ITV's 'Britain get talking' spot heads list of most emotionally engaging coronavirus ads

Work for NHS, Jack Daniel's, Dove and Facebook also scored highly in research conducted by Unruly.

ITV: spot features stars including Ramsay
ITV: spot features stars including Ramsay

An ITV spot by Uncommon Creative Studio has topped a list of the most emotionally engaging ads that respond to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and life under lockdown.

"Britain get talking: apart. But never alone" received an "intense emotional reaction" from more than 40% of the UK public, based on research carried out by video adtech company Unruly.

The study – which tested the emotional responses of 2,264 UK consumers on a selection of 16 major ads, including work from Vodafone, McDonald's and Tesco – found that 40.5% of viewers were "intensely moved" by the ITV spot. That's more than twice as many as the UK norm of 20.1%. Meanwhile, 39% of viewers said they had a more favourable view of the brand after watching.

ITV's ad features celebrities including Davina McCall, Alex Beresford and Gordon Ramsay as they encourage people to talk more openly about their mental well-being during the pandemic.

"ITV's ad resonated because people loved seeing celebrities and normal people coming together with one uplifting message," Rebecca Waring, global vice-president of insight and solutions at Unruly, said.

"Viewer comments referred to the familiar faces in the video and how genuine each person seemed, creating a sense of warmth and solidarity."

The next highest-scored ad in Unruly's research was the NHS and UK government’s "Stay at home" film, created by MullenLowe London, which received an emotional reaction from 39.9% of participants – just behind ITV. The ad also scored the highest for favourability, leaving more than half of viewers (53.7%) with a more favourable perception of the brand.

These were followed by two ads created by North American agencies that reflect the experience shared by people in many countries at the moment – Jack Daniel's "With love, Jack", by Energy BBDO (emotional engagement score of 37.3%), and Facebook "Never lost", by Droga5 New York (33.2%). Next in the ranking is EE "A message for NHS workers" by Saatchi & Saatchi London (33%). Both the Facebook and EE spots were named "Pick of the Week" by Campaign.

Also scoring highly was Dove "Courage is beautiful", by Ogilvy Canada (34.5%), which ran in the US and Canada, but again carries a universal theme.

Anna Vogt, chief strategy officer at TBWA\London, added: "Brands are responding to the initial shock, disbelief, sense of loss and grief for what we have lost, whether that’s personal freedom or loved ones.

"As we transition into recovery and revival mode, of our lives, of brands’ activity and presence, we will be yearning for more uplifting, fun, imaginative content that helps us break out of hibernation.

"In the absence of attaching yourself to social good, at least make sure the way in which you are talking about your products is relevant to what we are experiencing. If you’re going to sell stilettos, make sure they are coupled with some lounge wear, not running down the high street."

ITV first launched its "Britain get talking" campaign in October 2019 in an attempt to highlight the role of talking to others in improving mental well-being. 

The broadcaster has since launched several spots voiced by comedian Iain Stirling that encourage so-called "lads" to stay at home, as well as a film involving front-line workers clapping for the public in a twist of the Thursday ritual of #ClapForOurCarers.