PayPal Celebrates The Holiday Season with Wholesome & Heartwarming Ad

By Kimberly Stewart


The holiday season – a time full of joy, laughter, and family. A time of year when over 2.5 billion dollars are spent on advertising. In this ad, PayPal sought to tap into those seemingly insignificant moments of tasks and preparation that go into making the Holiday a special time. Did PayPal succeed in telling an effective Holiday story for their brand?


To find out, we turned to neuroscience. At Neuro-Insight, we look to the subconscious to see how effectively brands are able to communicate their message. Our patented technology, Steady State Topography (SST), allows us to measure second-by-second brain responses that breach the conscious and get to the root of human emotion and decision-making.


Our technology allows us to understand exactly what consumers are encoding into long-term memory. Memory matters because what we subconsciously decide to store in memory today becomes the base for our decision-making in the future (it is a predictive measure). As we explore what consumers are encoding into memory, we also look to the brain to tell us why a particular event or message is being stored – for this, we leverage key diagnostic metrics, including approach/withdrawal, emotional intensity, and engagement.


A relatable story is a key driver of success.


At the beginning of the ad, we see global, and detail memory start high and stay elevated. The scenes of holiday prep resonated with the audience. As PayPal was targeting a parent consumer audience, we tested the ad with individuals from this group, and we saw a sense of familiarity in the idea of making the holiday special for the whole family, especially the children, while managing normal daily activities. Bringing the laundry basket upstairs, watching your child dance, and purchasing gifts online, are all tasks that parents deal with. However, an interesting thing occurs as the child dances.


If your main character expresses confusion, your audience will follow.


As the story begins to develop, the audience follows each vignette, seeming to follow along with the narrative; it is when the grandfather shows his confusion that the audience mirrors. Mirror neurons are a type of brain cell that respond equally when we perform an action and when we witness someone else perform the same action. So as the dad looks troubled and concerned, the audience mirrors that feeling. Detail memory drops, and the audience withdraws from the narrative. Memory picks back up as we begin this journey to figure out what the dad is up to, and the branding moment is encoded into long-term memory because the audience is intrigued. The journey to figure out the narrative and the music keep memory elevated throughout the beginning act.


Music can make or break a branding moment


Finally, after never fully recovering from the confusion on the father’s face, we see detail memory peak again when the costume is revealed, and the audience finally has the full scope of the narrative being presented. This is expected when it comes to mirror neurons, and the way PayPal uses the creation of intrigue as a way to recapture an audience once the story becomes clear is a success. The ad does have several key brand moments come through but end branding could be optimized. This is because the musical crescendo peaks before the brand appears on the screen. Our recommendation would be to align the crescendo with ending branding to achieve that the brand name is stored into long-term memory. Otherwise, the audience is seeing an interesting holiday story unfold, but it won’t be associated with PayPal.


Overall, PayPal released an ad that resonated with the audience, captured the intrigue throughout, and provided an overall memorable narrative. However, the story wasn’t necessarily connected to what PayPal does. The key message is that no matter where you’re shopping, PayPal is a trusted option for you was missed. Next time, we recommend that PayPal focus more on its services and the value add they can provide during the wonderful and pricey moments of the holiday season.


Watch the full ad and neuro-analysis.