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How does Nostalgia work in advertising?

As part of our Emotions Uncovered: Nostalgia fortnight, with help from our Insight & Solutions Executive, Holly Morrison, we’ve dug through our emotional database to find the most Nostalgic ads, to try and discover why brands use this emotion to reach us.

Nostalgia by Vertical

By looking at the Nostalgia Global Norm in the UnrulyEQ database, we can see that it is an uncommon emotion for brands to evoke. This means that doing so could allow a brand to stand out in both its market and vertical by doing something different.

Nostalgia by vertical

Feelings of Nostalgia can result in high brand metrics and follow up intent, as long as the video incorporates other emotions.

Focussing primarily on one emotion can lead to a lower overall positive response, so when using Nostalgia you should try to combine it with other emotions.

From a creative perspective, providing the opportunity for viewers to relive fond memories can result in improved relevance and impact for brands. Think about how you feel after hearing a favourite song, or seeing a beloved childhood character.

Many brands have capitalised on Nostalgia in their video ads over the past decade, some that spring to mind are John Lewis’ Elton John Christmas ad, Halifax bringing Hanna Barbera’s cartoon characters back to life, and this year’s return of ‘The Big Lebowski’ for the Super Bowl.

Nature Valley takes us back to our childhood

The granola bar brand, Nature Valley, released this ad in the US in 2015. During the ad, three generations are interviewed to find out how their childhoods differed.

Take a look, it’s really interesting…


In this ad, Nostalgia and Sadness outperformed the other intense emotional responses and both showed a huge increase compared to the Global Norm.

Nature Valley emotions

It is likely that viewers enjoyed hearing about the two older generations reminiscing about their childhood, with many likely relating to the activities described.

The realisation that the younger generation no longer enjoys the same things likely sparked the increased levels of sadness.

The high brand favourability and purchase intent showed that the video successfully connected the brand with the story.

Volkswagen makes us fall in love again

This ad, which was released by Volkswagen in Germany, and is one of the highest scoring ads for Nostalgia that we’ve tested within this market.

VW emotions

In the ad, VW heavily leverages the Nostalgia associated with the original VW campervan in order to create a halo effect for their new Multivan to benefit from.

This is assisted via the use of distinctive and familiar colour combinations and on-screen text that explicitly refers to the original model.

Evoking more positive emotions could increase brand favourability and follow-up intent, which are currently below-norm, this would increase the likelihood that viewers remember the ad and have positive brand associations going forward.

Internet Explorer takes it back to the 90s

This ad, launched in the UK in 2013 by Internet Explorer, showcases some iconic 90s products.

If you were a 90s kid, you will love it…

The ad evoked a high positive response, leading with considerably above-norm levels of nostalgia.

IE emotions

However, there is a slight flaw with this ad, shown by the high positive emotional response failing to drive high brand metrics.

The video spends almost a minute and a half allowing viewers the chance to reminisce about the technology and games they grew up with, implying everything was simpler (and better) in the 90s.

After this the brand shows viewers their new tablet, this contradicts the story they built in the main bulk of the video and likely confused viewers, reduced positive response and caused the below-norm brand metrics.

Telia brings back the VHS

This ad was released this year by Telia in Sweden and scored extremely highly for Nostalgia.


The increased levels of Nostalgia here are likely a result of viewers being reminded of family trips from when they were younger.

Telia emotions

Also, parents can likely relate to their children being less interested in ‘old-fashioned’ types of entertainment and trying to encourage them to be excited about the things they used to play with when they were younger.

While Nostalgia was above the norm, the other key positive emotions for this video were below the norm – ensuring that the video focusses on evoking more than one emotion is essential to a strong overall response.

Providing more information about Telia at the end of the video would likely have driven brand metrics and follow-up intent.

So, what have we learnt?

We’ve seen that using Nostalgia in different ways can have varying positive impacts on audiences, and can impact the way they see different brands.

It’s important, however, to remember that Nostalgia works better alongside other emotions, and the story that the ad tells needs to link back to your brand, otherwise, you risk confusing audiences.

Click here to find out more about the UnrulyEQ database and our emotional testing capabilities.