In the FeelMore Ad Spotlight we post about an ad we’ve tested that made people feel more. It’s all leading up to January’s release of the Global FeelMore50 – the definitive list of the year’s most emotional ads.
A man walks into a bar… or rather, he doesn’t. Guinness’ “Empty Chair” spot sets up a one-minute mystery: why does a bartender put out a perfectly-poured pint of stout every night next to an empty seat? Who is it for?
“Empty Chair” is directed by film director Noam Murro, who also made last year’s “Basketball” – where a group of buddies take to wheelchairs so they can play b-ball with their wheelchair-bound friend. That was one of last year’s most emotional ads, and when we tested “Empty Chair” we found that Guinness had continued their winning tradition: a second five-star emotional success. So what makes it so good?
“Empty Chair” is, as you’d expect, a brilliantly constructed story, with not a second wasted. We get two iterations to set up the concept, one twist – when a hapless traveller reaches for the chair and realises it’s not for him – and then the resolution. It’s a soldier, and the rest of the bar silently raises their pints to acknowledge the man.
The ad was released on the Fourth of July this year, so a patriotic theme fits the occasion. And “Empty Chair” is one of a number of emotional ads themed around returning soldiers we’ve seen in recent years. The military are one of the few US institutions to retain public trust over the last few decades – the latest Gallup polling has them as the most trusted institution, with 74% of Americans expressing confidence in them (to put this in perspective, the presidency gets 29% on the same scale!) But this means using soldiers in an ad carries its own risk – for brands to be seen as exploiting the troops is a big no-no.
“Empty Chair” avoids this, and earns its emotional payoff, by keeping things low-key and intimate. It doesn’t elaborate on the backstory – the relationship between the soldier and the bartender – and it simply emphasises the soldier’s stoicism and humanity, and quietly aligns the product with it. Ultimately, the ad says, he’s a man doing a job who deserves a pint at the end of it – it’s just his job is harder. It’s an ad that captures the changed perceptions of 21st century soldiering: where clear victories are elusive and aims sometimes hard to comprehend, the military retain public trust and sympathy by virtue of how difficult and dangerous their task seems.
Two other decisions help the ad earn its emotional five-star rating. “Empty Chair” resolves its story to a happy ending, but much of the ad sets up negative emotions – it’s a clearly sombre piece. When the man who turns out to be a soldier first appears, a shadowy figure tramping towards the pub, the music cues us to feel suspense and even fear – emotions that the ad can then resolve to happiness. And the decision to leave off a voiceover is an excellent one – this is a story that works best without words, and voiceovers can often dampen emotion by cueing it up too obviously. It’s a worthy successor to “Basketball”, and a second five-star ad in a row for Guinness’ New York team.
Ads in the FeelMore Ad Spotlight are tested using ComMotion ®, our award-winning proprietary ad testing tool: the only major ad testing product to use emotion as the foundation of its model. To learn more about emotional advertising and our methodology, contact BrainJuicer.