Nostalgia: It’s not just for baby boomers

CmGiven my recent flight into nostalgia for Henry Weinhard’s beer, it should come as no surprise that I’m visiting the Northwest once again for commentary on advertising. Two professors at the University of Washington are looking into why ads that evoke nostalgia—like this one from Campbell Mithun (click through to Work, then General Mills, then the second snack spot)—may work. Their theory, which seems to be all over the place right now, is that baby boomers are approaching an age (i.e., 60) when they’re looking back fondly. But there may be more to it than that. According to an article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the two professors found that ads that evoke nostalgia also worked for a group of college students (who are a far cry from 60), who developed more favorable attitudes toward those brands. (My favorite part of the article is a quote from an executive at “Spokane’s largest advertising agency.” What, the guys at Publicis Seattle weren’t available?) Of course, there are downsides. Apparently, these trips down memory lane can also cause some sadness when viewers realize they can’t recapture the glory days. And if things get too nostalgic, the message may get lost in the shuffle. To wit (according to the article): “A person crying at the notion of a multigenerational family gathering may not notice the pitch for a better camera.” Crying? Really?

—Posted by Aaron Baar