Incite’s global take on sadvertising: Exploring a new way of ad comms

Emotive advertising, or ‘sadvertising’, is on the rise and shows no sign of slowing down.

If you turned on the television in past decades, the vast majority of commercials showed kids running home from school to a snack prepared for them cheering when they saw the peanut butter brand sandwiched in between two crackers. Or you might have seen a happy couple driving down the road with smiles on their faces, proudly showing off their new brand of sedan they’d raise a family in.

Whatever the details, ads have historically sought to cheer its audience up, remind them of a happy time and thus associate that experience (and brand) with feelings of excitement, love and joy.

Recently, though, we’ve seen a shift in the tone of our ads.  Sure, there will always be happy families and adorable puppies gracing our screens and magazine pages, but advertisers are now taking a more serious tone in the ads they create, a phenomenon called sadvertising, and it doesn’t appear this trend will end any time soon.

Here at Incite, we talk a lot about storytelling, and the increased role this concept has played in a brand’s overall life now. No longer is a juice box company just a way to hydrate your kids with someone other than pop.  Now it’s an integral participant in family road trips.  An airline brand is no longer a way to get from Point A to Point B; it’s the vessel through which you experience your best family holiday. The rise in storytelling from a brand’s perspective is a huge driver of sadvertising, as it sets the tone for the brand and plays into a more involved consumer, who cares and interacts with every aspect of a brand, no matter how big or small.

In addition to the role of storytelling, two factors have really driven the rise insadvertising; current events and technological advances, in the form of long-form videos:

Current Events: Globally, it’s been a more pensive time for the past decade. The global economy has shifted, become more technology-reliant and a new way of doing business has emerged. As global consumers have become more accustomed to this, we’ve given brands permission to reach us in a more personal, compelling way.

Long form video: Historically, commercials were :30 or :60 spots, in between a TV program. That’s not the case anymore. With the rise in digital advertising, brands are able to connect through online videos that are often 2-3+ minutes in length. This capability marries the consumer’s permission to tell them a story, with the physical capability to actually do it. Brands now often release video commercials online in long form, and then may have a short-form complement to that.

Sadvertising is really a continuation of a global trend we saw towards consumers’ willingness to be more serious. Glib, funny ads of the 1970’s and 1980’s turned into a more thoughtful expression in the 90’s. Ads still had an overwhelmingly positive tone, but began to take different tones. When thinking of war-time or tough economic-time ads, they used to take a “lighten the mood” tone, but that has evolved now to addressing the problems head on. Consumers don’t lean on TV and other media solely as a form of distraction. A more connected world has also allowed for a more thoughtful, reflective world.

Thus, there are a few global tips we’ve seen in conducting successful sadvertisingcampaigns or spots:

1 / Ensure the topic is one that resonates with your target audience (booms don’t come without difficulties). This ties directly into understanding current events and key issues that are likely to strike a chord with the audience

2 / Not only should your brand have a relevant role to play, but it needs to be nuanced so it does not drown out the story (and lessen the emotional impact) nor should the brand drowned out by the story (and waste your advertising spend).

3 / Speak to your consumers at an early stage to get their feedback, not just about how you articulate your story, but to help you identify topics.

Next week, we’ll post Part 2 of this blog, where each of our offices takes a regional look at the impact sadvertising has played in our respective home countries. Until then, keep an eye on brands that are making you choke up in between football matches, sitcom season premieres and the nightly news…it’s like it’s the same brand of car you’re driving or cold medicine you’re taking!