Better Advertising Through Chemistry: Oxytocin Is The New Dopamine


CANNES, FRANCE -- After years of going for the dopamine rush, Madison Avenue is focusing on a different chemical in the brain that is what causes people to form bonds, trust, and yes, even love: oxytocin.

“This is really the chemistry of nice,” Josy Paul, chairman and chief creative officer of BBDO India, told Lions delegates during BBDO’s seminar entitled “Nice Is The New Black.”

“Without it there would be no cities, no villages, no families. It is the trust hormone in all of us,” Paul said, adding: “How do we trigger this? How do we induce this in our communication, because the difference between good and great has to do with the amount of oxytocin you can trigger.”

He then showed a Google-made documentary about a reunion of two childhood friends -- one Indian, another Pakistani -- who were reunited as older men. It was one of a series of videos and commercials shown during a panel discussion that included BBDO global creative chief David Lubars, and moderated by actor Beck Bennett, who played the straight man to the kids in the BBDO created AT&T campaign, and just joined the cast of “Saturday Night Live.”

Lubars opened by citing the AT&T campaign as a prime example of Madison Avenue’s new nice. He then showed two spots for Guinness that were pretty nice too. One featured men playing basketball in wheelchairs, which revealed at the end that only one was actually a paraplegic. The other featured twin sister biathletes competing to qualify for a spot on the Olympic team -- when one was too sick to qualify, her sister gave her slot to her.

Lubars said “nice” isn’t always easy for advertising creatives to achieve without becoming “sappy, maudlin or hackneyed,” but he said it's a necessary skill for them to develop, because it is becoming more powerful in a world of increasingly cynical consumers.

“You’re seeing a lot of beautiful things,” Lubars said, adding that it’s not just occurring in advertising, but in movies and other parts of pop culture. “My personal view is the world is a tough place right now. It’s a bag of ass. Decent people are trying to hang on to something decent.”

Paul concluded by putting an insightful new twist on Madison Avenue’s never-ending quest for ROI. We spend too much time on data and strategy,” he said, adding later that “the beautiful thing about oxytocin is it’s available for free.”

The session ended when Paul threw a loving glance at Bennett, prompting the actor to blurt: “Oh well, I think you’re going to try and hug me now.” Then turning to the audience, he confided: “Ever since we got to Cannes, this guy has been talking about oxytocin and he’s been trying to touch me.”

Then the session erupted into a big hugfest between Paul, Bennett and even Lubars.

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1 comment about "Better Advertising Through Chemistry: Oxytocin Is The New Dopamine".
  1. Karl Greenberg from MediaPost , June 19, 2014 at 11:45 a.m.
    I'm just trying to figure out which of these I need more: a shot of oxytocin (which has a name that veers dangerously close to another oxy) or a "bag of ass", which I realize Lubars is applying as a pejorative. I think a bag of ass would be a nice thing to have around to the house as a reminder of what humanity is in its most basic sense, and something that should be on sale at Bed, Bath and Beyond.