Ads Whose Brand DNA Triggers Emotion, Always Wins

Peter Haslett
Peter Haslett
February 6 4 min read

We have all been seeing and hearing so many points of view on Super Bowl advertising. And rightly so. With a 111.5 million captive audience, the Super Bowl is probably the pinnacle of video advertising. This year’s event did not disappoint. Some brands delivered superb entertainment, others provoking politically charged debate.

Using emotion recognition, we tested over 80 Super Bowl ads, capturing if and how viewers engaged emotionally. You can see the details here. Perhaps most importantly, a week on, like it or not, are the brands that remain most salient (top-of-mind. Brands like Mr. Clean, Skittles, Bai, Kia and Busch are not the brands that would’ve popped to my mind before the game.


Will the sponsor of this great entertainment reap rewards?


I do not write ads or branded content. It requires talent I respect and admire; but not one I possess. That said, I suspect the true art in advertising is weaving the brand into the story as opposed to the brand sponsoring (i.e. being an after-thought to) an engaging moment.

We know that emotions drive action. But what’s the point of entertaining or disrupting if the brand does not get the credit? This is what creates relevant salience for the brand. See how some of the most successful ads are wrapped in the brand

  1. Mr Clean brought titillating novelty to its familiar iconic character.
  2. Skittles’ simply wrapped their advert in ‘The Rainbow’ with irreverent, but creative enjoyment of those colourful candies.
  3. ‘Bye Bye Bye’. In a way that only Christopher Walken could (even better emphasised By JT’s presence), Bai very cleverly entrenched their name in the consumer conscious.
  1. Perhaps less likely to receive creative accolades, Busch achieving strong engagement with an ad that brings nothing unique to the category but does connect the brand with a category experience happening millions of time a day. the end, the real winners will be brands that remain relevantly salient to us.
  1. And yes, while not naturally engaging emotions with initial viewing, ‘Born the Hard Way’ is a story uniquely rooted around Budweiser … unlike social commentary ads from Airbnb, Coke, 84 Lumber, which will struggle to get the same focus on the brand.
  1. On the other hand, what we saw from a very engaging ad from Fordis a bit concerning. Will Ford get the credit for the great entertainment and will any message truly stick?


Some big-names bravely took a stance on emotionally electric social issues … to their benefit or not. Others focused on brand or product messaging. In the end, the real winners will be brands that remain relevantly salient to us. Those brands that elicited strong emotional connection with us (the viewers) with those unforgettable moments triggered by and/or wrapped in the brand.

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