Voice Acting

The Most Emotional TV Commercials

Keaton Robbins | April 3, 2023

A man with a commercial video camera films a woman holds a bouquet of flowers.

Emotional commercials and advertising are among the most effective sales methods a brand can use. Advertising based on emotions tends to be more effective than advertising based on facts alone. This is even more true for TV commercials than print ads, which is likely why you see it on TV more than anywhere else.

What Makes an Ad Emotional?

In this article

  1. What Makes an Ad Emotional?
  2. Types of Emotion in Advertising
  3. Joy and Happiness in Advertising
  4. Nostalgia in Advertising
  5. Negative Emotions in Advertising
  6. Using Anger in Advertising
  7. Using Sadness in Advertising
  8. Effective Emotional Commercials That Made Viewers Cry
  9. Thank You, Mom for Proctor and Gamble
  10. The World Is Just Awesome for Discovery Channel
  11. Birds for Extra Gum
  12. Take Care of Yourself for Doc Morris
  13. How To Use Emotional Advertising Effectively
  14. When in Doubt, Stick to Positive Ads
  15. Build Trust
  16. Use Storytelling
  17. Understand Your Audience
  18. The Final Word

One of the critical ingredients for an emotional ad is oxytocin. Oxytocin is the hormone responsible for empathy, but it is also responsible for creating human bonds. In fact, it is often called the love hormone

Many emotional advertisements tend to produce oxytocin in viewers. By doing this, ads gain empathy from the viewer while also creating a favorable psychological bond that keeps customers coming back for more. 

Types of Emotion in Advertising

Effective advertisers use all kinds of emotion in commercials to engage their audience. Joy, anger, sadness, and fear are all commonly used in different ads with different goals. Choosing the right emotion to invoke from your audience is the key to creating a successful ad. 

Joy and Happiness in Advertising

Joyous ads come in many different forms. From funny to deeply emotional, happy ads can elicit deep emotions from viewers, helping them remember companies and brands for years to come. 

For example, compare these two ads: ‘Parisian Love’ by Google and ‘Dog Tested by Subaru. 

Subaru ads have a reputation for stealing the hearts of viewers everywhere. In ‘Dog Tested’, the ad focuses on humor to leave a lasting positive impression on the audience. 

‘Parisian Love’ is considered one of the most iconic ads of all time, with more than 8 million views on the youtube video alone. While ‘Parisian Love’ is happy, it is not happy in the straightforward sense like ‘Dog Tested’. Instead, it is a profoundly nostalgic commercial about the joys of life.

Both ads are memorable in their own way and use happiness to capture the viewer’s attention, but they have very different moods. Whichever kind of joy you decide to add to your commercial, the stronger the emotion you can elicit, the better.

Nostalgia in Advertising

Using nostalgia in advertising can be highly effective. It is a way of tapping into positive emotions that your audience has already built. This tool can create deep positive connections with your audience without starting from scratch. 

A great example of nostalgic advertising is Nintendo’s Two Brothers ad. Here we see two brothers who used to love gaming reconnecting over Nintendo Switch. Nintendo taps into the audience’s existing positive feelings about the brand to advertise a new product.

Don’t worry if your brand wasn’t around back in the day. If you’re creating a new product or brand, you can use the audience’s nostalgia for things other than your product. Take Spotify Never Ending for Spotify.

Spotify wasn’t around in the ‘80s, yet they tap into viewers’ emotions and feelings about that time to their advantage. Spotify poses itself into that period. They’re telling the audience, “We are the modern way to feel the emotions you felt back then.”

When considering how to use this in your advertising, think about the solutions people used before your product or similar products existed. Can you portray the old times in a nostalgic light and then connect them to your own brand?

Negative Emotions in Advertising

You may have wondered why some brands choose to make deeply emotional commercials. This is especially strange for commercials that elicit negative emotions like stress, sadness, or fear. Why wouldn’t a brand prefer to associate itself with positive or friendly emotions instead?

Ultimately, emotional advertising is far more effective than fact-based advertising. Consumers are more likely to remember an ad that had an emotional impact- even a negative one– than an ad that just gave them information.

Getting an adverse reaction from an audience can be easy, but it should be done with caution. If you overstimulate your audience’s negative feelings, they may end up feeling manipulated by your brand instead.

Using Anger in Advertising

Anger can be an effective way to engage your audience and bring them into your brand. Commercials that have left audiences furious and ready to take action often go viral if done correctly.

Consider Kony 2012. This advertising campaign went viral everywhere on the internet. The youtube video, produced by Invisible Children, got millions of views, all organically generated. 

The creators of Kony 2012 took people’s natural anger about the exploitation of children and turned it into something positive. Millions of people ended up donating to the campaign, changing their profile pictures, and sharing the video with everyone they could. 

Kony 2012 is an example of how anger can be effective, but it also demonstrates the dangerous drawbacks when it goes wrong. Ultimately, the money wasn’t used for the purpose the creators said it would be, and to this day, Kony remains at large

Instead of gaining a reputation as a charity that tries to do right by the people it helps, Invisible Children is instead thought of as a charity that taps into people’s emotions for their own gain.

Using Sadness in Advertising

Sadness can be one of the most effective tools in advertising available. Many charities use sadness in advertising to draw sympathy from their audience, making them want to help and donate to the cause.

