Monday, 29 January 2007

Erik Du Plessis, Millward Brown, joins me on the Dark Side

Who says blogging isn't good for planning?

Last week, what started as a blog-posting about sad-vertising, led me to having a full and frank email discussion with Erik Du Plessis of Millward Brown about the merits of negative emotion in advertising.

And guess what… where originally I had considered Erik and Millward Brown to be firmly against negative emotion, it seems we are now in agreement that negative emotion can lead to powerful and effective advertising.

This is Erik’s last note to me; including an important warning on the dangers of using negative emotion gratuitously, and a hypothetical illustration with a brand I work on...

“Hi David, I can only agree with your last comment that we need to simplify, and not over-simplify, the issues about emotion.

Up to 1995 the general view has been the D’escartian view that emotion is the antithesis of rationality. (E.g. “Be rational, not emotional, about this). Everything has changed with Damasio’s book “Descartes’ Error”. Along with LeDoux a new paradigm has come about. Mostly being discussed only from 2000 onwards.

This leaves us with a situation where much of the pre-1995 work on emotion should be questioned against the new paradigm. Remember that this work was undertaken by only a few psychologists without the benefit of the new paradigm.

I think all of us at Millward Brown will agree that we still have a lot to learn about measuring emotions, and we are investing a lot of time in this. From what I have seen our approach is probably the best, at this stage. I believe we can learn a lot from debates like you have initiated with your paper, and your Blogg. At a minimum you are raising questions, hopefully you might even come up with solutions.

This is one reason I prefer to talk at conferences where there are creatives, planners and clients; rather than researchers.

Onto another point: I am impressed by the depth you have read my book to be quoting it at me, and yes, I might have been unclear, or simply wrong.

Negative emotions are as (if not more) important for survival as positive emotions. Thus, as far as the attention role of emotions you will give attention to things that cause strong negative or positive emotions. This makes for powerful advertising.

As far as the second role of emotions is concerned – setting up a pre-disposition – you might find that negative emotions sets up a negative predisposition, and this is the danger of gratuitous sadvertising.

I can see that showing people dying as a result of eating Marmite will get attention, but I really doubt that it will do the brand any good. The same ad execution showing people dying but this time because they did not eat Marmite brand might be more effective. Both would probably classify as sadvertising.

Thanks for giving me space on your Blogg. Erik.”

So with Erik on side, we can now be optimistic (if that is the right word?) about the future of sad-vertising. Let’s hope his authority will help breed optimistic clients too.

1 comment:

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