David Bonney, a top planner at DDB London, noticed my post asking Should Ads Be Happy? and sent me an excellent piece he has written titled 'Sad-vertising', which is about "the emotional resonance of downbeat communications."

I won't put up the whole thing as it's copyright (appeared in Admap December 2006, if you can get hold of a copy) but here are some highlights.

"Sad-vertising is my term for those rare and beautiful brand communications that reach a little deeper," writes David. "Communications with the confidence to make consumers feel something more sophisicated, meaningful and lasting than momentarily cheerful or excited."

"Nearly all advertising deals in happiness... but life is far richer than that... Surely advertising's reluctance to embtrace [the] full spectrum of emotional life distances us from consumers, reducing the effectiveness of communications?"

"Many great brands have sucessfully flirted with sad-vertising, e.g. 'J.R. Hartley' for Yellow Pages... [the Paula Hamilton 'Changes' ad for] Volkswagen."

"But for some reason, most brand communications continue to be superficial, inanely cheerful and unrealistic... nothing frustrates me more than having to watch surfing cars, chocolate-induced giggles or blokey slapstick."

David then goes on to question the assertion by Erik du Plessis of Millward Brown (hssssssss) that "we are all programmed to seek out the positive and shun the negative."

"The emotional adaptations that define us as humans... to serve the social needs of hominid group-living, for example jealousy, love, hope, empathy... are more complex and surely cannot be reduced to... simple positive and negative motivational terms."

"Humans can be drawn to negative affect.. [and in any case] positive emotions are experienced more intensely when preceded by the experience of negative eemotions... For J.R. Hartley, finding his book is all the sweeter after repeated failures to do so."

Wonderful stuff.