If keeping up with advertising trends isn’t your thing, that’s okay—we take care of that for you. But you don’t need to be an ad executive to notice a recent change in the way brands are reaching out. While a good laugh is always appreciated, advertisers are now aiming for other ways to engage your emotions, and some commercials are getting downright depressing. Of recent notoriety is Nationwide’s Super Bowl ad, in which a child lists the dreams that will always be out of reach because he was tragically killed in a household accident. If the ad hadn’t kept so many people talking, I might have said it was a flop.
This year’s Super Bowl was full of what some have dubbed “sadvertising,” which isn’t to say it is always sad, so long as it provokes a strong emotional reaction. Successful ads typically involve themes of family, friends, love and sacrifice. The trend has emerged as part of a deeper desire for storytelling in media. Meaningful narrative is no longer restricted to the realm of literature and cinema alone, and brands are discovering that showing a little of their sensitive side can help them connect with audiences on a human level.
So why the sudden interest in storytelling? Hasn’t there always been a need to connect? Haven’t people always enjoyed a heartwarming narrative? There is nothing new to the idea that emotional ads can be effective, as shown by Kodak in 1977.
What is new is the lengths brands must go to stand out amid the noise of today’s social media experience. In the old world of one-way media, all a commercial had to do was get your attention. Today, a commercial wants to be shared, commented on and talked about. Attention means going viral. The goal now is to turn commercials into content that influences people.
Advertisers know that great content always wins, and when the largest media outlet is made up of millions of active tweeters, posters, and bloggers, it pays big to create something worth sharing.