Monday, January 22, 2007

Sad-vertising


David Bonney, a top planner at DDB London, noticed my post asking Should Ads Be Happy? and sent me an excellent piece he has written titled 'Sad-vertising', which is about "the emotional resonance of downbeat communications."

I won't put up the whole thing as it's copyright (appeared in Admap December 2006, if you can get hold of a copy) but here are some highlights.

"Sad-vertising is my term for those rare and beautiful brand communications that reach a little deeper," writes David. "Communications with the confidence to make consumers feel something more sophisicated, meaningful and lasting than momentarily cheerful or excited."

"Nearly all advertising deals in happiness... but life is far richer than that... Surely advertising's reluctance to embtrace [the] full spectrum of emotional life distances us from consumers, reducing the effectiveness of communications?"

"Many great brands have sucessfully flirted with sad-vertising, e.g. 'J.R. Hartley' for Yellow Pages... [the Paula Hamilton 'Changes' ad for] Volkswagen."

"But for some reason, most brand communications continue to be superficial, inanely cheerful and unrealistic... nothing frustrates me more than having to watch surfing cars, chocolate-induced giggles or blokey slapstick."

David then goes on to question the assertion by Erik du Plessis of Millward Brown (hssssssss) that "we are all programmed to seek out the positive and shun the negative."

"The emotional adaptations that define us as humans... to serve the social needs of hominid group-living, for example jealousy, love, hope, empathy... are more complex and surely cannot be reduced to... simple positive and negative motivational terms."

"Humans can be drawn to negative affect.. [and in any case] positive emotions are experienced more intensely when preceded by the experience of negative eemotions... For J.R. Hartley, finding his book is all the sweeter after repeated failures to do so."

Wonderful stuff.

8 comments:

beeker said...

Nice.
I studied this idea a lot in a different context - why we love tragedies - from the old Greeks, right up to the modern day forms. No 2 ways about it, we are drawn to the depiction of tragedy as humans. And it frustrates me that sadness, (let alone the more melodramatic tragedy) is such taboo in our line of work.

Ben said...

Sure i remember Naresh talking about this in his Media Guardian column, I'll try and find it...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this Scamp, the full article (unedited by Admap) can be read at www.sad-vertising.blogspot.com, along with details of a Pakistani research initiative in the area.

I write about a great script of Naresh's in the article, a shame it never got produced...

russell said...

Jeffre wrote something smart about this too:

http://www.pinkair.com/2006/07/mad_sad_glad.html

ben said...

Here she be:

http://media.guardian.co.uk/advertising/story/0,,1724184,00.html

Need to be signed up to guardian unlimited. Was in March 06 2006 issue if not.

Jay said...

hey, scamp, see what the man upstairs has to say:

"I think in our business, to be a creative director you have to be an optimist. Certainly, in our business. If you’re Leonard Cohen you can be a pessimist and make a fortune of it. Or Coldplay, “I’m so fucking miserable, I only have another 15 million in the bank, so here’s another miserable song…”

But our business genuinely is exciting, the world is fantastic, just grab it, get there, do it and you’ll have a great time. Musicians can sell tragedy and misery, sadly, we can’t"

John Hegarty via ihaveanidea.org

Will said...

Some of the Rutger Hauer Guinness spots, whilst not sad, are certainly dark.

I think they are amongst the best Guinness ads ever.

tomandstephsoffice said...

hey, i love this point and hope it can lead to an influx of advertising that captures the real lows of life...

One area where I think this is especially relevant, and where it can quite easily be exploited is in research. We look so hard for those ideas that make people laugh, smile and love - what about those that make them cry, upset or angry. Those concepts or ideas that actively reject and we put to the bottom of the bin never to see the light of day - why do they generate such a response? Do we really investigate them enough? Unless we are working on a charity account and want to shock, i'd suggest no...

Life is played in minor as well as major chords - lets expand the scale!