December 19th, 2018

2018’s Top Ads are Emotional


Ace Metrix

Advertisers know that making an emotional connection with consumers is key to driving consideration, in fact, emotional response to an ad is a stronger influence on purchase intent than an ad’s content by a factor of 3:1. More and more marketers are realizing the importance of emotional connection with consumers and it shows when we look back at advertising in 2018 — We’ve seen everything from Bud Light’s memorable Dilly Dilly campaign to Nike’s revolutionary partnership with Colin Kaepernick.

In honor of brands that pull off remarkable connection, we’re sharing the ads that achieved the strongest impact for four of the fifty-seven emotions we measure: Narrative, Heartfelt, Funny and Left Field. With over 8,300 video ads analyzed in 2018, and over 3 million viewer comments, these ads distinguished themselves by achieving the highest quantifiable level of emotional impact with viewers.

2018’s Best Storytelling Ads

Based on our Narrative Emo, which measures the power of storytelling, the following six ads entertained viewers with unique tales. Only 12.49% of ads even achieve signal for the Narrative emotion, and 2018’s best ranked in the upper-echelon (the 99th percentile). Freshpet achieved the strongest storytelling in 2018 with a 30-second spot that has all the Likeable ingredients: a three-legged dog overcoming the odds against it.

Rank Brand Ad Title Length Percentile
1 Freshpet The Story of Princess 0:30 99.5
2 Gillette Proud Dad :60 1:00 99.5
3 Petco Saving Up :30 0:30 99.5
4 FedEx Tortoise & The Hare 1:00 99.5
5 Zillow Time Capsule 0:30 99.5
6 Teleflora The Teleflora Table 1:30 99.5

Sample words and phrases associated with Narrative include: beautiful story, clever storyline, cute love story, dramatic story, backstory, powerful history, tells a meaningful story, very interesting storyline.

The message, which is the essence of the storytelling, stood out to viewers as the Single Best Thing for all of the ads, except for Freshpet’s where it tied with the visuals. Emotional profiling reveals the best storytelling ads connected with viewers’ hearts, as illustrated by the presence of other Emos we measure, such as Inspiring, Wholesome, and Nostalgic:

Gillette found its best audience with Millennial and Gen X males when it shared the story behind the emotional bond between 49er’s player Solomon Thomas and his supportive father in “Proud Dad :60.”

PetCo’s holiday spot, “Saving Up,” is the second ad on the list that features a tripod dog. The nostalgic animations told the unspoken story in an Attention grabbing and Likeable manner, earning PetCo the highest Breakthrough score among the storytellers.

Zillow’s “Time Capsule” comes full circle at the end when a father finds his buried memorabilia box. Viewers liked how the brand wove in subtle details throughout the creative that contributed to the overall story.

Last but not least, Teleflora set the holiday bar high when it brought a family — separated by 6,000 miles — together for Christmas. “Teleflora Table” not only made our list of 2018’s Best Storytelling Ads, but also the Most Heartfelt (below).

2018’s Most Heartfelt Ads

Whether the matter at hand is joyous, melancholy, or bittersweet, Heartfelt ads tug at our emotions and make us reach for the closest tissue. Unfortunately for Kleenex, this sentiment is present in only 12% of all ads, and like the previous list, this year’s most heartfelt rank in the 99th percentile of those ads. Heartfelt spots, like the ones below, relate to viewers with universal themes. Ads from Huggies, Hallmark, Verizon, Macy’s and Teleflora remind us of the importance of family (three of which were produced for Mother’s and Father’s Day) while Budweiser and another ad from Verizon honor our everyday heroes.

Rank Brand Ad Title Length Percentile
1 Huggies Father’s Day Hugs 2:00 99.5
2 Hallmark Her Day 0:30 99.5
3 Verizon Military Appreciation :60 1:00 99.5
4 Macy’s Always Present 0:30 99.5
5 Teleflora Teleflora Table 1:30 99.5
6 Budweiser Our Heroes 1:00 99.5
7 Verizon Answering the Call 1:00 99.5

Sample words and phrases associated with Heartfelt include: makes me wanna cry, am happy, brought tears, caring, compassionate, feel good, gets me emotional, heartstrings, heartwarming!, i cried, saddened, very uplifting, sweet ad!

Huggies and both Verizon spots were previously recognized in quarterly top breakthrough lists this year as outstanding creative. Hallmark’s Mother’s Day spot captured the spirit of motherly love while the ad from Macy’s played out a mother/daughter bond over time, leaving the viewer choked up when the daughter heads to college. Both ads were particularly Likeable and Relevant, as shown in the ad personality charts below.

