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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