January 7th, 2020

Cultural Perception — The Most Empowering Ads of 2019


Ace Metrix

Using our new Cultural Perception scoring system, we’re recognizing the video ads that broke through “purpose” clutter as the most empowering of 2019. Across the board, these advertisers steered clear of divisive issues, with sports being the dominant, apolitical theme among the bunch. They also put real life narratives in place of more scripted spots tapping into the potential of more authentic spokespeople. 

Measuring the positive and negative impact of advertising, our Cultural Perception scoring system ultimately helps brands assess the risks and rewards of achieving emotional connections as they relate to cultural and social subjects. The Empower score measures the positive impact of an ad’s message, indicating when viewers find it encouraging, inspiring or motivating. 

Our Cultural Perception scores were derived from our emotion measurement platform, which applies NLP and machine learning techniques to tens of millions of voluntary verbatim viewer comments. With over 8,400 video ads analyzed in 2019, and over 3 million viewer comments, these ads distinguished themselves by achieving the highest quantifiable level of positive cultural impact — Congrats!

2019’s Most Empowering Ads:

Brand Ad Title Length Air Date
NBA Be Cheerful :30 11/22/19
Walmart Share The Love 1:00 6/5/19
Nike Maynor de Leon 1:00 7/9/19
Nike Justin Gallegos :30 7/9/19
Dick’s Sporting Goods Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation 1:00 5/20/2019
Cigna Being Here :30 9/16/19
Quicken Loans The Answers 1:00 11/7/19
NFL Inspire Change :20 2/7/19
Citibank Citi Entertainment Takes on Confidence 2:00 9/4/19
Infiniti Inspiring Others 1:05 4/5/19
*Not ranked in a specific order

In lieu of product-forward, blatant promotions, the most empowering ads focused on brand building narratives that revolved around purpose. These motives are reflected in the emotional connections viewers formed with these ads with all achieving signal on Inspiring, Heartfelt and Powerful. In fact, Nike’s “Justin Gallegos” and “Maynor de Leon” were the two highest scoring ads on our Inspiring metric last year.

Moreover, viewers exhibited resonance with and appreciation for each brand’s social initiative, setting off metrics like Corporate Responsibility and Philanthropy.These emotional patterns are evident in the heat map below (where the darker orange, the more intense the connection):


The occasional But signal above indicates internal conflict. For most of these ads, the main point of conflict arose from viewers appreciating the message and the ad in general, but not understanding what was advertised or how the advertiser was connected. The favorability of each ad’s message is evident in the overwhelming popularity of that aspect when viewers were asked to name the Single Best Thing in each ad:

Ace Metrix Single Best Thing Chart: Most Empowering Ads 2019

Nike’s dominant presence on the most empowering list comes as no surprise as time and again we’ve seen the brand masterfully execute campaigns that take a stand and/or inspire (we acknowledged their skill in Q3 too!). Both Nike spots among 2019’s most empowering knocked it out of the ball park on every quantitative component we measure, significantly beating 2019 apparel norms. “Justin Gallegos” was the stronger performer of the two and was slightly more successful in driving positive purchase intent.

Ace Metrix Purchase Intent Chart: Nike Ads

Two professional sports brands, the NFL and NBA, tapped into their athletes’ inspirational power to empower in a Likeable and Relevant manner. The inside look at how the leagues and their players impact communities was viewed favorably across a wide audience and left a positive impression on fans of all interest levels, including non-fans.

Cigna and Quicken Loans were the only two brands on our list with ads that were aligned with veteran-related causes. Cigna’s “Being Here” focused on its own initiatives, while Quicken Loans highlighted its support of an external, philanthropic organization. Both ads significantly outperformed respective industry norms on all of our component measures, but they were particularly successful in Breakthrough (Attention-grabbing in a Likeable manner) and Communication.

Now more than ever, brands are encouraged to find their purpose and advertise the heck out of it. This battle for cultural relevance in consumers’ minds is making “purpose” less of a differentiator among brands while at the same time adding more to the clutter pile. However, that’s not the case for these ads as they distinguished themselves from the rest as the most empowering of 2019 — congratulations!


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