(You know how Director of Brand Strategy, Nate Swift, likes to guest star. So we’ll give him a bit more of the limelight. Here’s his take on all the “feels” in the advertising game as of late):

Nate here. I’m going to use FastCo Create article on “sadvertising” to push a strategic agenda, “The Rise of Sadvertising: Why Brands Are Determined To Make You Cry”. A quick summary,

“Never in our collective memory has there been a time in which ads–whose purpose is to make people positively inclined toward a brand and, ultimately, to sell products–have left us feeling all the feels. Was it just us? Were we going soft? Or is there something bigger at play? If you look at the current state of media, there’s more value placed on “meaningful” content–inspirational stories that you just have to see, or will change your world, and don’t even ask what happens next because it will simply blow your mind or break your heart or take your breath away. ” – Fast Company

Some things to ponder on: How this plays into content vs. advertisement. What are the positive takeaways from this trend that we can leverage for our clients? And, maybe more importantly, what are the watch outs?

My personal opinion (and subsequent rant) is that (as implied in the article) this movement is a reaction to the need for brands and advertising to stand out – to give content the extra 10 or 15% reach-booster by making it sharable. The article references reality – I do not believe that’s the correct word. I believe the correct word is “truth.” Truth breeds empathy and empathy breeds affinity, recognition and distinction. What makes the ads referenced in this article special is that none of them “hold up the mirror,” so to speak, but they simply touch on a story (or in some cases, a statement) that is universally “significant” – something that you can’t argue with, something that humbles us.

We talk a lot about “truth” here – “where’s the truth?” And I believe that’s the right conversation – it sounds obvious, and maybe it is, but it’s essential nonetheless. The “make me cry” factor, just like the “make me laugh” factor, should always be a byproduct. If an idea doesn’t start with the truth, it will never “pull” in any significant way. Note: sometimes the truth needs to be stated outright (think Dove, Real Beauty), but not always; the truth behind the harlem shake was that we could participate in a world-wide showcase of expression and creativity.

To close, I would not presume to suggest how to evaluate creative work, but when it comes to strategy, my ask is this: If the “truth” is not clear and central to the strategy, speak up. I promise we will push harder. It will make for better work… always.