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Sad-vertising: using negative and more complex emotions in advertising

I came across the blog “Feel Anything?” by David Bonney. David talks about “sad-vertising”, which refers to using negative emotions to be effective in advertising. I never heard of it, but it clearly shows that deeper feelings are avoided in common advertising, if we even need a seperate term to refer to it.

David wonders “why it is that humour has come to dominate at the expense of other more compelling emotions”. It seems that humour has gotten the upper hand in advertising, which is also a reality here in the Netherlands. “Serious” companies like insurance agencies, credit providers, banks, and even the government, have turned to humour and portray the weirdest stories and jokes in their advertisements. I think David raises an interesting question here, which also has me wondering why we don’t want to cry with advertisements. Or are the companies to blame, who think that people are such one-sided creatures who only can be persuaded with a smile and a quick laugh? It makes David’s blood boil:

It makes my blood boil that clients can be so patronising to their consumers, avoiding at all costs communications that might involve a little deep sentiment. It’s as if they feel consumers are suffering from affective disorders and liable to break down or reject a brand in disgust if made to feel something real.

I read once that it was proven that humorous advertisements are less likely to be remembered and even when the joke sticks, it is still hard or impossible to recall the company that was behind it. I have to admit to experience the same with some companies. However, there are also success stories of companies who have managed to gain long-term recognition through humour. The Dutch insurance agency “Centraal Beheer” is one of them. Their series of “Even Apeldoorn Bellen” (free translation: “Just Ring Apeldoorn”, Apeldoorn is the town where the main office is) dates back at least 15 years and the slogan plus the jokes are synonyms for the brand. Check out some of the commercials at Youtube. The commercials from Centraal Beheer were probably among the first of humorous commercials in The Netherlands. Their success has been based on clever, funny commercials, but perhaps even more on the consistency. Even though each commercial has its own story, there is a form of story-telling and a consistent line in the structure of each commercial. The last having been copied by numerous others…. who never were as successful.
So, what could be an example of sad-vertising? David has a very nice example in one of his posts: A Thai Life Insurance Ad . I thought it was an amazing ad, with a great emotional impact, almost cinema-like… and that was achieved in 1,5 minutes. Of course, the type of company here also allows you to evoke such extreme emotions, but as an example of what can be achieved in such short time it is perfect. And, to be hounest, I cannot recall many “sad-vertisements” like that in The Netherlands, apart from advertisements for charity and human rights organisations.

I do not have a direct answer to the question why humour is chosen instead of trying to evoke emotions like sadness. At least, there is no clear evidence or argument which proves that humour is more effective. And being a bit tired from the endless joke and funny-character commercials, I would also like to see a new trend that tries to use the more complex emotions for advertisement effectiveness. I am sure there is room for it.

[tags]advertising, sad-vertising, emotion, emotions, humor[/tags]

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