4 Emotions That Can Make Video Ads More Effective

Incredibly powerful emotions can force a response from the viewer–whether we want it to or not. Fear can make you scream, humor makes people laugh, and joy and hopefulness can both fill folks with incredible feelings of warmth that leaves a lasting impression. What strong emotions do is engage something deeper within audiences that they don’t traditionally expect to feel from run-of-the-mill ads trying to sell something.

And you can thread this more artistically minded way of conceptualizing your ad campaigns into strategies that can drive marketing objectives. Find out how to do just that by watching the replay of our recent webinar with eMarketer: Raising BPMs to Lower CPMs: How Emotions Instigate Action in Video Ads.

Let’s dive into some of the webinar’s key findings.

What makes emotional connections so effective in marketing?

From a high level, a study out of The University of Southern California found that 31% of ad campaigns performed well when it featured strong emotional content, with only 16% of ad campaigns performing well when it featured more rational content.

To needle into this finding a bit more, a separate study published in 2020 titled, “The Emotional Effectiveness of Advertisement” found that, “…providing an emotional message in publicity increases the audience’s attention to the advertisement, enhancing the product’s appeal and generating a higher level of brand recall.” 

But why does this happen? First, if the last few years have been any indication, hard facts don’t always resonate with people in the same way emotions do. You should absolutely still find ways to thread hard facts and data points into your ads, but consider using them more as ‘proof points’, supporting the experience you create with your ad, rather than the data acting as the main selling point to get your audience invested.

The hard pill to swallow for many data-driven marketers is that consumers are simply hardwired to poke holes in data if it doesn’t back up their experiences. As reported by the magazine Inc., “data is easier to challenge than story and narrative. Whether something is factual, empirically the best choice, or supported by the numbers matters very little to someone if it runs contrary to the experiences they’ve had in life.”

Now Inc. goes on to point out that this issue can get exponentially worse when you are presenting troves of data to more analytically minded consumers. The more institutional knowledge someone has about data, the more inclined they are to scrutinize it even more. Be honest with yourself, what marketer hasn’t seen a data point in an ad and thought, “I wonder how skewed those numbers really are.”

Due to this phenomena, most people are easier to convince if you front-load emotional connections, and use data as a way to help that connection feel even more resonant.

By effectively using emotions, you can create situations your audience relates to and understands, allowing them to connect more easily with your message — and your brand – on a more personal level. 

Let’s explore a few of the emotions you can leverage in video advertising.

Related: Social Media Video Ad Specs & Placements Guide


Late last year, QuickFrame and MNTN, conducted research into what made for the perfect Connected TV commercial. What our research discovered is that fear-based messaging drives site visit rates 49% higher than average.

Why does fear elicit such a strong response in advertising, and entertainment in general? 

A research paper from the Journal of Marketing also highlighted three reasons why fear is effective in ads:

  • A single exposure to fear-based messaging can induce anxiety. 
  • That anxiety has the ability to modify our behavior.
  • Seeing someone having a fearful or anxious reaction spreads those emotions to the viewer. 

To put this another way, fear-based messages instigate–from the safety of your own home or personal space–our inherent fight or flight response. The moment you detect something that feels threatening, you get an adrenaline rush that’s frankly not too dissimilar from the feeling you might get on a rollercoaster or going skydiving–it activates people, both physically and emotionally. 

What’s so interesting about this statistic on fear is that rather than fleeing from the thing that scares you when it’s in the form of an ad, you actually feel compelled to want to learn more. Perhaps that has something to do with wanting an immediate solution to combat the fear you just felt. And that solution is in the form of a product or service.

However, the same research from the Journal of Marketing provided evidence that there is a level where viewers ‘max out’ and eventually switch off if fear tactics are overused, like you so often see present in political ads. That’s why it’s important for advertisers to balance out these fear based messages with positive, solution-based messaging as a call to action. This will both reduce the anxiety and stress on the viewer and encourage them to take action, like browsing your blog or visiting your ecommerce store.


