Mad Ads: Marketers Tap Into Consumer Anger

Americans are angry over $4 for a gallon of gas and penny-pinching airlines -- consumer confidence at an 18-year low. Now advertisers are turningthat frustration into a marketing tool.

A slew of new ads tap into the outrage among consumers who believe they're being wronged or cheated.

A recent ad for Jackson-Hewitt includes people furious about taxes.

Southwest Airlines is selling itself as the airline that's as angry about fees as airline customers are.

"Advertisers want to relate to people, and so they talk about what they can relate to, and there is lots of negative stuff people can relate to right now," said Eric Hirshberg, co-president and chief creative officer of Deutsch/LA.


The economy isn't the only target of outrage. In an ad for the cable channel Versus' Tour de France coverage, text flashes that reads "Screw the Dopers, the Politics, the Critics."

"We don't want to paint glossy pictures that are unrealistic," said Griffin Stegner, who created the ad for Concept Farm. "We need to reflect the anger, the annoyance, the problems that the tour has had."

As Americans grow more pessimistic, marketers are moving away from happy imagery to get people to identify with their brands. But that strategy comes with risk.

"The challenge is if you present something negative you have to turn the corner and present the positive just right, or you leave a bad taste in people's mouth," Hirschberg said.

He pointed to Apple's famous "1984" ad, which focused on people's apprehension about computers but turned out to be a phenomenal advertising success.

Hirshberg says that the key to the success of that iconic Apple ad was that even though it pressed a nerve with people, it still inspired them and was hopeful, which is key to building a lasting brand.