The eight principles for making your ad a winner
Are there common themes or rules to the world's best ads, asks Mihkel Jäätma, CEO, Realeyes.
Realeyes: analysing people’s emotional reactions to ads
To answer this, we used standard webcams to analyse people’s emotional reactions to 250 ads submitted over the years to Cannes Lions – the "Oscars" of the creative marketing industry.
We and our partner, AOL’s Be On, chose to work with Cannes submissions to see if creative excellence can be measured using emotions. Measuring creative is important because it’s a crucial part of effective advertising – along with buying media in the right way. Both have to work together and, while there’s no shortage of tools to get the media part right, we wanted to put more method into how to work with the creative part. To help achieve this, the research incorporated over 100 million facial data points.
We divided ads into three performance categories - those making the Cannes Shortlist, Medal winners and those winning the Gold Lion – to try and identify variables that were particularly distinctive to different categories.
There are four key building blocks through which to measure the effectiveness of ads using emotional reactions - attraction, retention, engagement and impact. We identified the eight strongest rules or principles for the most successful ads (in ascending order), all of which fall within one of these blocks:
- Time the happiness peaks right (impact): if you’re aiming for a couple of spikes in happiness make sure the second one is higher than the first. The greater the uplift between the first and second, the more likely you are to win
- Generate consistent increase in happiness (retention): the steeper the growth in happiness, the better the outcome. The chart below clearly illustrates how different happiness scores tally with the level of prize:
- Make women excited at the end (impact): this is a particularly good emotion to aim it. It’s also worth referencing here don’t be neutral - whatever you do, generate some emotion – don’t leave viewers feeling cold or nonplussed
- Don’t confuse people early (attraction): ads that scored high in confusion early on were significantly less likely to win anything
- Use sadness early (engagement): if you want to tug on the heartstrings, it’s best if you do it early – ideally in the second seventh of the ad
- Allow the viewer to recover (engagement): if you shock or disgust people early on but allow them to recover in the end, you’ve got more chance of winning an award
- Don’t let happiness decline after the first third (retention): ads that scored highly on happiness early on but then let it decline was a very common theme among ads that didn’t make it to the shortlist. Americans would term this "dropping the ball"
And the strongest principle of all that revealed itself was…
- Make women happy at the end (impact): the higher the happiness level among females in the final third of the ad – very specifically, the penultimate seventh – the higher chance of being shortlisted
Ads that illustrate these principles
There’s the theory, so here are particular ads that nicely illustrate the top four principles (again in reverse order).
A gold medal winner – charity Scope’s "Relax, he's just another Radiohead fan" – embodies Rule #4 about using sadness early. It’s an uncomfortable ad featuring a disabled man, apparently moaning incoherently, but finishes with a positive note.
Australian beer Carlton Draught’s "slow mo" ad is an excellent illustration of Rule #3 "disgust and recover" – another that went on to win a Gold Lion. There’s a high peak of disgust at the 40 second mark as a portly man with a ‘builder’s bum’ sits down heavily on a bar stool in slow motion – ripples ensue. However, the ad recovers with more palatable scenes of bar-room fare.
American Express "kayaking" ad featuring comedian Aziz Ansari is a good example of an ad that fell foul of Rule #2 – "dropping the ball". It’s also a reminder not to rely on having a celebrity to get your message across successfully. Ansari is a very well-known figure in the U.S., which probably explains the initial peak in happiness, but it trailed off dramatically in the final third.
Finally, an ad that scored very highly on Rule #1, making women happy, is for a brand you’ve probably never heard of – Le Tréfle toilet paper. The "Emma" ad sees a wife turning the tables on her tablet-obsessed (technology not medicinal) husband who is condescending about her use of paper. When he runs out of toilet paper, she slips a tablet with a photo of a loo-roll under the door.
What emotions lead to what awards?
In terms of how particular emotions correlated with the level of award category, the chart below illustrates it clearly. Happiness is the key ingredient of ads that get shortlisted but its generating negative emotions that is conducive to being awarded the highest level of creative excellence.
So how effective at predicting Cannes success was this project? Well, we can predict shortlist with about 75% accuracy. This is pretty good for a fairly straightforward level of research. By introducing different variables and data points, 80% is a realistic target.
The four key emotional building blocks for a successful ad
For more practical lessons for marketers, it’s important to remember the four emotional building blocks for your ad and where the eight key rules fit in:
- Attract or hook people early (see rule #5)
- Retain their attention (see rules #2 & 7)
- Engage by invoking some form of emotional reaction – the stronger the better (see rules #3 & 4)
- Finish with some kind of impact (see rules #1, 6 & 8)
There you have it. See you at the bookies in Cannes.
This article was first published on marketingmagazine.co.uk
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