Schadentising in Adverfreude


October 16, 2012 by bryannosaurusrex

Who is the most recognisable singing fat man alive today? Wrong! Pavarotti made his final, glorious journey to the giant Cornetto in the sky all the way back in 2007. Now that was a better time, a simpler time. A time before Twilight and One Direction. A time when Ronnie James Dio was still alive. The most popular all singing, all dancing fat moustachioed man on T.V. these day, is of course, Gio Compario. Who is better known as the ‘Go Compare opera man from those wonderful advertisements’.

If someone wanted to make the single most annoying advertisement campaign of all time, it would look suspiciously like the Go Compare Ads. Whereas some research suggests we perceive men with facial hair as intelligent, artistic and handsome (the words of Helltrsom & Tekle, 1994; not mine) I am at a loss as to why Go Compare made those advertisements. I hate everything about them. I hate Gio and everything he stands for. I hate that stupid song, and his Salvador Dali-esque moustache.

At least I did hate everything about the Go Compare Ads, until now.

Schadenfreude baby! One of my favourite psychological phenomenon, and also the only German word I know outside of those that apply to food, sneezing, and war movies.

So what is Schadenfreude?  Heider (1958) described it as the feeling of pleasure as a result of another’s misfortune. It has been found to occur in an array of situations, like when we see someone we envy fail or in pain (Takahashi, Kato, Matsuura, Mobbs, Suhara & Okubo, 2009). Gordon and McGowan (2004) found that we can experience Schadenfreude even if the person that is failing/in pain is a member of our own family, or someone we are romantically involved with. Not surprisingly, people we hate cause us to experience a greater degree of Schadenfreude (Ortony, Clore & Collins 1988, Hareli & Weiner 2002).

So did the Go Compare people know this? Whether they did or not, it was a very good move. Since the Ad campaign began it was received negatively, because of how much we all hate Gio Compario and his stupid Dickie Bow. Instead of abandoning the Ad campaign Go Compare have used it to their advantage, after all, just because I don’t like the advertisements doesn’t mean I can’t remember them. Go Compare have made an instantly recognisable figure, albeit a hated one, and that is not something you just throw away. But it is definitely something that benefits from the introduction of Sue Barker and a rocket launcher.

Enough about Go Compare, other companies use Schadenfreude too, and with great effect. We have all worked with people who break the rules or just get on our nerves with their incompetence. We all fantasised about someone at work setting them straight. And that’s where Reebok’s ‘Terry Tate –Office Linebacker’ comes into his own.

Pure Schadenfreude fueled advertising gold. Who wouldn’t want to see that annoying guy who steals food from the lunch room fridge body checked by Terry Tate!?

I only have one problem with Reebok’s Office Linebacker advertisements. I can never remember what company the Ads are for. Brilliant Advertisements; but poor branding.

A good example of successful branding and a great use of Schadenfreude is Ireland’s very own No car insurance campaign.

It is a simple advertisement, probably low in cost. It is also very effective.



2 thoughts on “Schadentising in Adverfreude

  1. Eva says:

    So true about remembering an add, but not remembering what it was for! Good point!

  2. The Reebok advert instantly reminded me of one that South Dublin County Council have out at the minute to tackle litter;

    I actually found it on the front page of reddit a while back. I think its quite clever and definitely uses schadenfreude, I also think that there is a sort of a hit of behaviour change techniques from it. Perhaps I’ve been to exposed to weird bins of terrifying shapes and annoying noises lately, but does it seem like the kind of advert that could be labelled as a behaviour change intervention? When we watch people getting tackled to the ground for littering, what kind of effect does that have on the viewer? It IS kind of funny watching people get tackled the ground by a daft looking lad dressed as a bin. Its been stuck in my head for a while now, I think it could encourage people to be a bit more proactive with their litter. Its ridiculous yet it’s memorable. I know that if I throw an empty crisp packet on the floor that I won’t be tackled by a bin, but I’ll probably still remember the advert. Does its strength, therefore, lie with schadenfreude, or are there other factors at play? It would be interesting to know if it had any effect on the litter problem, if at all.

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