                      Hallmark “Her Day”                               Macy’s “Always Present”

The music in Budweiser’s “Our Heroes” builds as the story of human connection and heroism unfolds. The creative puts viewers in the emotionally-packed room making the delivery of new information regarding the Folds of Honor charity engaging for the audience. Verizon’s Super Bowl spot, “Answering the Call,” offers a similar, intimate look into the effect first responders have on survivors they rescue.

2018’s Funniest Ads:

These ads stirred up the most hahaha’s and LOL’s among viewers in 2018. None of them reached “Rare Air” top tier status for our Funny Emo, but they found a humor sweet spot that appealed to a broad audience. Given that 25% of ads try to be funny in some way, earning a spot in the 97th percentile and up is worth celebrating for the brands below.

Rank Brand Ad Title Length Percentile
1 Farmers Insurance Hall of Claims: Parking Splat 0:30 98.7
2 M&M Human 0:30 98.7
3 Adam & Eve Sympathy for the Grumps 1:40 98.7
4 NFL Touchdown Celebration 1:00 97.2
5 King’s Hawaiian Dye Pack 0:30 97.2
6 Jack Link’s Glamping :15 0:15 97.2
7 1-800-Contacts Toothpaste :15 0:15 97.2

Sample words and phrases associated with Funny include: a riot, chuckled, comedic, comical!, cracked me up!, funny, genuinely laughed out loud, haahaha, hahah!, hilarious, hysterical, kinda makes me laugh, lmaooo, lol!, quite humorous.

Farmers Insurance continues to come up with clever, too-bad-to-be-true accidents for their long-running “Hall of Claims” campaign (think: Mer-Mutts) that come off as novel and entertaining to viewers. The humor in “Parking Splat” was especially Memorable, making it the top ad from the past year for this Emo (as well as Funny). The chart below depicts the emotional impact it had on viewers with the length of the bars equaling the intensity of feeling. With stiff competition for laughs from brands like Progressive and Geico, Farmers managed to beat 2018 insurance advertising norms across every metric we measure with “Parking Splat.”

Farmers Insurance “Parking Splat” Emotional Profile

M&M’s and the National Football League have the only two spots from Super Bowl LII that rank among 2018’s funniest.

Adam & Eve held nothing back with its catchy jingle about the sex-deprived grumps of the world. The general subject matter in “Sympathy for the Grumps” was polarizing, but the humor and the musical approach helped downplay people’s objections.

“Dye Pack” from King’s Hawaiian reminded us of  2016’s funniest ad, Cheeto’s “The Lie Detector”…Anybody else? The grandma’s hanker for Hawaiian rolls was matched by viewers, earning this spot the highest Desire score among the Funniest ads.

Named the top Single Best Thing by 24% of viewers, the comical Sasquatch appearance in Jack Link’s “Glamping” drove strong Watchability (I’d watch again) for the ad.

2018’s Most Unusual Ads

Based on our Left Field Emo, something (or everything) about these ads seems outside the realm of possibility. Left Field might also signal when brands convey product attributes or the message in an unconventional manner. While 17.21% of all ads evoke this sentiment from viewers, the ads below take unordinary to a whole new level by ranking in the 98th and 99th percentile. If you’d like to argue that getting impaled by a dolphin or swapping faces with your dog is within the realm of possibility, you can contact us here.

Rank Brand Ad Title Length Percentile
1 Comcast Xfinity Popcorn 0:15 99.5
2 Skittles Glowing 0:15 99.5
3 Skittles Taste The Rainbow 0:15 98.7
4 Trolli Wake Up Your Mouth 0:15 98.7
5 POM Wonderful Dolphin 0:30 98.7

Sample words and phrases associated with Left Field include: extremely odd ad, left field, kinda an odd commercial, little unusual way to, odd advertisement, odd concept, unusual spot, very unusual ad, very unusual way to.

Taking an unusual route runs the risk of polarizing viewers…otherwise we’d call it ordinary. POM Wonderful’s “Dolphin” was the most polarizing of the bunch with mixed emotional responses. Some viewer found the quirky humor Likeable, while others thought the ad insulted their intelligence and the sex reference went too far.

While polarizing, Left Field ads are effective in grabbing viewers’ Attention as it’s hard not to stare when a man is milking a giraffe to get some Skittles, like in “Taste the Rainbow.” The ad earned the highest Attention score, but it was also the strongest component for each of the five unusual ads.

Aside from “Taste The Rainbow,” each ad saw poor performance across the other seven components we measure with overall Ace Scores much lower than 2018 advertising norms. The heat map reveals the top Left Field ads also evoked stronger negative reactions (i.e. Gross, Irksome, Mean) and were far from most positive Emos (i.e. Memorable, Authentic).

Congratulations to all the brands who delivered emotionally packed ads in 2018! Ace Metrix will continue to quantify emotional connection and help brands understand how it impacts in-market performance in 2019.


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