One of the most compelling examples is the classic Sarah Mclachlan ASPCA ads. They picture the saddest-looking dogs, locked in tiny cages, making eye contact with the camera. Viewers can’t help but want to donate and save the animals on screen.

These ads have been running for years, primarily because they work. The ads have raised more than $30 million for the ASPCA, saving countless animals and cementing the charity in the public’s consciousness. 

Sadness is a powerful tool, but, like anger, it should be used carefully. Consider what has become known as the “McDonald’s dead dad advert” that ran in the UK. In this ad, a young boy whose father passed away wants to know what he has in common with his dad. He and his mother visit McDonald’s, where the boy discovers that he and his dad both like Filet-O-Fish. 

The ad felt tacky to consumers rather than impactful. Using sensitive topics like dead parents can often make your brand look manipulative and mean rather than sensitive and in touch. Sadness as an emotion in advertising is difficult to get right and should be attempted with extreme caution. 

Effective Emotional Commercials That Made Viewers Cry

Here are some of the most effective emotional commercials that brands have run. You can use these as examples of what you should do in your own advertising. Consider the emotions these commercials bring out and how you might apply them to your brand.

Thank You, Mom for Proctor and Gamble

In 2016, Proctor and Gamble released the ad ‘Thank You, Mom’ for the Rio Olympics. It featured Olympians and the moments that their mom’s helped them through. P&G has used the slogan “Proud Sponsor of Moms” since 2012. 

The ads are effective because they’re geared toward the right audience- moms still do most of the housework, even in modern times- without feeling pedantic or demeaning. The emotions used in this ad are primarily positive, though P&G also underscores the fear that many children feel in vulnerable moments. 

This ad is an excellent example of knowing your audience and appealing to things that are likely to be emotional specifically to them. All parents dream of their children growing up and using the tools they were taught to succeed, and P&G presents a version of that success.

The World Is Just Awesome for Discovery Channel

The World is Just Awesome uses a different form of joyous advertising: inspiration. This ad focuses on what the audience should feel about the world and presents Discovery Channel as the best way to continue feeling it.

This is an example of pretty straightforward joy used in advertising. When you think about your brand, think about the kind of joy that it might bring users and how you can share that joy in an impactful way.

Birds for Extra Gum

Extra’s ‘Birds’ is another example of a deeply impactful and emotional commercial. Here, a father gives his daughter origami birds made from gum wrappers for many years. Then, when she is packing up for college, he finds a box of them she has kept the whole time.

The commercial invokes nostalgia and happiness. Extra presents as a way of connecting to the people around you, like the father connected with his daughter.

The emotions you bring out with your ads don’t have to be straightforward. ‘Birds’ isn’t about the joy that chewing gum brings but the importance of love and connection. When you think about your brand, think about the deeper aspects of the product you’re creating and how that might translate into an emotionally impactful commercial.

Take Care of Yourself for Doc Morris

Take Care of Yourself is another commercial that has made the rounds around the internet. This commercial depicts an older man working on lifting weights and getting stronger throughout the year. At the end of the commercial, we find out that the man has been working hard so that when his granddaughter visits the following Christmas, he can lift her.

The advertisement is for a Dutch pharmacy. Doc Morris doesn’t sell fitness equipment or other fitness supplies, but they have broadly interpreted their role in the market, which worked to their advantage. Instead of advertising the benefits of medicine, they focus on health.

By broadening the scope of its brand, Doc Morris was able to create one of the most emotionally impactful ads of 2020. Consider how you could cast a broader net with your brand. If you’re struggling to think of how your product would work in emotional advertising, try thinking about your industry.

How To Use Emotional Advertising Effectively

So you know you need to use emotional marketing to appeal to your audience, but how do you pull it off? Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you’re working on your own ads. 

When in Doubt, Stick to Positive Ads

While ads that bring out negative emotions can be highly effective and memorable, they’re hard to pull off without alienating your audience. Further, advertisements that make people happy tend to be shared more often and are more likely to go viral.

Build Trust

Getting your reputation off on the right foot can be difficult, but it will make all the difference with your audience. You can use user-generated content to create an aura of authenticity for your brand that cannot be done as easily with scripted content.

Have a voice actor read and share positive reviews or clips of video reviews your audience has made. This will build trust with potential customers and is cheaper than producing traditional ads. 

Use Storytelling

Stories are more likely to connect with your audience than disjointed moments or small snippets. Consider how many ads in this article use storytelling to attract the audience. From ‘Parisian Love’ to ‘Thank You Mom’, storytelling is at the heart of capturing and keeping your audience.

Understand Your Audience

Before crafting the perfect ad, ensure it’s geared toward the right people. Children and teenagers will likely not be drawn in by advertisements that tell the story of parenthood. Young adults are not likely to share ads that focus on nostalgia from before they were born.

The Final Word

If you’re planning on making an advertisement for TV, focus on bringing out emotions from your audience. This is especially important as TV ads are a form of interuption marketing, inserting the ad before the viewer’s favorite show. If you’re a charitable organization or working for a particular cause, sadness and anger can be incredibly effective tools.

Many businesses focus on positive emotions like joy, happiness, and nostalgia, as they’re less likely to backfire and accidentally alienate or anger the viewer.

Hiring the right actors and actresses can be vital in getting the emotions of your ad just right, so make sure you’re getting the best talent available no matter what kind of ad you’re making

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