Will positive advertising cheer up recession-hit consumers?

Recent successes such as T-Mobile's 'dance' ad suggest that upbeat messages can cut through the financial gloom. But is such activity really enough to lift the spirits of cash-strapped consumers?

Yes

Scott Jefferson, Group marketing director, Greggs

Consumers are undoubtedly struggling with the recession and it may well get worse before it gets better, especially with unemployment on the rise.
But we know from research (and common sense) that people are fed up with being constantly reminded about it. As marketers, there is another important factor here and that is the key principle of brand differentiation.
It is our job to know when to start swimming against the tide, catch the mood and cut through as a brand. Great examples of this are the T-Mobile 'Liverpool Street' and Cadbury's 'Eyebrows' ads.
At Greggs, we are launching a feel-good campaign on Easter Monday. Not only does it communicate 'affordable quality' in these tough times, but the TV ad will also bring a smile to everyone's face.
So banish the bumbling bankers, ditch the doom-mongers - turn on the TV and let's start smiling our way into summer.

Maybe


Alison Brolls, Head of marketing communications planning, Nokia


Everyone could do with some feel-good messages. There's never been a better time to adopt the cup-half-full rather than the cup-half-empty philosophy.
However, I have a word of caution. If advertisers don't get it right, it could end up backfiring badly. It's not an exercise in happy-clappydom and you can't lose sight of business objectives. You should go down the positive path only if you can keep this firmly in mind.
Consumers are pretty savvy. They will see through anything that smacks of jumping on the bandwagon or doesn't ring true. And in the current climate, they are probably more suspicious and cynical than ever of advertising, especially from bigger commercial organisations.
There's no advertiser formula for making people feel good. But if the brand being advertised is trusted, what's being said is plausible, and there's a genuine benefit for consumers, that's a great starting point. It leaves people feeling good about your brand and, at the same time, uplifted. It's a powerful combination.

No

Steve Hastings, Planning partner, Isobel


No chance. Advertising is only a small part of our lives and doesn't have the power to change someone's outlook and sense of well-being.
Just been made redundant? No need to worry, just tune in and drop out to the sights and sounds of... ads.
Be honest, when was the last time
a commercial message cheered you
up? Creating advertising specifically designed to make people happier is inappropriate - like a suited politician going on a TV programme aimed at young people, in a misguided bid for popularity. It's just not going to work. Advertising has a commercial function. It's not medicine.
Nonetheless, every so often, a client and agency are bold enough to produce an ad that is so brave, unexpected and enthralling that it makes you feel good to be alive. Someone has made a genuine leap and gone with their instincts, no doubt overcoming all
sorts of hurdles, to leave you breathless with admiration. That's the way to cheer people up - happy ideas, not happy clothes.

Maybe

Stuart Archibald, Managing partner, Archibald Ingall Stretton


I've been in more than one client meeting this year where the discussion has turned to communicating in a positive way. It's true: advertising can cheer people up, but our job is not just to cheer people up. I've yet to meet a client who had that sole objective.

Nor should we think that by taking a blanket positive approach in our communication, we'll make a lasting difference. Ultimately, it's about the brand and how consumers feel about it.  A song-and-dance execution won't save a product that's not performing.

Great advertising inspires a reaction in a consumer's core. We can make people smile, laugh or even cry if we do it skilfully and in a relevant way. And then they will act. Marmite and _koda have both lifted spirits and achieved success by exploiting brand truths that are hardly grounded in positivity.

As the legendary Bill Burnbach put it: 'You've got to say it in such a way that people will feel it in their gut. Because if they don't feel it, nothing will happen.'

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