Unruly Ranks 2021’s Most Emotionally Engaging Holiday Ads in Australia, The Philippines, and Singapore

Unruly, a global video and Connected TV (CTV) programmatic advertising platform, have revealed their ranking of the most emotionally engaging Christmas ads of 2021 in Australia, the Philippines, and Singapore. The ads were ranked using its content testing tool, UnrulyEQ, according to viewers’ emotional responses.

In 2021, as consumers grappled with finding silver linings and a sense of normalcy after an unusual, distressing 2020, brands responded with holiday advertisements that sought to uplift spirits and veered away from the pandemic-focused ads that were ubiquitous in 2020 the previous year, found Unruly.

In Australia, the best performing ads scored higher than the norm for inspiration, happiness, and warmth; in the Philippines, holiday advertisements on average scored higher for happiness and warmth at 85% and 104%, respectively; in Singapore, brands chose to share happiness and warmth above all other emotions, scoring 113% and 112% higher on average, while shying away from hilarity and sadness at 19% and 51% below national averages.


A recurring theme among all the top ads in 2021 was nostalgia, according to the rankings, with 11 of the top ads adopting elements of nostalgia as an emotional driver. Four of the top ads this year utilized animation – a growing trend among advertisers in the region and globally.

“Compared to the 2020 holiday ads, many of which reflected the trials and tribulations caused by the pandemic, this year’s holiday ads see a shift in content to portray some degree of normalcy,” said said Greg Fournier, Senior Vice President, Global Strategy, Unruly.

“No longer explicitly acknowledging the pandemic, brands and advertisers have tried to tap on emotions from the ‘better times of the past’ by incorporating elements of nostalgia.”


He added: “Despite animations typically performing poorer than ads that feature real people, it now seems to be a powerful tool to help viewers overlook the present and the challenges they face.”


In Australia, Coca-Cola’s “Chimney | Real Magic” topped the charts with an uplifting story of how people from all walks of life come together to share Christmas cheer and unity. Also coming in second in the UK, the ad evoked the most emotionally intense response among Australian viewers at 34.9% – 75.2% higher than the average Australian ad.

Most emotionally engaging 2021 holiday ads in Australia

Viewers down under resonated the most with joyful and optimistic ads for the holidays. Right after Coca-Cola’s ad was Cole’s “Christmas 21”, which features a feel-good reel of people from all backgrounds gathering and sharing food, gifts and laughter. This uplifting ad scored 32.4% in emotional intensity, 63% higher than the Australian average.

Trailing closely behind was Michael Hill’s “Make their Christmas”, with an emotional intensity score of 32.4%. With the all-time favourite tune “Only You” by Yazoo playing in the background, the ad circles around the theme of love, family, and gifting.

Other brands that made the top five were Kmart’s “For all kinds of Christmas” and Kitchen Warehouse’s “At the Heart of Your Christmas?”, both centred around bringing traditions and family back together for the holiday season.

RankBrandCampaign% of positive emotional engagement 

above average

1.Coca-ColaChimney | Real Magic75.2%
2.ColesChristmas 2163.0%
3.Michael HillMake their Christmas62.7%
4.KmartFor all kinds of Christmas55.7%
5.Kitchen WarehouseAt The Heart of Your Christmas?55.7%
6.LegoRebuild the world!52.1%
7.Australia PostSpread The Merry50.9%
8.WoolworthsChristmas from today’s fresh food people34.6%
9. Big WChristmas 202129.0%
10.MyerUnriddle Christmas23%


The Philippines

In the Philippines, Disney’s “The Stepdad”, a 3-minute 26-second animated short featuring a stepfather trying to win the love of his stepchildren, Max and Ella, produced a whopping emotional intensity score of 88% – 46.6% above the national average.

Most emotionally engaging 2021 holiday ads in the Philippines

In the Christmas-crazed Philippines, its slew of holiday advertisements has proved once again that emotionally charged campaigns dominate this time of year.

As family and food remain central to Christmas celebrations in the Philippines, this year saw F&B and food-related brands making their way into the list, claiming six spots. Naturally, most of the ads featured families celebrating the season over food and sought to position their brand as part of the typical Christmas experience. The outlier was Dunkin Donuts, which went with chart-topping Filipino boy band SB19 with a catchy jingle for their “Merry Munchkin” campaign that is sure to delight their A’TIN fanbase.

Behind Disney was Goldilocks’ “Celebrate Christmas with Goldilocks”; combining familial ties with well-known Filipino fare, the ad yielded an emotional intensity score of 82%.

Lady’s Choice’s “Have a Safe and Meaningful Reunion with a Lady’s Choice Creamy Sweet Macaroni Salad!” trailed closely behind with an emotional intensity score of 81.5%.

Rounding up the five most emotional ads in the country are FoodPanda’s heartwarming “We Gotchu this Christmas” and Lazada’s cheery “Grand Christmas Sale na this Dec 12-14!”.

RankBrandCampaign% of positive emotional engagement 

above average

1.DisneyThe Stepdad46.6%
2.GoldilocksCelebrate Christmas with Goldilocks37.0%
3.Lady’s ChoiceHave a Safe and Meaningful Reunion with a Lady’s Choice Creamy Sweet Macaroni Salad!35.9%
4.FoodPandaWe Gotchu This Christmas!35.1%
5.LazadaGrand Christmas Sale na this Dec 12-14!31.1%
6.KinderShare the Christmas Joy with Kinder26.0%
7.CadburyCadbury Dairy Milk Christmas23.1%
8.Dunkin’ DonutsMerry Munchkin18.8%



Coming in on top for Singapore was Ikea’s “Smile. Your special table is set”; with its simple yet heartwarming depiction of reconnecting with loved ones this Christmas, it achieved an emotional intensity score of 41.3% that was 65.3% higher than Singapore’s average ad.

Most emotionally engaging 2021 holiday Ads in Singapore

In Singapore, gifts and bringing joy to others were the main theme of the holidays this year as the sense of normalcy returns, with people being able to gather to celebrate the festivities.

After Ikea’s ad took the top spot, Pizza Hut’s “Christmas Cheesy Bites 2021” took second place, scoring 37.9% in emotional intensity, for its cheeky narrative that resonates with the holiday traditions of gifting and feasting.

Coming in third place was Uniqlo’s “Gifts For All – Wrap Each Other In Love”, which highlights the joyfulness of the Christmas season and provides gift ideas for people from all walks of life.

Closing the list of most emotionally engaging ads in Singapore was McDonald’s’ delightful “The Season’s Most Indulgent Gift — Angus Mushroom Supreme”, FoodPanda’s heartwarming “We’ve got you, Santa”, and Huawei’s “Better Together 2022”.

RankBrandCampaign% of positive emotional engagement 

above average

1.IkeaSmile. Your special table is set65.3%
2.Pizza HutChristmas Cheesy Bites 202151.5%
3.UniqloGifts For All – Wrap Each Other In Love50.2%
4.McDonald’sThe Season’s Most Indulgent Gift — Angus Mushroom Supreme45.2%
5.FoodPandaWe’ve got you, Santa43.3%
6.HuaweiBetter Together 202213.6%


“It is important, more so now than ever, for brands and advertisers to better understand how their ads will resonate with audiences, and how effective they are at driving key business metrics like brand recall, purchase intent, and brand favorability,” said Greg Fournier, Senior Vice President, Global Strategy, Unruly.

To see the full list of ads, visit Unruly’s Holiday Ad Hub.  

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