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Unruly Reveals Top Emotionally Engaging Holiday Ads of 2021

Global study shows top holiday ads forgo Covid-19 references, invoke nostalgia and gathering

Holiday Ads

London – December 16, 2021Unruly, a leading global video and Connected TV (CTV) advertising platform, today revealed the most emotionally engaging holiday ads of 2021 using its content testing tool, UnrulyEQ, that measures consumer responses to video advertising. Unruly’s global data shows holiday ads sparking high emotional responses include those from Disney, Wegmans, Frito-Lay, Coca-Cola, Tesco, Macy’s, Australia Post, IKEA and McDonald’s.

The full list of global results can be found on Unruly’s Holiday Ad Hub.

As December 2020 approached, brands went out of their way to relate to the uncertainty of holidays amidst a global pandemic. Messages last year reflected the change in storied traditions and adaptability of consumers as they still attempted to bring cheer into their holiday season.

By comparison, many in the 2021 crop of holiday ads do not reference or allude to Covid-19, and instead seek to create nostalgia for Christmases past, and excite consumers about gathering and celebrating with their nearest and dearest.

Other trends observed in the top-rated ads:

  • Top performing ads have high EQ scores (above 6 or 7), and demonstrate a combination of intense emotional response, brand favorability and purchase intent by viewers.
  • The use of animation as exemplified by Chick-fil-A’s “Whoopsery” ad, a part of their fully animated “Stories of Evergreen Hills” series, and Macy’s “Tiptoe and the Flying Machine,” which is reminiscent of the iconic stop motion animation holiday movies of the 1960’s and 70’s.
  • Nostalgic pop music tested very well this year, with repurposed hits by Queen and Hall & Oates.
  • A heavy presence of diversity (both in age and race, often together), in the US as well as in ads from the UK and the Philippines.


Unruly analyzed the emotional responses of approximately 9,700 consumers around the world to over 50 global festive ads released this year using its content measurement tool, UnrulyEQ. UnrulyEQ helps advertisers maximize the impact of their video content across multiple screens, to more effectively land brand metrics and target receptive audiences at scale.

Unruly’s Christmas Ad Effectiveness Chart uses Unruly’s combined metric, EQ Score, to rank the most popular festive ads based on their emotional, social and business impact, as well as mark them against the average level of emotional response to advertisements in each market. The intensity of emotions viewers felt while watching, brand favorability, authenticity and purchase intent all contribute to an ad’s final score.

About Unruly

Unruly is a global video and CTV programmatic advertising platform that enables advertisers and publishers to buy, sell and optimize online advertising in a premium, brand-safe and transparent environment.

Part of the Tremor International group, Unruly is on a mission to transform digital advertising for the better. Its unique proprietary programmatic technology combines unique audience data, predictive analytics and creative optimization to deliver exceptional advertising experiences to engaged audiences around the world.