FeelMore50 2017: Humor Wins Big for American Brands

What gets North Americans feeling emotional? “Dogs and kids”, a cynical observer might say, and it’s true that each year’s FeelMore North America list brings a new crop of adorable children and puppies. But plenty of ads use those elements without emotional success, and this year we’ve seen some small but interesting shifts in the overall sentimental picture.

Watch Jameson’s “The Long Lost Barrel”

For a start, there’s the top North American ad, a sardonic spot for Jameson Irish Whisky. Jameson has been doing these ads for several years now – tall tales of founder John Jameson, gently mocking certain other liquor brands who make a big deal of their founders. “The Long Lost Barrel” is a perfect parody of that reverent kind of ad.

It’s not the only ad to poke gentle fun at its own brand. The eye-opening “Sexy Mr Clean” ad, with its brand icon come to skin-tight life, and Hyundai’s spot selling hybrid cars by poking fun at eco-warriors, both used the Super Bowl as a stage for ads that were funny, not preachy, and didn’t take their brands too seriously. Humour can be a unifying force at times when the very idea of shared values seems to be under threat – which is why these commercials did so well.

Watch Tim Hortons’ “Welcome Home”

North of the border, values were still in vogue. Canadian ads had another good year, with supermarket own-brand President’s Choice and iconic coffee chain Tim Hortons producing ads which left you in no doubt of their positions on the value of community and of immigration. The Tim Hortons “Welcome Home” spot mobilized angry bigots on YouTube, but its 5-Star performance among a representative sample proves the brand hit exactly the right note.

And yes, there were dogs. But the dog-related ads at least had good reasons to use our canine chums. Real estate company Coldwell Banker invests in dog-rehousing initiatives, which paid dividends in its “Somebody to Love” ad (the most emotional TV spot on our entire list). And Pedigree, of course, have the best of reasons to show dogs, and an admirable commitment to doing it in ways that enchant and entertain, rather that make dreary product claims.

Watch Coldwell Banker’s “Somebody to Love”

In a way, the biggest shift this year wasn’t in what North American ads made the list, but when they were shown. For the first time, the Super Bowl’s dominance of the Top 10 was broken, with only three ads from the big game making the list. Thanks to digital, and to the shifting tide in favour of emotional ads, we’re finally seeing American advertisers making consumers feel more all year round, not concentrating their fire in February. How did the Super Bowl ads do this year? Check out our top 10 ranking from Super Bowl LII.

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