The ability to elicit emotions in people has been an integral part of marketing for decades, and for online video advertising it is particularly important if you want people to share and engage with your content. 

But the emotions people feel in response to particular video ads differs greatly across the world, and between different demographics such as age group and gender.    

In this post I’m going to cover some key global trends in terms of emotional reactions to online video ads. 

The trends data comes from Unruly, which collected first-party data from more than half a million consumer responses to thousands of video ads across the world.  

And to learn more on this topic, book yourself onto Econsultancy's Video Marketing Strategy Training.

1. Online video ads are most likely to make people feel happy

Across the world, the emotion people are most likely to feel when watching a video ad is happiness, which I suppose is kind of nice even for a cynic like me. 

Google’s Friends Furever ad is by far the biggest happiness-inducer of all, making people who watch it feel four times happier than the average video ad. 

Not only that, but the iconic Android ad is also five times more likely to make people laugh than the average video ad.  

It’s also the most shared video ad of all time, with 7m global shares at the time of writing.

Worth bearing in mind when planning your own video marketing efforts. 

2. But laughter is the least common reaction

With happiness so far up the ranks you’d think laughter would fair well too, given how closely linked these emotions are.

But surprisingly laughter is actually the least common reaction to online video ads across the world. 

Some brands are still trying to be funny, though, and long may they continue, particularly when they’re producing content like this classic from PooPourri…

And pretty much anything Old Spice puts out gets my vote… 

3. Location matters

Depending on where you are in the world your emotional reaction to the brand in question changes after watching a video ad. 

People in the USA are far more likely to love a brand or buy a product after watching a video ad online than European consumers.

Brazilians are even more easily influenced, with two-thirds of them having a more favourable view of a brand after watching a video ad, compared with 58% across the ASEAN market and 41% in the US.

Europeans are much less likely to be influenced by online video ads. Only 28% of UK consumers think more favourably about a brand after watching one, and only 26% of Germans. 

4. Some videos ads can have a negative impact

Think twice before doing anything too ‘out there’ and make sure your audience is actually going to appreciate it, because in some cases video ads can do harm as well as good. 

A fifth of people who watched Mountain Dew’s Super Bowl ad, ‘Puppymonkeybaby’, had a less favourable view of the brand after watching it.  

Can’t think why…

5. Christmas ads cause inspiration and exhilaration

Who doesn’t love Christmas? It’s cold, almost certainly raining, you get to spend lots of money you don’t really have on stuff that nobody really needs, and by the time the big day comes you’ve already been subjected to at least four months of festive joy. 

Despite what the more cynical among you might think, however, Yuletide marketing does actually make people feel good. 

The launch of Christmas ads in November and December (or August in some cases), results in a global spike in inspiration and exhilaration. 

The 2015 John Lewis Christmas ad 

6. The age & gender split

Age and gender play a significant role in the way somebody reacts emotionally to an ad. 

US males aged 25-34 are most likely to feel happiness, inspiration and pride while watching video ads.

Their baby boomer counterparts, however, are most likely to feel confusion and disgust (I’m picturing my dad here and chuckling away to myself). 

Women aged 25-34 in the US are similar to their male counterparts in that they’re most likely to feel happiness and inspiration when watching a video ad.

Female baby boomers, while also confused, are most likely to feel warmth and surprise as well. 

This is all very interesting, but the question we’re clearly all thinking is: why do baby boomers find video ads so confusing?

Answers in the comments below, if you would.

7. Reasons for sharing differ around the world

Depending on where you are in the world your reason for sharing a video ad might differ somewhat. 

In the US and Europe, emotions are the key drivers of video sharing, so play to the heartstrings if you’re targeting that market.

Those in South-East Asia, Brazil and Turkey, however, take a more logical view, and the focus in those markets should be more on giving consumers a practical reason to share content.

Conclusion: know your audience and think positive 

The first thing to take away from this research is that you can’t show the same video to everyone and expect a positive result across the board. You need to cater for your audience. 

That means getting to know them first, either through research like this or by carrying out your own investigations into your specific audience. 

The second big lesson here is that positivity seems to win the day, and if you can make people feel happy they will be more likely to share your ad and feel positive about your brand as a result. 

But again, this depends on your audience. I can imagine certain charity brands, for example, might find it inappropriate to put out a smiley, upbeat video. 

So take findings like this and use them to inspire your video content, but remember that a blanket approach is never a good idea. 

What worked for one brand might not work for yours.

Jack Simpson

Published 14 March, 2016 by Jack Simpson

Jack Simpson is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (3)


josh Fineman, Director at Mattr Media

Hey Jack,

Great article, thanks for posting! I run a production company called Mattr Media where we're all about positive emotional storytelling, so really enjoyed the read.

Although I completely agree with everything you wrote in principle, I think telling positive and emotive stories well comes from a couple other things:

Being relatable- just take the John Lewis ad you show above for Xmas- I think many people actually didn't connect with it (including myself) because they story felt too elaborate (if not a little creepy!) compared to previous years...I'd actually go as far as to say the Aldi backlash vid got such good response because it felt more real and on point.

Be authentic- the buzzword of the moment, but there's a reason why. Brands and businesses need to be braver nowadays if they want to make noise, especially with online video. If they can show vulnerability or self awareness, they win the hearts and minds of viewers- just take the PooPouri example you gave- hilariously comical but you could argue a surprisingly honest reflection of "struggles" women go through when going to the toilet!

Tell a story that surprises or wows- we've made mistakes ourselves where we're made a really beautiful short bio with an incredibly emotional and inspiring character, but beyond that there's no element of 'tension' to the narrative. The Android film is genius, not just because it's emotive and positive, but because every shot is completely unexpected and you sit there asking yourself 'what the hell is gonna happen next!'.

Anyway, thanks again for the post. Great way to start my Tuesday


over 2 years ago


giovanni flore, project manager at fabrica

Thanks Jack for this article.
I believe that joyfulness and laughters elicit the strongest emotional response for one main reason: they activate a multi-sensorial reaction (muscolar tension, hormones release, heart and breath rate, blood pressure, and more) that leaves a stronger trace in memory. When this happens within the retail space, engaging in with customers in similar ways, the outcome may be even more valuable: such a mood is likely to create ephemeral relations between people who don't know each other - a (real) social impact. When this happens within a branded framework, those memorable experiences will be shared with enthusiasm and viral power.

over 2 years ago

Sean Randles

Sean Randles, Director at Interactive Video Labs

Totally agree its about your target audience. At the video labs we have devised a way of eye tracking participants as they watch videos to identify the actual emotional responses they have to a video ad or product video, and then ask them a series of questions to determine how Compelling, Relevant, Engaging, Actionable and Memorable they find the video using a Likert scale to score the video out of 100. This can be done pre launch to inform any final changes to the edit- or post launch - to provide valuable feedback to inform future video production. Too many agencies and video producers make videos without detailed recourse to the target audience which is why 'video user experience' is becoming more and more crucial.

over 2 years ago

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