November 25th, 2019

Retailers Hit Heartstrings with Holiday Ads


Ace Metrix

Holiday campaigns are well underway with the first of the season breaking on September 29th — a solid two months before Black Friday. Wholesome, Nostalgic and Heartfelt emotions are running rampant among this year’s crop of ads. 

In an Ace Metrix survey of nearly 30,000 US consumers, 44% are planning to shop on Black Friday, with another 34% undecided. Despite objections from some brands themselves over the years, like REI’s 5 year #OptOutside campaign and TJ Maxx’s 2016 “family comes first” messaging, consumers can’t resist the deals from thousands of others. In that same survey, only 20% of respondents said they harbored negative feelings towards the consumer-driven “holiday.”

Leading into the biggest shopping day of the year, retailers are most prevalent among the most heartfelt ads of the season, which isn’t always the case when deals are the name of the game for many consumers. Themes of togetherness and tradition were also common among these ads. Two brands tackled gender norms (a possible first for the holidays), while only one featured adorable shelter pets. Read on for more insights about the most Heartfelt holiday ads. 

Most Heartfelt Holiday Ads:

Brand Ad Title Length Heartfelt Score
Cost Plus World Market Find Your Tradition 1:30 7.2
Subaru Night Visit 1:00 6.5
GAP The Hoodie 1:00 6.3
Hobby Lobby Christmas is What You Make It 0:30 5.9
Vista Print Reactions 0:30 5.1
Macy’s Santa Girl 0:30 4.8
Hallmark When You Care Enough to Remember Your Little Rebel 0:30 4.3
Stella Artois Moments Worth Making 0:30 3.7
JCPenney Special Moments 0:15 3.5
Ancestry Ask Away 0:30 3.3
*Rankings as of November 20th

The magic of the holidays naturally gives rise to child-like wonder and reminiscing, so it’s no surprise that Heartfelt sentiments were accompanied with comparable levels of Narrative, Nostalgic and Wholesome emotions. The most Heartfelt spot, Cost Plus World Market’s “Find Your Tradition,” is also the top storytelling and second most Nostalgic among this year’s holiday-themed ads.

EMO Bar Chart: Heartfelt Holiday Ads 2019

Subaru and VistaPrint made the strongest emotional impacts across a wide range of emotions, contributing to strong scores — well above 90-day advertising norms — across all of our quantitative measures. For Vistaprint, the real reactions reeled in viewers and conveyed how special personalized gifts can be, which in turn sparked ideas among viewers who hadn’t previously considered the relevance of Vistaprint’s product offerings this time of year.

The way to viewers’ hearts was primarily through their heads. Many were touched by each ad’s thoughtful Message, naming this element the top (or one of the top) Single Best Thing about most. Some of the messages painted the brands in a caring and compassionate light, which resulted in signal on our Corporate Responsibility & Philanthropy metrics. 

Hallmark’s Star Wars tie-in spot saw the movie Characters stand out a hair more than its Message; for Stella Artois it was cinematic, storytelling Visual Scenes depicting a father and son’s long standing holiday tradition.

The more heartfelt the ad the more viewers enjoyed it, with Cost Plus, Subaru, Hobby Lobby, & Vista Print’s ranking among the most Likeable holiday ads. However, building that emotional connection came at the expense of Informing (which many brands likely knew going in), with weak Information scores scattered about the top ten:

Likeability & Information Component Scores: Most Heartfelt Holiday Ads 2019

Most of these ads generated top-2 box purchase intent above norm for their respective industries, with the more Likeable & Heartfelt ones earning the greatest purchase intent among the ads above. 

Congratulations to the brands that are already warming hearts this holiday season! Surely there are more to come.


{{ title }}



{{ category }}


{{ date }}


{{ rank }}

Scroll To Top