Diwali Advertising Review: Key Insights from Festive Campaigns by Leading Brands

Diwali, also known as Deepavali, is a Hindu festival celebrated over a five-day period, typically occurring in October/November each year. The festival holds immense cultural and religious significance within Indian communities across the globe. It is renowned as the “Festival of Lights” because it symbolizes the victory of light over darkness and good over evil. During Diwali, homes, streets, and public areas are illuminated with lamps, candles, and decorative lights. 

Families come together for special gatherings filled with delicious meals, gift exchanges, and visits to friends and relatives. People express their love and affection by presenting gifts, making it a noteworthy shopping season in India. Brands undoubtedly seize this opportunity to create marketing campaigns that are customized for the festival, emphasizing their products as perfect choices for gifting, and enhancing the festive atmosphere. 

Winning during Diwali  

System1 selected 8 Diwali advertisements from 2022 to explore how advertising campaigns from some of the most prominent brands performed among audiences in India. Through our cutting-edge Test Your Ad platform, we tested the effectiveness of these creatives through the following lenses:  

 1. Emotion: How well does the basic idea of the ad create a positive feeling? 

 2. Story: What is the shape of the story arc? 

 3. Incident: What happens to or between our characters? 

 4. Fluency: Is the brand quickly and easily recognisable? Is the ad making effective use of Fluent Devices? 

 5. Activation: How will it perform for short term sales? Was there a call to action?   

Here, we’ll showcase best practices for crafting commercially effective content during the festive Diwali period based on System1’s approach. 


1. Emotion 

Emotions play a central role in human decision-making, particularly in System 1 thinking, which relies on intuition, and quick, automatic processes shaped by experiences and associations.  

In contrast, System 2 thinking involves reflective and rule-based reasoning and operates more slowly. Since System 1 thinking dominates due to its efficiency, understanding the role of emotion in this mode is essential.  

Research shows that emotions have a more significant effect on brand interest and purchasing attitudes than rational thinking. Studies, such as those conducted by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), further highlight that emotionally driven campaigns tend to yield higher profits than purely rational ones. Hence, measuring emotional response is core to our ad testing solution because if you make people feel good, they will buy more! 

Our analysis reveals that all Diwali advertisements effectively leveraged positive emotions. They achieved this exceptional outcome by thoughtfully shaping the messaging around themes that encompass the celebration of togetherness, the nurturing of meaningful connections, and the encouragement of supportive acts that can inspire others. 

System1’s Star Rating is an accurate prediction of the business impact of creativity. Our metrics have also been externally validated by the IPA for its long-term predictive power. 

Figure 1.0 (below) displays the Star Rating for all Diwali ads, which is derived from the emotional reaction and overall intensity elicited by each ad. This rating serves as a predictor of long-term brand growth and ranges from 1.0 to 5.9-Stars.  

  • Indian culture values family and unity: Diwali is the perfect time to come together with loved ones. This sentiment is vividly portrayed in the McDonald’s ad, which is positioned on the insight that ‘meals make families’. The ad captures the typical Diwali festivities of a family that is made special and enjoyable over a McDonald’s meal. Similarly, in the Coca-Cola ad the protagonist is shown working by himself in an office till late during Deepavali. However, he is soon reunited with his family, emphasizing the importance of togetherness, and celebrating with loved ones. In a similar vein, Asian Paints highlights the importance of celebrating this festive day in the company of family. 


  • Nurturing deep connections and resolving tensions is another common theme in Diwali’s advertising. A notable example of this is Dell’s creative, which beautifully portrays modern relationships by highlighting the bond between a man and his date’s daughter. Another example is from Hyundai, which celebrates the bond between brothers who reconcile their differences during Diwali and unexpectedly discover they have both fulfilled their childhood dream of owning the same car. 


  • Diwali is also a time to help others and engage in activities that support social causes, the less fortunate, and that inspire change. For instance, Cadbury introduces a QR code that enables shoppers to buy directly from street vendors whose businesses are subject to unpredictable ups and downs. In a similar spirit, OPPO’s ad features a young boy who decides to draw attention to the issue of potholes in the city, highlighting how such actions can serve as a source of inspiration for others. 


2. Story

According to psychologist Daniel Kahneman, people tend to remember their experiences, particularly past events or memories, based on different moments (‘peaks’) and the way the experience ends. In the context of advertising, the most effective ads take viewers on an emotional journey by building up positive responses throughout the ad and culminating in an emotionally positive peak ending. Ending a story on a high note enhances its memorability as it is often the final moments that remain etched in the viewer’s memory.  

Diwali ads take consumers on positive and memorable journeys: 

  • The power of steadily increasing levels of happiness: In Coca-Cola’s ad, a heartwarming sense of togetherness is evoked among viewers. The ad creates a memorable experience by narrating the story of a typical working man who is at his desk till late in the evening. The product placement drives the storytelling as the man follows the bottle of Coca-Cola across the city. The ad ends on a high note, leaving consumers with a positive feeling as they witness his joyous reunion with his family and friends. 

Figure 2.0 (below) illustrates the emotional journey taken by viewers while watching Coca-Cola’s ad. The storyline builds a positive emotional experience and ends on a high peak after the main character is reunited with his family. 

  • The power of evoking negative emotions: The family plays a pivotal storytelling role in many Diwali advertisements, serving to convey a range of emotions and emphasize the importance of deepening connections. This is precisely what Hyundai does in its advertisement. The brand places the family and their car at the core of the story, creating a roller coaster of emotions among the audience. Viewers initially feel a sense of sadness as they witness the main character missing his brother. However, the car ultimately becomes the instrument that reunites them, celebrating the homecoming of happiness.   

