Toronto Metropolitan University
Starowicz_Madeleine.pdf (2.26 MB)

Hurts So Good: an Examination of the Use of Sadness in Not-For-Profit Advertisements

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posted on 2021-05-21, 15:19 authored by Madeleine Starowicz
Advertisements that evoke sadness have become increasingly popular. These ads are called sadvertisements and tend to depict a victim as well as the portrayal of something unjust or immoral. Using a visual social semiotic content analysis, this research paper seeks to determine the visual elements that convey sadness in five award-nominated not-for-profit print ads. This project also explores how sad advertising appeals might influence viewers. This paper found that the presence of sad facial expressions, a low modal representation, compositionnal features which evoke a sense of complicity on the part of the viewer, and the use of visual metaphors are the techniques used to convey sadness in a sample of award-nominated not-for-profit advertisements. This paper maintains that arousing sadness can generate sympathy, empathy, guilt, and/or compassion from the viewer. This study contributes to our understanding of how visuals convey emotion, and how emotion in advertising influences viewers.



Ryerson University




  • Master of Professional Communication


  • Professional Communication

Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type

  • MRP