You probably still remember that Puppy Love ad that Budweiser premiered during the Big Game in 2014. It featured a simple story about a puppy adopted from a farm as it tries to make its way back to its best friend: one of Budweisers famous Clydesdales. And as these unexpected besties reunite, you realize the ad has done exactly what it set out to do: it filled you with an overwhelming sense of joy and happiness that creates and leaves a lasting impression.

The joy this ad inspired also led to measurable results. A study conducted in the hours after the game in 2014 found this ad was the most shared of the game, peaking at over 1.3 million shares. In terms of views, according to the Wall Street Journal, it exceeded 36.2 million, more than twice the number of views as the ad that came in second place.

Now, you’re not going to be making these ads all year round, but those numbers should tell you–no matter the size of your brand–that instigating joy in your audience is a strategy you should pursue. According to our own Video Vitals research, joy is effective across industries. Commercials that open with a lighter, more joyful message and tone drive–as mentioned–a strong Visit Rate as well as a 7% higher conversion rate than the overall average.

Related: 7 Types of Video Production to Elevate Your Business


Don’t think about the emotional connection you create through humorous messaging as pure entertainment–think of it as a solid gold attention grabber. The Serious Case for Humor– by AdAge–found that humor works because it gives a quick jolt of positive emotions which helps the consumer remember your brand and message.

As they mentioned in the article, “the clever juxtapositions, satisfying repetitions and unexpected reversals that make people laugh are also great ways to attract the [specific] attention that ads need to capture.” Humor can generate an immediate reaction in the viewer, perfect for an opening that hooks your audience–making it a highly valuable emotion to leverage in shorter, hyper-condensed ad formats or runtimes. 

The ‘too long, didn’t read’ for this section–or I guess ‘too long, didn’t listen’ in this case–can be summed up by a finding from Statista: 57% of US consumers enjoy humorous messages. On top of that, in a recent Peeks Report released this week by MNTN Research, 41% of marketers cited that their favorite ads were funny ones.

So with more than half of all consumers interested in seeing humor in ads–and close to the same when it comes to marketers themselves–any time is a great time to test humor in your ads. 


Hope is an interesting nuanced emotion. While it can look and sound a lot like joy, hope is an aspiration rather than an immediate sensation. Hope takes people into the future, whether it’s hoping for a better tomorrow, or simply hoping that Amazon will still honor next day delivery for that package you bought at 2AM last night.

In other words, hope instigates a sense of reassurance. That feeling that everything will be ok–whether that’s in our own lives, or someplace else.

According to a study from Statista, 34% of US consumers enjoy reassuring messages. In 2021, Google actually created an incredibly moving ad that tripled underlined feelings of hope as the pandemic ebbed and flowed. They wanted to give people the hope that the things they’ve missed over the last two years–visiting family, celebrating with friends–will soon be able to safely return.

The ad was called “Get Back to What You Love” and it inspired a feeling of hope in those who felt disconnected from their lives during this weird period of history. As a Twitter user mentioned when the ad ran during the NCAA’s Final Four, “I wasn’t expecting a Google commercial to make me feel feelings during a Final Four game, but what even are the rules anymore?”

As a further proof point for the effectiveness of this ad, currently it’s sitting at over 12m views on YouTube. That breaks down to roughly 21,000 views a day on average. All from giving people a little bit of hope–and joy–when they needed it the most.

Related: Video Production Process: Everything You Need to Know


What works for your competition, or the enterprise power players of the world may not always work for you. Emotions like fear, humor, joy, and hope can benefit ad campaigns in profound ways–but you must not discount testing, learning, and optimizing. As you are identifying and examining KPIs at the onset of your campaigns, use your specific goals to refine your creative strategy based on performance. 

You can use this data above as a starting point to craft a testing plan, like producing two different open hooks that engage with a different emotion. Then, as you track performance, you’ll be able to generate learnings that’ll tell you what emotions actually resonate with your audience–and which simply do not–all based upon your campaign’s goals. Check out the replay of Raising BPMs to Lower CPMs above to learn even more about how you can use emotions effectively in your future ad campaigns.

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