Is Sentimentality the New Funny in Advertising?

by thewheatandthechaff

A couple of months ago I wrote about Adam&Eve‘s heartwarming ad for Google+ and of the inherent difficulties in making ads which tug at the heartstrings rather than poking the funny bone. Well now suddenly it seems that everyone is jumping on the sentimentality bandwagon.

In recent weeks we have seen three ruthlessly schmaltzy tearjerkers aired on television and online.

First up in April was Wieden & Kennedy‘s epic spot for World’s biggest advertiser Procter & Gamble, released ahead of the Olympics this year. Called ‘Thank you, Mum”, it’s directed by Alejandro González Iñárrit, the gloom merchant whose film repertoire includes such cheery pictures as 21 Grams, Babel and Biutiful, but who has also previously directed the magnificent ‘Write The Future’ ad for Nike in 2010.

In similar globe-trotting form to Babel, the spot follows the trials and tribulations of mums and their young Olympic hopefuls across the World from Britain to China, and ends with teary-eyed pride at their now grown-up sprogs’ inevitable successes at this year’s Games. “The hardest job in the world, is the best job in the world. Thank you mum” so the copy says, before proclaiming P&G as “the proud sponsor of mums” (or moms, if you’re American).

As you would expect, several versions of the ad have been shot to air in different countries and the whole thing is obviously very well done and has been integrated effectively with a successful Facebook campaign. Go Mums!

But what about the Dads, I hear you ask? Don’t worry, these next two spots have got ’em covered.

First is Volkswagen and DDB‘s spot for Polo depicting the relationship between an overprotective dad and his daughter over the years. It whiffs more than a little of Adam&Eve’s work for John Lewis and Google+.

There are also criticisms that the song used in the ad – created by Sniffy Dog who apparently do this sort of thing for a living (vomits) –  is little more than a rip-off of Beach House’s ‘Take Care’, with the band themselves stating that DDB had previously tried and failed to license the track from them.

Finally, we have Dare and Hovis’ good, honest, hard-working northerner’s riposte to VW’s cosy, southern softy middle-class ponceyness, featuring a gruff farmer and his lad putting in a bloody good day’s work down t’farm.

Does this glut of sentimental schmaltz signal the beginning of a mildly nauseating trend in advertising? Probably, knowing the predictable way in which clients tend to follow the pack – “do us an ad like that Google+/P&G/VW one”, you can hear them demanding now – but, thankfully, not every agency is being as predictable or formulaic in their methods when putting this kind of work together.

Take, for example, Brazilian ad agency AlmapBBDO‘s viral spot for Getty Images, which uses 873 stills, all from the archive of Getty Images, to tell the story of a life in this 60-second film.

Although interspersed with welcome moments of humour, there is an overall feeling of melancholy that runs throughout, a fundamental recognition of the fleeting nature of life. For me, it’s the cleverest and most moving of the lot.