4 Elements Of Emotionally Engaging Commercials


(Note: I wrote this article as if I were talking to an advertiser, as an example of how you might describe the Four Key Elements of an Emotionally Engaging Commercial to one of your prospects. Good luck.)

(By Spike Santee) Imagine you are on a large stage with one thousand people in the audience and you have a chance to tell them all about your business and give them a reason why they should come and shop with you. 

What would you say? Oh, and another thing. Your time is limited. In this example, you have 60 seconds. 

We have a great selection and low prices. We’re locally owned and operated. We’ve been in business for 35 years. We service what we sell. Our phone number is… Find us on Facebook. 

While those may be the first things that come to your mind, modern research tells us those are the last things that come to the customer’s mind. 

You’re telling the customer about your business. The story is from your point of view. The audience is waiting to hear, “What’s in it for me?”

To help you create a better message, here are the Four Key Elements of an Emotionally Engaging Commercial. 

First, even though you are on a large stage in front of the audience ready to speak, the people in the audience may not be paying any attention to you. They might be looking at their phone, talking to the person next to them, or reading the program. If the first few words out of your mouth don’t grab their attention, they probably won’t hear the rest of your story.

Second, the first few words of your commercial must engage the person about something on their mind, something that they need or want, something that they need to resolve. This something can be called a felt need. 

Emotion is what makes us act. Every decision is driven by the need to protect or achieve our self-interests. For your commercial to be effective, you must get to the felt need early in your commercial. 

With modern technology and the latest developments in brain science, we have learned that the word “you” is an attention-getting word. Now, we don’t recommend starting your commercial with “Hey you! I want to talk to you!” But the beginning of your commercial, the very first line in your commercial must accomplish that very thing: grab their attention. You have about three seconds to grab the attention of the customer on an emotional level or you’ve lost them altogether. 

Liberty Mutual Insurance makes effective use of the word “you” and getting to the felt need quickly in their advertising. Here are a couple of examples. 

“You’ve totaled your brand new car. Nobody is hurt. But there will still be pain. It comes when your insurance company says they’ll only pay three-quarters of what it takes to replace it. What are you supposed to do, drive three-quarters of a car?”

“Your 16-year-old daughter studies day and night for her driver’s test. Secretly inside you hope she wouldn’t pass. The thought of your baby girl driving around all by herself was … you just weren’t ready. But she did pass because she’s your baby girl. But now you’re proud. A bundle of nerves proud.”

The beginning of the commercial uses actors and the rest of the commercial uses an announcer and some onscreen graphics explaining the third component in an emotionally engaging commercial, the action step, switching to Liberty Mutual. 

Here is an example of how you can use the same techniques large companies pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to use, when writing a commercial for your business, say, a bathroom remodeling company (or any home service company):

“You love your home. You’re proud of your home, but you want a new bathroom. You want a bathroom with more space, more light, more warmth. You don’t know how much it will cost or how long it will take or who you can trust. You need to call the bathroom remodeling experts at ABC Plumbing. They will listen to what you want and build you the bathroom you’ve always dreamed about.” 

Oh yes, the fourth key element, the bathroom you’ve always dreamed about. What’s in it for the customer is the ribbon that ties all the elements up into a great, emotionally engaging commercial.

  • You
  • The Felt Need
  • The Action Step
  • Life Ever After

As advertising sales professionals, we can learn how to write emotionally engaging commercials that sell. All you need to do is to make the effort to learn. You will build stronger relationships with your clients, close more long-term business, and you will make more money. 

Let me know if I can help.

Spike Santee is the author of The Four Keys to Advertising Success and the president of SpikeSantee.com. Contact Spike at (785) 230-5350.


  1. For years I have been getting a justification for the “you” thingy from startled and defensive broadcasters that the way to weasel out of the premise is by saying, “If you…”

    Besides quickly becoming exceptionally tiring, that linguistic strategy requires a listener to immediately consider the immediately following statements. When they realize the content does not apply to them, they tune out, and the opportunity for the advertiser to continue being influential is lost. Tricky stuff, this.

  2. Good stuff, as always! I’ve been trying to engage my clients with the “your in front of ____-thousand sports fans and you have 60-seconds to tell them about your business. What ONE THING would you want them to know? And it CAN’T be “family-owned and operated” or “friendly, knowledgeable staff” or “conveniently located.”

  3. I am in full support of 3 of Spike’s premises.
    It’s the “You” about which I have to wave my freak flag.
    Indeed, the “you” approach is an attention-getter.
    But the next thing that happens is in the listener’s (unconscious) realization that the speaker’s “you” is not them!
    The singular, “one-to-one” connection has not been made. Only assumed – by the speaker.
    Plus, the average commercial usually goes on to make mind-reading claims along the lines of, “This is something you have wanted for a long time.” And that’s the one that provides almost a guarantee that the vast majority of listeners will be (again, unconsciously) sorting through the message and, in due course, rejecting it.
    I reiterate “unconsciously” because that is where and how language is processed.
    Instead of second person references, third person references cover all the bases – with no one being rejected and everyone being provided options.
    It’s an easy and powerful fix.


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