Send a Hug
“If you really want to touch someone, send them a letter.” These are words that sit at the bottom of a series of ads by the Australian Postal Service. The advertisements depict two people, one very realistic, and the other very different. The second person is reaching through a handwritten letter to hug the character on the other side of the letter. In all three posters, the pair is posed in a loving embrace. The pages of the letters are filled with words, written in pen by a loved one’s hand. The simple quote at the bottom is fixed in a red rectangle popping up from the bottom of the page. Through the design of these ads, the Australian Postal Service encourages all audiences to write more letters.
Within the last couple decades, the use of postal services has drastically decreased. . Commonly referred to as “snail mail,” postal services are no longer used as they once were, and have come to be greatly underappreciated. People in many parts of the world are finding faster, easier modes of communication. Technology has enabled people to connect with each other in much more convenient ways than writing letters. Instead of writing letters, people use email, texting, phone calls, social media sites, etc. to stay connected. Mail volume in developed countries decreases between 1 and 2% annually. In the United States alone, 3700 post offices will have to be closed next year to avoid bankruptcy. In Germany, post offices have been forced to sell phone cards, umbrellas, toys, and other trinkets just to stay in business. Mail is no longer a commonality as it once was, and with these ads, the Australian Postal Service aims to convince people to take advantage of sending letters.
These ads were designed at different times, the first one being in late 2008. All three were produced for the Australian Postal Service by M&C Saatchi, Melbourne under creative director Steve Crawford. The first one produced was the ad that depicts a young couple, a man and a woman, held in a loving embrace. It ran in a Defense Forces magazine for people involved in the military. In the military, methods of communication are rare, but letter-writing is always an option. The Australian Postal Service hoped to reach out to couples separated by deployment or other assignments, and received extremely positive feedback. After seeing how popular the ad was in the magazine, the Australian Postal Service reran the ad in multiple other magazines in February 2009 leading up to Valentine’s Day. Again, the ad was extremely successful. Seeing the success of the first ad, the companies worked together to produce two more, one specifically designed for Mother’s Day. Since then, the ads have become popular images on websites and blogs.
Through the timing and images used by the Australian Postal Services, these ads appeal to all audiences. Everybody, in one way or another, can relate to the message of the advertisements. The overall idea of the posters is missing close friends and family, and giving them a hug. Almost everybody has a loved one whom they miss, whom they wish to hug, touch, or embrace. These posters evict a lot of emotion in the viewer, whether it is happiness, love comfort, or inspiration. While anybody can relate to the overall idea of the advertisements, the Australian Postal Service also does a good job of targeting specific audiences. The first poster is geared toward young couples, the second to mothers, and the third to parents and families. The attention to specific audiences makes the ads more compelling for these people, while still maintaining a connection with everybody. The posters are emotional for all audiences, but may have a stronger appeal for specific people.
The strongest element the posters use to evict emotion from the viewer is the image itself. Each advertisement consists of a pair embraced in a hug. In all of them, the face of one is in clear view, and the viewer is able to read the emotions played across her face. In the young couple’s hug, it evokes emotions of love and comfort. In the advertisement for Mother’s Day, an embrace between a mother and daughter is depicted, and joy and excitement can be read on the mother’s face. For the last poster, the pair is a father and daughter, the father holding his young daughter in his arms. It reminds the viewer of the happiness of family, and the loving bonds held between a parent and child. While each of these advertisements may evoke slightly different emotions, every emotion depicted is positive. The images of characters are optimistic and pleasant, and inspire the viewer to send a letter to make someone feel as the characters in the posters do. By seeing these images, it leads the viewer to believe that if they send a letter, they and the person receiving the letter will share these emotions.
Another emotion that the poster may evoke from the viewer is guilt. While the Australian Postal Service designed the posters so that the overall emotions are positive and close-to-home, there is also an underlying sense of guilt. Because most people no longer send letters or handwritten cards, the posters lead one to believe that they may be “cheating” their loved ones out of the positive emotions displayed. Loved ones often lose touch with family members, and especially on a day like Mother’s Day, reconnecting is especially important. If a child hasn’t recently sent a letter or gotten in touch with his mother to tell her what she means to him, the joy on the mother’s face will lead him to feel guilty. Hopefully, he will go home, write a letter, and send it to his mother through the Australian Postal Service. While slightly masked behind the overwhelming positive emotions the advertisement portray, the underlying feeling of guilt is vital to the advertisements’ success. This guilt of depriving loved ones of these positive emotions inspires the viewer to send a letter.
Another way the Australian Postal Service succeeds in evoking emotion from the viewer is through the words in the letters themselves. Again, most people can relate to the letters in some way. The letter from a young man to the young woman begins with, “I know it’s difficult not being able to see each other as often as we’d like. I’ve been trying to get through it by reliving all the great times we have…” This quote directly appeals to those separated from their significant others, as many of them most likely feel and do the same thing. This fills the viewer with love, comfort, as well as strengthening the feeling of absence, and inspires them to write a letter of their own. In the Mother’s Day advertisement, the letter is written from a daughter (also a mother herself) to her mother. She writes about what being a parent is like, and throughout the letter words like “kitchen”, “wake up”, “lunch” “growing up”, and children’s names can be picked out. All of these words are words that any mother can relate to, and the letter shows a loving relationship between two mothers. The words in this letter inspire daughters to reconnect with their mothers, to share the joys or motherhood, children, and grandchildren. In the final poster, the image is of a father and a daughter, and the letter is written from the dad to his daughter, who is still very young. It says “I want to try put down on paper all the things I can remember about our first years together. A sort of Dad Daughter diary. Some days, it seems like I can see you growing before my eyes…” He writes that he’ll address it to “Yasmin’s Bedroom” to make sure it doesn’t get lost. This quote appeals specifically to any father with a daughter growing up, but also to any parent or family member. It appeals to anyone watching a family member grow up, or who feels that life is flying by in front of them. Hopefully, this person will be inspired to write a letter of their own.
The Australian Postal Service successfully encourages its audiences to write more letters to loved ones through the design of the “If you really want to touch someone, send them a letter” ads. The advertisements are commendable for their ability to evoke emotion from the reader, specifically positive emotions with an underlying feeling of guilt. The posters reach out to all audiences, and have the ability to relate to anybody while also targeting more specific audiences. With more ads as exceptional as these produced by the Australian Postal Service and M&C Saatchi, maybe snail mail won’t be such an inconvenient thing after all.