Media: Double Standards - Why brands want Brits with smiles on their faces

Two industry figures explain why the mood of the nation matters to advertisers and reveal what their 'happiness' research has uncovered.

LAURA SIMPSON - HEAD OF TRENDS AND RESEARCH, MCCANN LONDON

- Why did you decide to measure happiness and how do you do it?

Companies tend to have a huge amount of brand-centric research but very little culture-centric research that allows them to access the big picture. We therefore decided to start measuring happiness in order to provide the broadest possible cultural context for the communication we produce. We measure mood via our quantitative survey (1,000-person online) repeated every six months and in five "neighbourhood" focus groups conducted once yearly.

- Why should advertisers care about the happiness and contentment of an audience?

The key to good advertising, much like the key to good film, TV, music or comedy, is to resonate emotionally with the audience. Powerful cultural content of any kind makes an individual feel connected, as if the author, comedian, musician or advertiser has in some way personally understood them and their issues. It is only by accessing the mood of an audience that an advertiser can ensure both relevance and resonance of communication.

- How will the worst economic slump since World War II change the nation's mood and spending habits?

When we asked Britons to rate their own personal mood back in 2007, 60 per cent described it as positive; by the end of 2010, this figure had fallen to 34 per cent. With government cuts coming home to roost in 2011, it's little wonder the proportion of Britons claiming that they intend to take cost-saving measures over the next 12 months - such as going out less and eating cheaper food - is at its highest level recorded in our survey. On the other hand, we shouldn't underestimate how deep the roots of consumerism run - people are still hard-wired to want the biggest, the best, the latest. So while our consumption is likely to become somewhat more considered in the 2010s, it's unlikely that "shopping" will be knocked off its top spot as our number-one national pastime.

- How happy is Britain?

Although the number of Britons describing their mood as positive has fallen to 34 per cent, it still remains well above the proportion that feels that the mood of the nation is positive (8 per cent). Worryingly, this pessimism about the national mood seems to be fuelling the idea that Britain is in long-term decline. In our most recent survey, just 26 per cent of Britons were in agreement with the statement: "When today's 25-year-olds reach 50, they will be better off than today's 50-year-olds are."

- What makes somebody happy?

Our research indicates that the things making people happy are fairly consistent and focus around the "simple things" - family, friends, job security and good health. Interestingly, our survey last year showed that all of these things came to be more valued by individuals as a result of recession.

- How can advertisers and brands use this information?

By recognising that recession has caused British people to re-evaluate the importance of the fundamental cornerstones of happiness in their lives - family and friends, health and job security. Advertisers that are seen to help people protect, connect and celebrate these fundamentals will come to be more valued. Our research also indicates that people are valuing communication that is bringing joy and light relief to their lives at a time when the media landscape is relentlessly dreary.

NEIL SHARMAN - HEAD OF RESEARCH AND ANALYSIS, TELEGRAPH MEDIA GROUP

- Why did you decide to measure happiness and how do you do it?

We took this advice from planners about media owner research. We knew it was important to pick a topic relevant to advertisers while able to be woven into our own work. We summarised existing research and combined it with something new and fresh. We picked the topic of happiness because Telegraph Media Group's audience are the happiest with their lives in our market.

- Why should advertisers care about the happiness and contentment of an audience?

Four reasons: happy people engage more with advertising, as several studies demonstrate, and engagement leads to sales; advertisers have sold "happiness", even before it was a cigar called Hamlet proving its worth; agencies pay a premium for audiences in good moods whipped up by shows like The X Factor; and, finally, happiness is behind consumer confidence and that can make brands and governments thrive or fail.

- How will the worst economic slump since World War II change the nation's mood and spending habits?

What doesn't change is the proportion of people fundamentally content with their life - although they may have reappraised it. People appraise via comparison and as the nation endures hard times, there will always be those who feel better off. What is changing is that people are learning carefulness and they will continue behaving frugally post-recovery, similar to the post-war generation. There will be fewer people spending like they're rich when they're not. This will make the genuinely affluent audience valuable advertising targets again and will also encourage brands to explore beyond traditional target markets.

- How happy is Britain?

The answer is always 20. For 20 per cent of an average Briton's waking hours, they would state that they were at the peak of their happiness for this portion of their time. Also, 20 per cent of Britons are happy or contented with their life as it is. However, it's easy to overlook contentment as a valuable form of happiness for advertisers, as they often instead value audiences in a good mood, which is temporary and fragile, rather than fundamentally content, which is a more permanent and resilient happiness.

- What makes somebody happy?

Happiness commentators agree on four broad ingredients of happiness, relating to relationships, finances, outlook and personal factors. Together, they paint a picture of a person that is over 45, healthy, married, active in a community, benevolent, affluent enough to lead the life they want, wise-spending, realistic, with traditional values and a belief in taking responsibility for their own successes and failures.

- How can advertisers and brands use this information?

If you seek engaged audiences, seek happy ones as they will be more engaged.

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