In recent years, we have seen a trend toward inspirational advertisements that use storytelling techniques to capture consumer attention and drive an emotional reaction. These ads focus less on the features and benefits of the company’s products or services, but instead create a memorable experience that is conjured when consumers consider the brand. These ads are not just touching and tear-jerking, but they challenge us to be a better person, life a better life, or think about something in a new way.
Some of these commercials launch during Super Bowl broadcasts, a time when consumers are actually watching and then talking about ads. For example, during Super Bowl XLIX in 2015, we watched commercials like Always Like a Girl, which illustrated how girls become stereotyped, Dove’s Real Strength, which focused on the role of dads in the lives of their kids, Coke’s Make it Happy, and a Toyota ad featuring Paralympic medalist Amy Purdy. In some cases, these ads are a teaser to drive consumers online for additional content, including longer versions of the commercial.
Some of the best inspirational commercials from recent years are from Thailand. In one for a Thai cellphone company, a young boy who is caught stealing medicine is saved by a restaurant owner who not only pays for the medicine but sends him home with soup. Thirty years later, the favor is returned when the man is hospitalized, his medical bills are racking up, and his doctor just happens to be the young boy he helped. The hospital bills are shown paid in full. The commercial ends with the tagline “Giving is the Best Communication.” In one for a Thai insurance company called “Unsung Hero,” a young man helps many people throughout his day with an apparent lack of reciprocation, but later it is revealed that his good works are valued and appreciated.
In addition to Dove’s Real Strength campaign, for example, the company has also given us the Campaign for Real Beauty, which developed the following inspirational ads that challenge women to change their notions of beauty.
These inspirational commercials are a good fit for the technological capabilities of social media. They have a long lifespan on digital media and users can watch them repeatedly and share them on social media, just as millions of people have done with the Dove videos. This trend also reflects a cultural phenomenon on social media. People like to share positive and uplifting content on Facebook and other social media sites. We are seeing repositories of inspirational videos on sites like Upworthy.
Does advertising inspire you?