October 5th, 2020

Q3 Continues to Empower Viewers While Humor Made Its Comeback


Ace Metrix

With more than 2,200 ads tested in Q3, this past quarter was a busy time for advertisers. Ad production was able to make its recovery with the “new normal” becoming an increasingly more normal thing and the appropriate following of COVID-19 guidelines. In addition to traditional brands coming back on the air, there were many new brands advertising in Q3 that also contributed to this bloom. In fact, the number of ads tested last quarter is more than any Q3 since 2013, a spike that may be due to the thriving spirit of creativity during the pandemic:

Q3’s Most Empowering Ads

As brands continue to ramp up ad production, many are still seeking ways to inspire and motivate viewers, a trend that is carrying on from Q2 where 37% of ads registered signal on our Empower metric vs. the 19.6% of Q3. Historically, only 12.5% of all ads registered on Empower – a score that measures positive Cultural Perception, indicating when an ad’s purpose-driven message inspires, encourages, or motivates viewers.


Ad Title Length

Empower Band

Wells Fargo

Unthinkable 0:30


Wells Fargo

Play Your Part 1:00


Wells Fargo

Do Your Part 1:00


International Olympic Committee

Stronger Together 0:30


New York Life Insurance

Give Away 0:35 Rare


The Hopeful 0:30 Rare

Four of the six most Empowering ads from the quarter touched on the topic of COVID-19, proving that some of the most impactful messaging continues to derive from Pandemic-related subject matter. Wells Fargo led the charge, doubling down on expressing to consumers exactly how the company is making an impact as opposed to giving off the impression of a cash grab or lecturing them on what they (the viewers) should be doing. Across their three most Empowering spots, Wells Fargo successfully informed viewers on the initiatives that the company is taking to help with relief for those impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic along with its partnership with Feeding America.

New York Life Insurance focused its COVID-19 messaging on supporting healthcare workers. The International Olympic Committee and Chevrolet were the only two spots that were not COVID-19 specific, with the former highlighting historic Olympic scenes through the decades from around the world and the latter emphasizing its support of Youth Baseball.

Racism was a large topic of the cultural conversation in Q3 and for the first time, a wide swath of brands were willing to wade in. While one might expect some of these spots to make the top Empowering list, polarizing execution tended to keep them from earning the highest scores. As is true with any cultural message, it’s important that brands come across as genuine, authentic, and not preachy.

Q3’s Top Breakthrough Ads


Ad Title Length Attention



Make a Friend 0:30 801


Hyundai Non-Luxury Auto

Buried 0:30 782



Be Ready 0:30 788



Reunited With Buds 1:00 777



Be Special 0:15 775



Meet Sam 0:30 766


Laughing Man

Nice Morning 1:00 771



Game On 0:30 762


Nike General Apparel

Legend 1:00 761



Support 0:30 753


Want to grab Attention in a Likeable manner? Dogs, or pets in general, will be sure to do the trick. Seven of the ten highest-scoring ads on Breakthrough featured a dog as either the center of the storyline or as an emissary to support the ad’s narrative. Southwest and Nike were the only two brands on the list that did not focus on any pets/animals. Although Google’s “Support” did feature furry little pets, it maintained its focus on supporting small businesses, and Lego’s “Game On” opted to feature an animated bunny playfully traversing a cityscape in an attempt to escape a bow and arrow wielding hunter.

Determined by the combination of Attention and Likeability, two of our traditional component scores, the top-scoring ads on Breakthrough are also emotionally impactful ads at their core.  Breakthrough capability isn’t formulaic as the breadth and variety of emotions that were sparked amongst the top two ads shown below:

One ad that is of unique importance from this list is Southwest’s “Be Ready,” which just so happens to be our 100,000th ad! In one of our latest pieces, we covered why 100k ads matter and how the only way for brands to know how good their own ads are is by knowing how good everyone else’s ads are.

Q3’s Funniest Ads


Ad Title Length

Funny Score


First Visitors 0:15



Unwanted Guests 0:30



Seeking The Truth 0:30



Save With Us 0:30



Can’t Resist 0:30



2019 BC 0:30


Snickers “First Visitors” led the LOL charge in Q3, taking the crown as the overall funniest ad and proving that consumers can still have a good laugh despite all that 2020 has thrown at us. With a Funny score of 8.9, this Snickers spot topped the list by a king-sized leap. But it’s important to keep in mind that the brands that made it on these lists did so at a time of heightened consumer sensitivities. During some of the earlier and arguably bleakest points of the pandemic, humor in ads spiraled to its lowest point.

With the pick up of ad production and an improved understanding of the current social landscape, Q3 saw a steadily increasing recovery in the number of ads that fire on our Funny metric, which is a score that is measured by the strength of emotional connection derived by applying Natural Language Processing and machine learning techniques to viewer verbatim comments.

Since putting out a Funny ad in 2020 that seeks to entertain and emotionally connect with viewers has become no small feat for brands, it is well worth recognizing the achievements of these ads and their creative success. Hotels.com specifically focused on COVID-19 messaging, featuring its Captain Obvious brand mascot who’s known to play with humor, evoking Funny and Quirky emotions as well as Memorable and Ingenious:

While Q3 tends to be a slower quarter with advertisers taking their beach vacations, 2020 has been anything but normal. With the return of sports and content consumption up in general, this year saw a Q3 like no other. As we move into Q4, we’re expecting continued heavy advertising as consumers prepare for the holidays, in which analysts believe spending will be up. It will be interesting to see if brands continue their Empowering messaging whether that’s through encouraging voting, discussing racism or continuing the conversation on COVID. We’d also like to see the upward trend in Funny to continue, because who couldn’t use a laugh with a side of holiday cheer.


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