Whenever we see an ad we like, it’s generally because that ad speaks to us in a way that we can understand. If the ad is funny, it’s because we’ve been in that situation before, or it’s something we can imagine ourselves doing, as in a guy using a cheesy pick-up line at a bar. If the ad is sad, it’s because we’ve experienced that same kind of sadness or we can at least empathize with that kind of sadness, as in a loved one dying.
A European ad on Beyond Madison Avenue shows this perfectly. There’s a guy who sees a hot woman with her dog in a busy park/downtown area, and she’s got some snacks in her lap. The guy goes over, looking very cocky and eats a few of her snacks. Then he motions to her that she should have one (What a gentlemen! Offering the woman her own snack!), and she declines. Then you see her dog come into the picture and the woman picks up the snacks and the package says “DOG” on the side! He he. I like that! And it makes fun of the way guys pick up women in Europe – by sampling their food. Not all guys do that, but I suppose it’s a technique used often enough that they were able to make fun of it in a commercial!
Although many companies are still looking for as many celebrity endorsements as they can, others are realizing that many of the general population don’t want to see a celebrity pretending to have a rough time in this economy. “Oh, I had to give up one of my vacation houses” won’t exactly resonate with viewers. That’s why many companies are using real, everyday folks to tout their product.
Kleenex Let it out Tour using the couch in NYC as a place for “real people” to pour out their hearts is actually sad if you listen to their stories. Whether the stories are scripted, they’re still stories that consumers can relate to, and that’s the important part. Ads connect with the audience when they reflect the values and ideas of what people are thinking. Ads that mention soldiers in Iraq coming home, or not coming home, is a grim reality that is on many Americans’ minds, whether they know someone fighting in Iraq personally or not. And that’s why we’re seeing so many ads that feature soldiers and their families. It’s something people can empathize with.
And empathy is part of what separates humans from animals. I think animals can sympathize in a way—my dog licks away my tears any time I cry, and sometimes she even starts whining when I cry! But she can’t empathize with me like another person can. Ads that can get people to empathize with the situation shown are the ones that seem to be the most successful.