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How Emotional vs Rational Automotive Ads Drive Better Social Media Success


In 2013 we embarked on a study intended to reveal what can lie behind the social media success behind automotive campaigns. We collected social media data from 130 car ads which included most of the world’s major automotive brands.

Ads and branded content for car companies has produced some of the most memorable viral videos in recent years. Examples such as Volkswagen’s ‘The Force’, and Volvo’s Van Damme ‘The Split’ took the internet by storm. Other automotive brands have followed their lead, choosing to invest heavily in their video content with the hope that they have that special viral ingredient that yields social media success.

At the time of this study, Realeyes had tracked the performance of over 2200 videos, with 365k views and over 6m social actions.

The Result

The EmotionAll® score, comprising of engagement, attention, retention and impact metrics, showed that there was a correlation between high emotional performance and social media success. High scores garnered significantly more views and engendered more social actions than the lower scoring videos.

Typically, videos with a high EmotionAll® score had 140% more YouTube views, and nearly 650% more social actions.

The comparison between this Ford Fiesta example (scored 4), which is arguably a rational ad that is entirely product orientated, listing out features and value proposition whereas the Volkwagen ‘The Force’ ad (scored 9) employs narrative and humor, leading to a runaway success at the 2011 Super Bowl.

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3 Drivers of Success

Have a hookLow scoring videos tended to have significant decline in engagement within the first 10-20s.

Maintain engagementAds with over 30% engagement within the last third performed well. Even if negative emotions were evoked, the tension between positive and negative emotions ensure high retention.

Have an impactA strong finish of high engagement ensures a greater impact – positive association with the brand sting and call-to-action.

Videos with a high score had 140% more YouTube views, and nearly 650% more social actions.

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