Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Millward Brown: A New Hope?

Scamp posted a lovely piece this week on sad ads and followed it up with some flattering coverage of my sad-vertising article. Yet again, why is it that creatives are first to engage the power of sad-vertising?

And then yesterday,
Scamp was contacted by Erik Du Plessis of Millward Brown (the arch villain of the piece if Scamp's "hssss"-ing and Darth Vader pictures are to be heeded). Why a villain? Well apart from Millward Brown having no doubt commited many atrocities on Scamp's ideas over the years, I kind of made Erik out to be the bad guy in my ADMAP article. Well Erik isn't really sad-vertising's nemesis, and if he's Darth Vader, then that makes me Luke Skywalker... and why would Luke be defending the Dark side?

Have a look at what Erik had to say about sad-vertising and then I'll respond below...

"Hi Scamp, I was not sure how to use your comments block (no send button) so I thought I will mail direct. I also do not find David Boneys address – you might be able to forward this.

I am Erik du Plessis, from Millward Brown (hssss). I don’t think I mentioned that I am against advertising that raises a negative emotion. In fact I am a great one for advertising that raises an emotion, any emotion.

The Maxwell tape ad on David’s blogsite is a very good example of using emotion in advertising (or sadvertising). Emotion has two functions: getting attention and setting a framework inside which the message is interpreted. Sadvertising can do both, and often more effectively than Gladvertising.

I would warn against Gratuitous negative emotions in an advertisement, but then I think gratuitous positive emotion has a similar problem. My view is that there must be emotion in an advertisement, and hopefully compatible with the product.

Congrats to David on his paper in ADMAP."

Well I just posted this response on Scamp's blog...

"Well if Erik Du Plessis is Darth Vader then he must have sympathy with the Dark Side.
I'm really heartened we seem to be on the same side now. For the record, my take on Erik's and Millward Brown's attitudes towards negative emotion are based on his book "The Advertised Mind" which anyone would be forgiven for interpreting as being firmly against negative emotion.

Here's a quote...

"We are all programmed to seek out the positive and shun the negative. So it goes without saying that the emotions an ad generates in us needs to be positive ones".
Granted Erik acknowledges in the book that emotion is a "difficult" concept, but it does seem his views have moved on in the last couple of years.

Millward Brown should be congratulated for trying to get to grips with measurement of emotional responses to ads. And if Millward Brown's methods for testing sad-vertising are a not as honed as they could be (I think I recall a list of 16 emotional states that do not include a fair representation of complex social emotions) then I'm sure under Erik's influence things will improve.

The biggest challenge is drawing clients away from a "positive or nothing" approach to creative. And if Erik and MB can help us push clients out of their comfort zone, then the main barrier against truly moving ads will have been lifted."

Emotion is really a complex issue and will never be addressed if we get hung up on creating opposing sides for the sake of it. The biggest danger to good thinking in advertising is over-simplificiation. People love simplicity... but as Einstein said (I think it was Einstein) ... "An idea should only be as simple as possible, and no simpler"... and if we simplify emotion too quickly, we'll make mistakes.

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