Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Should Ads Be Happy?

Nick is cross because we are being asked to make an ad 'joyful' and he doesn't like happy ads.

At first I assume he's just being a contrary bastard as usual.

But thinking about the first 5 great ads that spring to mind, I realise maybe he has a point (as usual):

Apple '1984'
Guinness 'Surfer'
Guardian 'Points Of View'
Volkswagen Polo 'Protection'
Levis 'Drugstore'

All dark, all weird, and all melancholy.

(Honda 'Grrr' could be an exception of course.)

Sometimes people ask me what my favourite ad of all time is. It's Drugstore.


My good friend FishNChimps put it up on his blog the other day, and it never gets old.

But then with the genius touch of putting techno over depression-era smalltown America, I suppose it never will.

The part where the drums kick in, when you see the train, gives me goosebumps every time.

8 comments:

Opentoeveryone said...

Joyful? Utter tosh. It's never a bad idea to have a look at popular culture if you want some stimulus for what people find engaging.
1. Eastenders - millions watch the most depressing thing on TV.
2. Music - every other song is about a broken heart
3. Film - horror films are not joyful, the most loved Star Wars film (Empire) is the darkest.
4. The Office - gleefully revels in how awful ordinary life is.
5. Moonlighting went off the boil once they actually got together.

In short, real life isn't often joyful, so why pretend it is? They'll smell a rat a mile off..

Anonymous said...

I concur. Joyful belongs in the girlie pink box along with fluffy kittens.
To open's list I'd add Bladerunner amd everything labelled "dystopian".

Cleaver said...

Absolutely agree with all your examples, opentoeveryone.

This quote in today's Guardian, from a music mastering engineer suggests another reason why a bit of melancholy can resonate:

"When everything is loud, it doesn't sound loud any more. The only way that something can sound loud is if there's something quiet that precedes it, or else there's no frame of reference."

I reckon the same is true of most communications - they rely on contrast to work. For "loud", just read "joyful", or "positive".

There seems to be an irresistible trend in advertising toward inanely grinning faces. Add another to the mix and the audience doesn't register "happy", they just register "more of the same" - wallpaper.

Happiness, sadly, has no cut-through.

beeker said...

I love dark and melancholy. Please make some dark melancholy ads.

I don't get the chance to do them either.

Anonymous said...

So joyful is wrong is it? Then how do you explain ads like Sony "Balls"? There's a place for every emotion and that place is in the hands of brilliant people

bonney said...

Advertising is missing a trick by not toying with our "negative" emotions.

I like to call it "sad-vertising" and i published an article on it in Admap recently (December 2006).

I go through the various arguments in favour of sad-vertising(neuroscience, psychology, cultural) but I also talk about some research i did last summer. Basically when I showed some purely joyful ads and then some sad or emotionally undulating ads to 1000 people, the sad ads were just as likeable but far more emotive.

With everyone banging on about emotion these days (and quite rightly so) then surely it makes sense to get more downbeat, emotionally resonant work out.

I'm a planner and I'm still learning how to bring clients round to this... but it seems to be catching on and everyone I talk to, in particular creatives, intuitively finds sad-vertising an appealing notion.

If I can figure out how to upload the article I will... any clues?

Scamp said...

bonney, if you can e-mail it to me, I'll put it up here.

Val said...

Cannot wait to read bonnies article. I agree with 'anonymous', joyful adverts can be very entertaining and trigger people's emotions. On the other hand, since most of the adverts are trying to be joyful it's harder to cut through this mass. I would even say it's easier to get an emotional response with a sad ad.

And there are some products you cannot do sad-vertsing for - imagine a dark and melancholy ad for corn flakes?! I wouldn't like to start my morning with that.