How The Best Ads Give Us The Feels

Category: Marketing Strategies & Tips

It’s not uncommon to hear one of your friends divulge that they totally wept over the latest World Vision PSA or that they got a little choked up seeing that animal rescue special with Sarah McLachlan playing in the background. I mean, you’d have to be a straight-up robot to have watched those adverts with a poker face (no disrespect to robots). A little more surprising, maybe, is the admission that said friend burst into tears over a dog food commercial, passing it off as too many glasses of wine.

But oh, my friend, it’s not all that accidental.

Good video marketing is meant to elicit emotion, whether it’s happy, sad, infuriating, emotional, funny… the list goes on really. A memorable advert is one that catches an audience’s attention through emotion or, as the kids are calling it these days, catching a feel.


No matter which way you look at it, ads play a role in our lives. They make us laugh, cry, or buy. How the ad gets to you can be a little more specific: it can prompt feelings of nostalgia, make you miss your mom, or make you feel empowered.
Personally, I’m still buying Secret deodorant because — like the woman changing a tire in heels in their early-2000s TV advertisement — I really believe the stuff is “strong enough for a woman.” As a woman who proudly cops to changing my own oil from time to time, I identified with the character who takes care of her automotive business without breaking a sweat – or calling AAA for help. Damsel in distress trope be gone!
While that ad has stuck in my mind for at least 10 years, times they are a changin’ and video marketing has reached new heights. You know an ad is effective when it’s gone viral and boosted engagement by the millions. In a word, it’s started #trending.


Speaking of #trending, the Webbys just came out with the people’s list of the top 10 most watched ads. These ads were handpicked by audiences (can’t get any more engaged than that) as the most watched and loved video adverts in 2015.

Source: Extra Gum – Youtube

Extra Gum’s story of Sarah and Juan brought hopeless romantics to tears with a video about high school sweethearts navigating life together until Juan’s ultimate marriage proposal. While it gave audiences a universal quivering lip, it also revealed that there are still some traditional lovers out there who value monogamy, loyalty, and romance. Excuse me… I just have something in both of my eyes.

Source: Barbie on Youtube

Mattel’s Barbie took it upon themselves to reinvent how the world perceived their brand with a new ad that questioned how little girls imagined themselves while playing with the notoriously unrealistic Barbie. Given free reign to explore their imagination, these young girls conjured up fantasies (or, rather, goals) of becoming neuroscientists, paleontologists, and veterinarians with a couple adorable inconsistencies thrown in. The ad effectively turned the idea of Barbie as a barrier to girls’ self-esteem on its head, instead showing that girls are powerful beyond measure when given the opportunity to play. Tugging at heart strings, Mattel seized an opportunity to make their female clientele feel empowered with a heavy dose of cute.

Another most loved video made us laugh — and perhaps made some a little green with envy — as Arnold Schwartzenegger came to life in a wax museum and wowed fans on the street in support of this year’s Terminator Genesis release. It hit those watching in the funny bone, while it engaged those on the street. It also prompted for a little more engagement at the end of the ad, proving that not all video marketing is just talking at the audience, but participating with it.

Source: Arnold Schwarznegger on Youtube

So now that we know what kinds of things got audiences talking — or weeping or laughing or flexing their muscles — this year, marketers may be asking themselves: How do I get there?


First, not all of these commercials aired on the traditional boob tube. The #trend we’re seeing is a shift toward digital — especially with millennials (which, lets be honest, many of these ads are geared towards). So, everyone is still watching video and consuming video media, but they’re doing it on tablets, phones, and laptops. The catch? Videos that they do consume are dictated by their own choices.

That brings us to our next point: that choice doesn’t necessarily mean skipping or fast-forwarding. It translates into clicking to watch if a message grabs our attention in the way of tears, laughs, and more. In point: make them feel something.

And finally, as we noted above, online video equals mobile and tablet optimized video. In the past year on YouTube, views via mobile passed those watched on a desktop. With the democratization of smartphone ownership, more than half of video views come from mobile devices. But how? It’s simple, make something worth sharing and commenting on. Post reach is all about referral, so when a crowd’s opinion leaders posts or shares a video, you can guarantee it won’t just reach a few others but a few thousand others.
Keep up, marketers!

Header photo: Kaboom Pics

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Faye Alexander

Faye Alexander loves to type, scribble and scrawl because words are her favourite play things. As an editor, writer and social media professional, she brought her skill-set to the evolving world of Marketing. She has a passion for inciting meaningful dialogue through crafted content and opening doors to two-way conversations. Some of her favourite words include, but are not limited to: feminism, effervescent, spoon and malarchy.

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