Americans seemingly don’t want to let go of Rio 2016. The emotional attachment’s been apparent through ad engagement and endless comments on social media about the Olympians, good and bad — as in, from Aly Raisman to Ryan Lochte. That’s why the top-performing ad, Hershey’s “Hello from Home” with gymnast Simone Biles, logically fits.
A facial recognition study found that the candy commercial “scored better than 92.5 percent of ads ever measured,” according to data revealed on Monday to Target Marketing by London-based “emotion measurement firm” Realeyes and New Orleans-based marketing software provider Lucid.
“Hershey’s, TD Ameritrade and Panasonic are the most engaging Olympic ads,” the research conductors announce, “according to a study which tracked people’s facial expressions while they watched them.”
To conduct the study, the firms, in turn, watched 4,500 consumers “via their webcams across 66 ads from Olympic and Team USA sponsors and ambush marketers.”
Realeyes and Lucid monitored for the consumers’ emotional engagement, which “is a combined measure of how well the ad grabs viewers’ attention, keeps it and whether it leaves a lasting impression. It’s based on monitoring how 49 key facial points move during viewing.”
Here’s what the study found, as well as marketing takeaways:
Why the Top Ads Engaged Viewers Best
In his extensive summary of the Olympic ads on Aug. 10, Target Marketing Editor-in-Chief Thorin McGee notes that most of the commercials made couch potatoes feel lazy. Plus, he only saw two ads for candy — Hershey’s and Reese’s, and the latter was as energetic as the non-candy ads.
“One thing that really jumped out to me was how much the commercials continued the themes of the Olympics: Inspiration, hard work, preparation, precision, performance, rewards,” McGee writes. “Especially inspiration.”
It looks like McGee nailed it, because Realeyes’ CEO Mihkel Jäätma seems to agree that sentiment is why these ads succeeded.
“Hershey’s’ winning effort appeals because it doesn’t hit you over the head with the blood, sweat and tears narrative normally seen for these type of events,” says Jäätma in Monday’s announcement. “The relatively light-hearted approach proved especially appealing to women, scoring a near-perfect 10 for them compared to ‘just’ eight for men.”
The next three Realeyes winners must not have aired the night McGee watched the Olympics, but they also seem to tie in with the sentimental theme.
“TD Ameritrade’s ad,” the Realeyes study announcement continues, “tied second with Panasonic, follows a similar pattern — the tension of a gritty start and epic soundtrack is broken with the light-hearted sight of Olympic hopefuls meeting their heroes, ‘It’s this contrast that drives the emotional connection with viewers,’ notes Jäätma.”
Millennials Engage Differently With Olympic Ads
The Realeyes announcement shows Millennials prefer a slower build in emotion.
“In contrast to these two ads,” Realeyes says, “which have high peaks of engagement towards the end, Panasonic’s effort with Brazilian star Neymar Jr. trying blind soccer, scores well ‘because it manages to consistently build engagement and empathy throughout as he struggles to adapt.’ ”
What’s more is Millennials have attention spans 45 times longer than marketers originally thought, according to research announced to Target Marketing on Tuesday.
Okemos, Mich.-based business and academic software provider TechSmith Corp. finds that “98 percent of U.S. Millennials prefer to watch a video that is more than six minutes long.”
Why Super Bowl Ads Do Better Than Olympic Ones
“Although the Olympics is one of the biggest events for brand advertising,” Jäätma says in the study’s announcement, “from an ad perspective, the Super Bowl has evolved from just a sporting event to mainstream entertainment. Consequently, Super Bowl ads now have very little reference, if any, to the actual sport; whereas Olympic ads have to remain strictly ‘on message,’ which perhaps limits their creative breadth.”
McGee noticed the activity- and sentiment-related theme of the Olympic ads, too, as he sat and watched the commercials.
“I'm a sports fan,” he writes. “I watch a lot of sports, in general — and I basically list football as my religious affiliation. I'm used to my sports coming with a heavy dose of junk food, beer and soda commercials, many of them playing to my urge to relax, stuff my face and watch the game.”
Further Olympic Marketing Opportunities
The Olympic games ended on Sunday, yet consumers still seem to care about the games and the athletes.