ITV and System1 are staging a contest offering brands the chance to win a free ad slot during the upcoming Euro 2020 football tournament. Kate Waters and Jon Evans share some tips for brands.

Do you have your flag ready? Or should we say your remote?

UEFA Euro 2020 is expected to deliver a global live audience of over five billion viewers. In 2016, 44 million people tuned into ITV to support their national team. This is not just a sporting event; it’s a cultural moment that brings people together across nations, and there are very few events that have such a deep emotional hold on so many people.

With such an audience, Euro 2020 is a feast for brands. It’s not every day that advertisers have the opportunity to showcase their work in front of such a vast number of viewers. But football shouldn’t be the only emotional content on the screen. We want brands to create emotional and effective ads that will keep the audience hooked to the screen even during breaks.

That’s why ITV Commercial and System1 decided to team up, asking brands to take to the field by entering the ad competition of the year. By submitting their commercials, brands will have the “once-in-a-lifetime” chance to take home a free TV ad spot during the UEFA Euro 2020 Final.

However, this is not an easy prize to win. System1 will identify the five most emotionally-engaging ads among those that enter the competition, using its Test Your Ad system. A research panel of ITV viewers will then review these five ads and pick a winner. The ad crowned most effective in terms of emotional engagement and entertainment value will be the one to claim the coveted free slot.

We are looking to reward entertainment, engagement and cultural relevance. Emotional engagement is not only a metric that links strongly to long term commercial success – so it's a good way of judging the potential effectiveness of an ad – it’s also usually associated with commercials that viewers appreciate. It’s a win-win situation: emotional engagement is good for advertisers and for our viewers. 

What can you do to take this trophy home?

In our sport report, we’ve outlined some tips and tricks for brands to maximise their chance of winning.

Ads that are tailored to the context or content of Euro 2020 are more likely to do well. This doesn't mean that they have to be strictly football-related; they could draw on a relevant theme, such as teamwork, national pride, competition and rivalries, or ambition.

Although creating a contextually tailored commercial could boost effectiveness, don’t forget that a broad audience is watching. Euro 2020 doesn’t only attract football fans, so a story rooted in a deep human truth with widespread appeal and relevance is more likely to engage more people than a narrow insight that is true of only a fraction of the audience.

As Orlando Wood, chief innovation officer at System1, explained in his recent book Lemon, published by the IPA, creative features can be identified and categorised to establish whether an ad appeals more to the left- or right-brain (the left brain’s way of seeing the world being more abstract and analytic, and the right brain’s being more holistic and human). The findings in Lemon clearly show that the more an ad is built to appeal to the right brain, the more effective it will be.

The unfolding of a story falls under those right-brain elements, and can really boost emotional engagement. By telling a story with a strong narrative arc (often with a bit of jeopardy in the middle, resolved positively at the end), you’ll be able to provoke viewers’ curiosity and their feelings.

Playing with a mix of emotions can definitely boost engagement, but ultimately you want to leave your audience feeling good after watching your ad. Joy, happiness and positive emotions are more likely to be effective than sadness or anger. Using humour will also boost engagement.

Finally, executional elements such as music, cultural references and strong characters are all elements that will help your brand score a winner.

In a time where public favourability in advertising is at its lowest, this competition is aimed at bringing brands and the public together. On the one hand we’re hoping to see brands bringing high-quality and creative work to ITV audiences; on the other one we would love to see the audience engaging with and being entertained by the advertising.

Research suggests the public has fallen out of love with advertising; our goal for Euro 2020 is to take the first step towards helping them fall back in love again.