Figure 2.1 (below) shows the emotional response through Hyundai’s ad. Employing a range of emotions in an advertisement enriches the viewer’s experience, but it’s essential for these emotions to be resolved to create lasting memorability.  

3. Incident

Humans are inherently social beings, and our fascination with human relationships serves as a powerful tool for capturing the broad-beam attention of viewers. In advertising, the dynamics of relationships and interactions between characters can convey profound messages without the need for explicit explanations. Gestures such as people touching, making eye contact, or engaging in conversations can effectively showcase the depth of human interaction, often leading to heightened engagement from the audience. 

In the context of Diwali ads, the narratives come to life through characters who interact with one another, often communicating implicitly through smiles, moments of togetherness, and exchanged glances. This approach triggers the viewer’s right brain, prompting it to decipher the emotional elements connected with the storyline—a process that can only be comprehended by the part of the brain associated with emotions and connections. 


  • The ad from Tanishq introduces two women in The Indian Air Force. One is experiencing her first Diwali away from home and her family. In response, the other protagonist shares a heartwarming message from her mother who encourages her to celebrate Diwali with her new ‘Air Force family’. Because the people one meets along life’s journeys become family and they welcome you into a new world you can call your home. This message is conveyed through a heartwarming conversation between two women as they dress up in traditional attire and beautiful jewelry from Tanishq.  


  • In Cadbury’s film, the narrative unfolds with a man searching for his local hawker who had been absent from his usual spot for a few days. The man extends a kind gesture by gifting the street vendor with a box of Cadbury Celebrations and utilizes the QR code to set up a virtual shop for him and his son. Throughout this interaction, warm smiles are exchanged, adding to the overall engagement and emotional resonance of the narrative. 


Figure 3.0 (below) shows the correlation between the different features and emotional response. For instance, features associated with the Right Brain (marked in yellow), such as characters with vitality/agency, implicit and unspoken communication, people touching, are more adept at orientating our broad-beam attention and leads to a strong emotional response. 

4. Fluency

The effectiveness of an advertisement also hinges on its accurate association with the brand. Ensuring that viewers can readily identify the brand is especially crucial especially in the context of digital ads, where viewers have the option to skip content, making rapid brand recognition a critical factor. We also know that 85% of digital ads do not pass the 2.5-second attention-memory threshold.  

At System1, we assess brand fluency from two distinct angles:  

     1. The Speed of Branding score allows us to gauge the percentage of viewers who can recognize the brand within the first 5 seconds of the ad.  

     2. The overall Brand Fluency Score that indicates the percentage of viewers that accurately recall the brand by the end of the ad. 

  • In the Diwali ads, Cadbury, OPPO, and Tanishq achieve exceptional fluency scores, 96-98%, with their distinctive logos being strategically placed in the top corners of the ad and further reinforced via product placement. This composition serves the dual purpose of ensuring brand visibility throughout the ad and helps to drive the highest Speed of Branding, achieving 71-77% of recognition in the first 5-seconds. 

Figure 4.0 (below) shows the FluencyTrace Brand Recognition of Cadbury, OPPO and Tanishq ads and how the placement of their respective logos contributes to the fast Speed of Recognition.

  • While Asian Paints manages to achieve 100% recognition by the end of the ad, it registered the slowest speed of branding among the tested ads, with a modest 54% score. Notably, there are no distinctive brand cues until the brand is mentioned at the 23-second mark, and its logo is revealed towards the end. This highlights the importance of building distinctive brand assets and using them early in the ad to strengthen recognition. 
  • Conversely, Coca-Cola strategically uses its distinctive bottle and vibrant red colour as the primary elements driving the narrative of its ad. This effective utilization of Fluent Devices not only aids in constructing memory structures for brand recognition but also enhances both Fluency and Speed of Branding. Furthermore, research has shown that Fluent Devices are 20% more likely than average to achieve long-term effectiveness of market share and profit gain for brands.  

Figure 4.1 (below) shows the % of long-term campaigns achieving very large effects by using Fluent Devices.  

5. Activation

According to Peter Field & Les Binet, advertisers must strike a balance between long-term investment in brand-building, and short-term sales-focused approaches for effective marketing campaigns. ​

At System1 we assess the ad’s effectiveness in both the long-term (Star Rating) and short-term (Spike Rating) to predict its potential impact. Sometimes, an ad may not perform well in the long-term due to the high negative emotions evoked but might excel in the short-term thanks to a high Emotional Intensity and Speed of Branding. This highlights the importance of early brand visibility and recognition in the ad.

In our assessment, the majority of Diwali ads achieved a strong Spike Rating, indicating their potential to generate great short-term sales returns.


  • For example, Cadburys ad, with its heartwarming messaging and a call-to-action encouraging people to engage in the #ShopsForShopless initiative, combined with strong Speed of Branding, results in a Strong Spike Rating of 1.29, which exceeds the Asia average (1.10).


  • Another example is the Tanishq ad, which combines an emotional storyline with a call-to-action promoting ‘up to 20% off’ at the end. This, along with strong early brand recognition, leads to a strong Short-term sales potential of 77%.


Figure 5.0 (below) shows that 88% of the 4- and 5-Star ads presented in our UK database also achieved above average Spike Rating.  

Success Beyond Diwali 

The top brands successfully crafted emotional narratives that tap into the essence of Diwali, emphasizing togetherness, meaningful connections, and acts of support, all while strategically integrating brand cues to create a strong emotional bond between the audience and the brand. This achievement is translated into both long-term brand growth and short-term ROI.  

System1 pioneered a testing methodology that takes into consideration both the long- and short-term effects of an ad, whilst using emotion to accurately predict effectiveness. If you would like to know more about our methodology and how we can help your brand Create with Confidence, visit Test Your Ad.