In his piece published today, our advertising columnist Bruce Philp writes about the recent resurgence of earnestly emotional advertising:
It’s a strategy AT&T used to great effect in the 1970s to sell long-distance telephony—“Reach out and touch someone”—and again in the 1990s with a series of spots about distant spouses and overworked moms to sell human connection in the nascent digital age.
It is, in fact, a timeless idea. Pundits blame everything from neuroscience to Upworthy for this cathartic interruption of advertising’s jokey assault on pop culture, when it was actually the jokes that were doing the interrupting. Great advertising, by definition, has always presented the world as just a little lovelier than it really is. There is no surer way to make people ready to want what you’re selling.
The column was prompted by an ad for Coca Cola (see below), about a puppy love story of two teenagers brought together by Coke, that aired in Canadian movie theatres this summer. You should read the whole column, and watch the video Bruce narrates about how these ads work. But sometimes you just need to see the phenomenon in action yourself. Here are a selection of ads that are rediscovering the power of sentiment:
This ad was shown in its extended 90-second version in movie theatres in summer 2014:
Coke has always excelled at tugging the heartstrings. Here’s its famous 1971 spot, “Hilltop,” which debuted its famous line “I’d like to buy the world a Coke.”
Procter & Gamble
As an official Olympic sponsor, P&G was able to use the emotions found at the intersection of sports and parenting to make the idea of selling soap seem practically transcendental:
Skype’s “Stay Together” campaign draws on the natural pairing of telecommunications with human connection to put the focus on the relationships its technology enables.
Skype wasn’t the first, however: AT&T used similar themes to potent effect in its “Reach out and touch someone” campaign of the ’80s and ’90s, in which the technology of the nascent digital era was put to use in keeping families close: