“Feel More, Buy More”? BrainJuicer Establishes A New Ad Benchmark

To bring more attention to the role emotional engagement plays in advertising effectiveness, yesterday BrainJuicer launched FeelMore50™ – a ranking of the 50 most effective, emotional ads in the US in 2013.

feelings keyboard


Do emotions really drive advertising effectiveness? Although certainly other measures still have primacy in research, the evidence increasingly points to the answer being “yes”. This isn’t just an academic questrion; it’s vitally important to generating ROI for marketing programs.

Just yesterday CBS news was reporting on the failure of ads to drive sales, specifically Super Bowl ads:

Advertising research firm Communicus has sought to answer an decades-old question: Is Super Bowl advertising really effective? Not just at pulling viewers’ heartstrings, mind you, but at actually spurring viewers to pick up a six-pack of Budweiser or to buy a new Toyota RAV4? The answer, for four out of 5 marketers, is a resounding “No.”

The study, covered in AdAge on Jan. 6 and originally published last year, found that only one out of five Super Bowl commercials spur consumers to buy a product or build purchase interest.

To bring more attention to the role emotional engagement plays in advertising effectiveness, yesterday BrainJuicer launched FeelMore50™ – a ranking of the 50 most effective, emotional ads in the US in 2013.

BrainJuicer tested over 200 US ads that had won awards or accolades, achieved significant online virality, or were identified as memorable by reputed industry associations and experts. To qualify for testing, the creative must have been awarded/recognized by one or several of the following: The Effie Awards, the International ANDY Awards, the Art Directors Club Awards, Cannes Lions, the Ogilvy Awards, the Jay Chiat Awards, the USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter, Adweek’s “Ad of the Week” and mashable.com, for virality.

They identified and ranked the top 50 ads using their proprietary ad testing methodology, ComMotion®. The approach predicts the in-market efficiency of advertising from the emotional response it evokes, classifying advertising according to its emotional pull, and awarding it a star rating.  The star rating system ranges from 1-star (very ineffective) through to 5-star, which identifies potentially fame-building advertising with the biggest in-market effect.

The FeelMore50 are the top 50 ads from the many thousands aired each year in the US, but it’s worth noting, surprisingly, that not even these top ranking ads are all 5-star. This would suggest the US preference for rational, persuasion-based advertising (which doesn’t evoke emotional response) is paradoxically producing fewer famous 5-star ads that create the biggest commercial return on investment.

“Achieving 5-star ads is hard,” said Chief Juicer and CEO John Kearon. “Only 5% of the near 4,000 ads we’ve tested globally achieve it and the US norm is shockingly 2 stars. Truly world-class ads that move people are few and far in between, even among award winners. . . All brands should be focused on emotional brand building advertising and achieving a 5-star rating”, he continued. “To settle for anything less than 3 stars is wasting advertising budget.”

Large-scale studies of advertising effectiveness (e.g. Les Binet and Peter Field, The Long and the Short of It, IPA 2013) have shown that emotional ad campaigns are better predictors of long-term business effects (e.g. share gain, reductions in price sensitivity, profit gain) than ads that adopt a persuasive, rational communication strategy. After 3 years, 43% of emotional campaigns report very large profit gains; only 23% of campaigns that adopt a rational, persuasive communication strategy report such effects.

According to Kearon, “The new approach to advertising requires a new approach to ad testing. Traditional ad testing usually rewards the persuasive, rational model, and has proven to punish great creative like the Cadbury Gorilla that has no connection to the brand. Instead, researchers must laser in on measuring emotion as almost the single metric that predicts success. Behavioural economics, and its emphasis on System 1 thinking, underscores what we have come to learn about people:  if you feel nothing, you buy nothing.”

“Huge congratulations to the brands and their respective agencies who were brave enough to kick up a commotion and achieve 5-star advertising. Their reward is famous advertising that generates the biggest returns” said Kearon.

And congratulations to BrainJuicer for taking the bull by the horns. Here at GreenBook we’re big fans of many of the existing awards programs out there and have advocated for some time using the Effies in particular as a benchmark to test emotional measurement techniques against. In fact, we’ve been percolating an idea in collaboration with the NMSBA, Effies, WFA & ARF on developing a protocol that will allow us to test all “unconscious measurement” approaches from fMRI to “enhanced explicit” surveys and everything in between to gauge the best use cases for each technique and establish some consistent metric on “emotional ROI”. Great minds think alike, and BrainJuicer just took a big step in doing something very similar. It will be interesting to see how this new internal norm is leveraged by them in 2014.

Without a doubt, this is an important topic, and one I expect to see become a dominant narrative in marketing organizations in 2014.

The FeelMore50™, with their star ratings, numerical scores and links to YouTube videos can be viewed at feelmore50.brainjuicer.com. Check them out; some of my personal favorite ads are there (I still crack up at the PepsiMax Test Drive no matter how many times I see it!).

The aforementioned “The Long and the Short of It”, IPA 2013 report can be accessed at http://www.ipa.co.uk/Framework/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=9225 

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to ““Feel More, Buy More”? BrainJuicer Establishes A New Ad Benchmark”

  1. Steve Needel says:

    January 8th, 2014 at 8:17 am

    Ehrenberg wrote a fascinating paper in J. Adv Rsch in 1974 suggesting that a major role of advertising was to make people feel better about stuff they already buy (as a social psychologist at the time, we referred to this as post-decisional dissonance reduction). This fits well with Kearon’s position that emotion-based advertising is more effective than persuasion-based advertising (all things being equal – which he didn’t add in).

    The question I’d raise is whether this is as true for new products as it may be for established products. How many times have we seen a commercial for something new and said, “What the heck is that”? A new product ad that doesn’t tell us what it is or give us a reason to buy it in place of what we’re already buying may not be very effective.

  2. Tom says:

    January 13th, 2014 at 6:43 am

    Hi Steve – thanks for the comment! There actually are a couple of ads in the FeelMore50 which focus on new products (including one product which, er, doesn’t actually exist yet – not quite sure what the textbooks would say about THAT….)

    Anyhow it’s a very interesting question and rather than write a long comment on it I ended up tackling it in a blog post. http://brianjuicerblog.wordpress.com/2014/01/10/return-of-the-product/ – summary: most new products aren’t different or appealing enough to justify an ad focusing on their newness – make them likeable instead then do the differentiation work at POS with behavioural interventions. That would be our baseline advice anyhow, though of course it all depends on the brand, the product, how new it is, etc.

Leave a Reply