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What makes ads great? An emotional connection.

July 11, 2016 | By Miriam Tremelling, Senior Marketing Manager—Ace Metrix

In today’s ad environment, where consumers can skip, block, dodge, and flee ads to their heart’s content, we are seeing a flight to quality. In other words, since people don’t have to pay attention to ads anymore, brands are cranking up quality to get people to choose to watch their ads. Speaking to Ad Age at Cannes last month, Procter & Gamble Global Brand Officer Marc Pritchard said of their advertising, “We’re trying to turn down the noise and turn up the quality, which gives you a better chance of success.”

This movement was highly evident during the second quarter, in which our top Breakthrough ads were voluntarily watched on YouTube to the combined tune of 45 million views.

We saw highly emotional ads centered on moms and dads, with a dash of Olympic passion, rise to the top of our list of ads with the greatest Breakthrough capacity. Within our broad set of metrics, the components of Likeabilty and Attention form the Breakthrough dimension. Though Breakthrough is not always the primary objective of an ad, in today’s ad blocking environment, it’s crucial for brands to deliver engaging content that people will watch and share.

Top Breakthrough Ads of Q2, 2016

Out of nearly 1,950 television and digital ads tested by Ace Metrix this quarter, Gillette’s “This Father’s Day, Go Ask Dad” demonstrated the highest Breakthrough, which is remarkable considering the ad is 2:36 long (read more about this ad here.) With nearly 6.3 million YouTube views since early June, the success of Gillette’s ad, created by Grey New York, drives home the point that people will choose to watch high-quality branded content that makes them feel something.

Gillette parent company, Procter & Gamble, is next on the list with their inspirational tribute to the moms behind Olympic athletes, “Thank You, Mom – Strong” (read more about this ad, created by Wieden + Kennedy, here.) Similar to Gillette’s ad, “Strong” received high scores in Relevance, as well as Attention and Likeability. Unilever brand Dove also delivered a relatable ad with their annual heartfelt tribute to Dads, “Caring Makes My Dad, My Hero.” The minute-long spot, created by The Marketing Arm, showcases real father-child moments taken from online footage. Both of these CPG brands are leading the charge in connecting with consumers through intensely emotional ads.

The Emotional Word Clouds (or Emo Clouds) below help gauge the level of emotional connection respondents have with the top four Breakthrough ads by using words directly from their comments. These word clouds demonstrate that it is intense emotion that can truly connect and be relevant to consumers. Words like “touching”, “heartwarming”, and “moving” are seen in high doses. Emo Clouds, a key piece of the puzzle for understanding how to produce predictably great creative, will be launching in the Ace Metrix UI later this month.


We’ve also seen brands have great success connecting through the use of humor. Apple’s “Time – Behind the Scenes” broke through delighting viewers with humorous Cookie Monster and Siri interaction (read more about this TBWA\Media Arts Lab created ad here.) Similarly, Johnsonville broke through with their employee-created, with help from agency Droga5, spot “Jeff and His Forest Friends by Jeff” (read more about Johnsonville’s campaign here.) The Emo Clouds below show how well using humor as a vehicle worked for both brands.


A common theme represented by three of the top 10 ads was that of home and all that homes symbolize. Lowe’s (#6 on the Top 10 list) three-minute ad “House Love”, created by BBDO New York, tells the story of two homes and their young residents falling in love (read more here.) In Zappos’ (#7 on the list) tearjerker ad “Box Home” a boy builds a home for a homeless man with various materials, including Zappos boxes. Viewers used words including “beautiful”, “sad”, and “powerful” to describe the story. Zappos collaborated with creative collective Variable to develop the 1:49 ad. Coldwell Banker’s “This is Home” uses a catchy song set to user-generated content depicting scenes of happy moments big and small that make a house a home. The upbeat minute-long spot, created by Siltanen & Partners, evoked words like “sentimental”, “uplifting”, and “adorable.”

Half of the ads on the top ten list were digital-only ads, with nine out of ten 60 seconds or longer, giving brands enough time to fully tell a story and connect with viewers. It’s clear that this is one recommended path to success, and that more brands should seek emotional means to break through and create a memorable bond that consumers will enjoy and share.

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

Miriam Tremelling serves as senior marketing manager at Ace Metrix where she is responsible for developing compelling stories that articulate Ace Metrix’s value proposition. Prior to joining Ace Metrix, Miriam worked at Conversant, Twelvefold Media and CBS Interactive.

Check out Ace Metrix’s complete list of Breakthrough ads for Q2, with links to watch them in their entirety.

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