive. I like beat of the music and how it coordinates with the movements of the characters. Also the visuals are stunning.” (F21-35)

The use of humor also led to success for brands such as Hefty and Farmers Auto Insurance. Both also made use of celebrities, with John Cena and J.K Simmons appearing respectively. “Hefty/Wimpy – John Cena” drew an astronomical 74% of emotional viewer comments related to humor. Below we see how the ad’s relative strengths were also tied to Desire, as well as just how much the humor resonated.

“Hefty / Wimpy –  John Cena”

                    Ad Personality                                                     Emotional Word Cloud

Ace Metrix -Inspiration and Empowerment Are Key Themes of Top Breakthrough Ads of Q3 2016Last point, three of these ads were digital only, and longer than two minutes. Clearly those ads have extremely different distribution and viewing metrics than a 30- or 60-second spot that aired during the Olympics. As brands strive to deliver higher quality ad experiences, the brands that think beyond reach and weight are having success creating memorable bonds with consumers.

Congratulations to all of the brands and their creative agencies on this list, as well as to those who produced outstanding Breakthrough ads this quarter that fell outside of the Top 10.

Top Breakthrough Ads of Q3, 2016 

Rank Brand Ad Title Ad Length Likeability Score Attention
1 Nike Unlimited Scout Bassett 2:25 781 774
2 (tie) Frosted Flakes Making of “Let Your

Gr-r-reat Out”

1:00 775 776
2 (tie) Olive Garden Never Ending Family 3:40 775 776
4 BMW Built for Gold 1:00 765 776
5 Nike Unlimited Will 0:30 761 773
6 Hefty Hefty / Wimpy –  John Cena 0:30 755 761
7 Audi Desolation 1:00 746 769
8 Farmer’s Insurance Mer-Mutts 0:30 747 761
9 GoPro The Secret Life of Pets 2:10 744 747
10 Nike Unlimited Youth 0:55 754 735



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