“Sadvertising”- The Marketing Trend that is Bringing Tears to our Eyes | By Mia Grylicki

I am excited to announce that Mia Grylicki, our summer intern, is working and writing for Tool Studios. I have known Mia since before she was born, as her parents (who I introduced to each other) have been long-time family friends. Mia is nineteen years old and was born and raised in Boulder, Colorado. She now attends school at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, with a major in marketing and a minor in Spanish. Check out her newest article here about the newest trend in marketing, “Sadvertising”.  


By Mia Grylicki

For a while now, I’ve noticed that many of today’s television advertisements are centered around pulling at your heart strings and making you teary-eyed in under two minutes. These sad advertisements are everywhere, from Budweiser Beer and Coca-Cola to Skype and Google Chrome. It seems that these days, it’s impossible to even get through a televised baseball game without shedding a tear or two (and it’s not because the Rockies are losing). This latest trend in advertising is bringing a new type of content to the commercials we usually just brush off or skip though. Advertisers believe that if they can evoke something other than a muting of the TV when a commercial comes on, the consumer is more likely to buy or at least be intrigued by the product. Unfortunately for us, advertisers are learning that these dismal promotions just might be making money. A lot of money. “Sadvertising” is taking over the TV screens of many, yet it doesn’t necessarily seem to be a bad thing. 

We all remember the occasional ASPCA animal cruelty commercials, with Sarah McLachlan’s “In the Arms of an Angel” ringing in our ears long after the commercial had ended, and making that song the anthem for animals in pain. If that wasn’t bad enough, soon after came ads from The Meth Project, who brought realistic and very horrific glimpses into how an “actual” meth addict survives. What made these ads most disturbing to me was the common theme of having all of the addicts portrayed as realistic teenagers. Teens that live in my neighborhood, my town- teenagers that I could know. “Meth, not even once” will forever be stamped into my brain thanks to those commercials that were just plain traumatizing. Lucky for us, these uncomfortable ads are slowing dying. No pun intended. 

Recently, popular advertising has encompassed one very common thing. Ads right now have gone from stupid and sometimes funny, to inspirational, tear-jerking, emotional and sometimes downright depressing. This trend is bringing a completely new face to the content of a Tide Fabric Softener commercial, and turning a promotion for the new Wendy’s hamburger into a somber story about a poor family living in India.

One of my favorite ads, “Born Friends” released by Skype, tells the story of two girls who live across the world from each other, and have been best friends for over eight years. They have never met. Both girls suffer from the same birth defect, as they were both born with one arm, and found each other over the internet to communicate about their disability. Their unique friendship depends on Skype, and by the end of the commercial, the two girls, after eight long years of internet friendship, finally get to meet each other. Needless to say, the commercial left me sniffling and thinking about skyping my best friend in South Carolina. Check out the Skype commercial here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5nRKyQ11494#t=175

Some people are more easily brought to tears than others, however the Budweiser “Puppy Love” commercial melts my heart every time. After watching, am I going to go out and drink a Budweiser though? Probably not, but that's just personal preference. The advertisement is adorable and intrigues me more than a competitor beer commercial, but I’m not actually going to buy the beer. So what will actually effectively sell a product? The puppies in that commercial make it pretty damn irresistible not to. That’s because experts in neuroscience are finding more evidence that this “softer” approach to selling actually works. If puppies can sell beer, can babies sell cars? They just might be able to. I may not go out and buy a Budweiser but I know a shocking amount of people who will.

The “heart versus head” argument is nothing new to advertisement, but the emotional impact is. In appealing to the heart, marketers are in turn appealing to the head, thus creating a higher probability that a product will be sold. This, compared to just selling to the mind or head, is why these advertisements are so successful. People are now emotionally invested and feel like they care, even if it was for two minutes in a Dove Real Beauty campaign. To learn more about the consumer mind, check out this website! http://www.commercialalert.org/issues/culture/neuromarketing/inside-the-consumer-mind-what-neuroscience-can-tell-us-about-marketing ;

I was recently brought to tears with the “Breakfast with Nana” Cheerios commercial. While eating the cereal, a little boy describes that he is eating Cheerios with Nana because she ate the "same ones" back when she was alive. What I came away with after the commercial, was that Cheerios link both the dead and alive. A pretty hefty statement for those tiny little O’s. Check out the Cheerios commercial here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSNAdo9Czns

Finally, the last advertisement I want to talk about is a Powerade commercial recently released for the World Cup. Here, you meet Nico, a small child with only one leg who plays every type of sport with athletic skills stronger than those of his two-legged team mates. You watch him grow into a man, still overcoming his disability (thanks to Powerade) and can’t help but fall in love with his real life story. I don’t know if my office is cold or if it actually brought goose-bumps to my skin, but either way, I felt connected to Nico in those short two minutes and ten seconds. See Nico’s story here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10GD9inHQbI

Whether you remember the Powerade in the commercial or Nico’s heartfelt story, “sadadvertisements” are changing the ads we see today. For the good or the bad, these advertisements are bringing forth an emotional message. Don’t get me wrong, it's awkward to be crying during a Nike commercial while watching the news with your grandparents, but it sure makes what used to be suffering through commercials, a bit more captivating. Next time you’re watching prime time television and a beautiful campaign for Allstate comes on, grab some some tissues, but don’t worry, because “you’re in good hands”.