Mirror neurons – the things that trigger responses in our brains whether we are doing an activity ourselves or whether we simply see someone else doing the same thing. They are a fundamental mechanism for learning (socially), and leveraging these triggers is the oldest trick in the advertising book.
So, when Australian ad watchdog the Outdoor Media Association, ruled that the ad on the left featuring expressionless models was inappropriate; and therefore told skincare brand Ella Bache to relace the offending pic with smiling models instead, they have actually done Ella Bache an unlikely favour.
OMA decreed that the 'serious facial expressions increased the sexual overtones of the image', and therefore the image should change.
According to Mumbrella this morning, Ella Bache's creative director Faie Davis was not happy:
'This bizarre decision is the epitome of political correctness, indicating that as a society we are becoming very fearful of putting a foot wrong, with the result that stymies creative thinking. In the past we have produced ads approved with nude men and women hugging and kissing, yet now we have an industry self-regulator now making judgments on the different sexual mores of a smile or serious expression of models.'
Davis should be advised that the OMA ruling will probably make the ad more effective.
Replacing the neutral faces with smiling faces is a smarter strategy.
Now women looking at the ad will know how they are supposed to feel when using the product.
Not neutral. Happy.
It's no accident that every coca-cola ad in history has featured happy people consuming the product.
This is how you are supposed to feel.
Monkey see, monkey do.
Although full marks to Davis for the cute (or perhaps unintended) use of the old subjective validation trick (aka the Forer Effect) on the line 'as individual as you are'.