The winning Olympics ads weren't about the Olympics

Now that they’ve put out the torch in London, research firm Ace Metrix has named the Olympic advertising winners.

It's all about emotional cnnection.

In surveys of representative samples of American consumers, Ace averages scores of commercials’ content, based on relevance to viewers, persuasion, interest (which Ace calls “watchability”), information and attention to come up with a score from 1 to 950.

The top commercials come in somewhere in the mid-600 range — and the funny thing is, they’re not about the Olympics.

Team winners: P&G

If you measure in terms of total wins, like the U.S. vs. China, then Procter & Gamble is the overall winner. Their “Proud Sponsor of Moms” campaign glorified not the Olympic athletes, but the mothers who raised, nourished, supported and rooted for them from very young childhood on — and, by extension, mothers throughout the world (who, incidentally, comprise the target audience for Procter & Gamble products).

No commercial¬† brings this message home so single-mindedly as their “Best Job,” which earned an Ace Score of 638. “Kids 2012,” which dramatized how mothers still see their grown-up athletes by showing children suited up and competing in Olympic events, was close behind with 636.

Another measure declared Procter & Gamble the winner in the social media competition. Unruly Media’s Brand Tracker measures effectiveness by number of times a viral video was shared, and with 2,489,451 shares, the P&G campaign won by 1.60934 kilometers (a mile to all us non-metric yahoos).

Individual winner: GE

General Electric’s highest-scoring (646 on the Ace Metrix scale) spot, “First Chance,” didn’t show or mention the Olympics at all. Instead, it featured sick premature babies in Homerton Hospital in East London, where GE donated incubators to help save very young lives.

Advertising research going back to the 1930s shows that if there’s one thing people everywhere love to look at, it’s babies — even sick and premature ones.

Connections are everything

What sets the winning Olympics commercials apart, according to Ace Metrix CEO Peter Daboll, is their ability to forge an emotional connection between the brand and the very heterogeneous Olympics television audience.  Some brands succeed consistently at this, while others are hit-and-miss.

While Procter & Gamble had the most spots — three — in the top ten, they also ran 27 others which didn’t work as well.

Chobani Yogurt, in contrast, averaged a respectable 594 with a campaign about how people from a rural upstate New York community built a yogurt brand from the ground up — so successfully that the company could afford to become an Olympic sponsor.

Nike’s “Find Your Greatness” ambush campaign comprised eight spots about normal — in some cases disabled — people finding their athletic greatness. But while half are making that vital connection, the other half are “falling extremely short, well below the category and Olympics norm,” Daboll reports.

It doesn’t take a world- or Olympic-class budget to make that emotional connection with your audience. All it takes is a willingness to make your advertising about them — their lives, their wants, their hopes, their needs — and not about the greatness of your brand and your product. It also takes an advertising agency that knows how to go beyond the laundry list of sales points and appeal to emotions, which are the real basis of sales decisions.

Then you, too, can advertise as effectively as General Electric or Procter & Gamble — on a local Richmond budget.