Monday, 5 February 2007

It's easy to do sad-vertising for insurance and telecommunications...

My colleague found these Asian ads on Youtube... lots of crying reported by all who've seen them.

Life assurance... Thai style.

Orange mobile in Thailand.

And a mobile network in the Philippines.

So I'm left thinking, is it genuinely harder to do sad-vertising for FMCG? Or are we just so unused to it that it seems impossible?
I've seen it done really well... and I'll upload some mpegs if I can figure out how.


Rory Sutherland said...

Funny you raise this. I think (I may be wrong) that the Thai life assurance ads were the work of Ogilvy Thailand.... in any case they were shown at an Ogilvy WW meeting in NY a few weeks ago.

On seeing them I asked a similar question to yours: "why does almost every creative team in the world shy away from sentiment like this? Why do we prefer to imbue a proposition with humour than with any other emotion?"

Is this a Brit thing? An age thing? Or is it simply impossible to convey this kind of effect in 30s rather than 120s - or whatever sensible length these ads are.

David Bonney said...

Thank you for your post Rory.

You ask a really important question. I may have gone some way to proving that more complex emotions than humour can be effective in advertising. But it's just as important that we ask why it is that humour has come to dominate at the expense of other more compelling emotions.

I believe age of teams has something to do with it... a football-mad placement team from Sunderland in their early twenties will lace everything they say with jokes and wise-cracks... there seems a panic in their eyes when they haven't got something funny to say. Perhaps they're at an age where their reproductive imperative drives them to show off and entertain in everything they do, or perhaps it's just their perceived job insecurity that drives them to be jester-like.

But I think another factor is personality type - perhaps advertising is not attractive to the most emotionally sensitive and mature creatives? It is easy to understand why a wise-cracking funnyman with unrelenting social skills might more easily survive the early years of placement than a sensitive, introverted, thoughtful soul who might feel more intellectually and emotionally rewarded elsewhere. So perhaps there just aren't enough deep feelers in the industry? Or maybe every creative has one within and just needs a little permission to be honest in the work they produce.

However I believe much blame lies with clients (and the account men and planners who do not push them). It is at the brief development stage that the boundaries of tonality can be pushed. And now that Millward Brown appear to be on the side of sad-vertising, there is no longer a defence for clients who are unwilling to venture beyond "funny", "upbeat", "joyous" and "light relief".

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.

To your last point, the length of ads may have something to do with it... but it only takes 10 seconds to show someone crying... and that is surely more powerful than any joke of equivalent length.

dead insect said...

hey dude.

asians are way more dark/morose and somehow a bit honest about death, generally more so than people in the west.

I put this down to mainly the historic religion and culture: buddhist-esque fatalism VS Christianity.

there is lots more of honorable and heroic killing yourself in eastern culture - e.g. samurai ritual suicide, kamikaze pilots (1940s!!), which there isn't quite so much of in western culture.

Suicide also isn't so bad as it is in the Christian book.

it's a critism of buddhist-esqe philosophies that they are too fatalist - e.g. believing that karma will sort things out when it probably won't.

I don't know more than that, it's just observation of my mum and her family really, but I'm sure that it's true and that other people will have written about it.

David Bonney said...

Very interesting comment... as with the Russian example culture probably goes a long way to keeping death etc out of our advertising.

But I wonder if that's just an effect of advertising culture in the UK, because the broader population don't exactly shy away from misery (Eastenders being the perennial example).

Granted we may not celebrate "Day of the Dead" on the streets of Tunbridge Wells, but I do not think Britons as a people are as superficial, fake and irritatingly upbeat as the ads make them out to be.

king said...

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