Is SAD the new HAPPY in Advertising?

SADvertising puppylove
SADvertising puppylove

Lets begin with the obvious. Its an always on world. While being technologically connected, and geography being history and all of that, at no time have humans been so socially disconnected in the real sense. The need (and significantly unmet) desire for human bonding has never been greater. Nuclear existence has stoked the potential that is kinetic in humans. There is a clamour to reach out and brands are bending over backwards to suit the new found relish for the pathos.

It’s a given that sad news travels fast. But, advertising (or SADvertising as it is being called these days) that strikes a strong emotional piano chord and opens up the tear ducts travels, fast, wide and deep. Empathy meets exponential sharing, opens up a floodgate of brand conversations, triggers otherwise hard to come by response, sustains brand dialogue and keeps all stakeholders be it brand owners, ad agencies or end users, happy (ironic as it may sound!).

We have moved on from an era of media scarcity to an era of attention scarcity. Getting people’s attention is what we’re trying to do, and I think that meaning, something that people can relate to on a very visceral level, is what drives a lot of the decisions we make when we’re talking about things. Hyper competition has forced brands to not only assure customers a good product or service but make it very relatable and more meaningful than any other good product.

Over time brands have realized that the consumer culture has evolved and people are more reflective and mindful of their lives. There is a constant search for deeper layers of meaning once you have all the things you need and most of the things you don’t need but desire. The ad industry of the last decade was mean, cynical and celebrated bitterness. Those were the days when brands wanted to be Sexy, Swaggering or Sweeping. That showed up in most of the work that was put up. Don’t blame them as it seemed to work for all concerned. But, then after a while, people got sick of it and when a voice and tone which conveyed exactly the opposite stuck in, the positive reaction was overwhelming.

Lets list a few of the work where brands have stirred up a flood of emotions all over the world and that includes P&G and its commercial released around the last Olympics, Honda’s Project Drive In, Coca Cola Life in Argentina, Nestle Good Life commercial in India, Google’s Dear Sophie, Dove’s Beauty Patch, John Lewis (where the small boy waits patiently for his Santa booty), Budweiser’s Puppy Love, the charming tale of a canine equine romance or Expedia’s commercial about same sex marriage where the father fights his prejudice etc. If you are not in a ‘tear’ing hurry, you can shed a tear or two when you access the above referred commercials on the below links:



Coca Cola:



John Lewis:



The flip side of this (which is worrying) is that it has become a trend. The word ‘ emotional ‘ is now become the most over used word in client agency briefs. If you are used to agencies creating a trend which should ideally be the case (rather than following one), its time to take stock. We just might be at a tipping point on this one. But, till such time, it sinks in, its cry, cry, till you succeed for brands and agencies.