There’s a lot of talk in advertising about aspiration—showing your target audience not as they are, but as they want to be.
If you’re talking about a beauty or a fashion brand, I can see the point. But then again, Dove is the brand that broke the mold and started the conversation about “real beauty.” Twelve years later, brands are still trying to emulate them.
To me, the most breakthrough ads are the ones that embrace life for what it is—sometimes shitty, sometimes beautiful, almost always messy, but somehow, still pretty wonderful.
There are three campaigns I reference when talking about this with my team.
The first one is from HoneyMaid. Their campaign line, “This Is Wholesome” refers to both their product and their target, and they use a hashtag, #NotBroken, to showcase the beauty and wholesomeness of non-traditional families.
Here’s a powerful two-minute documentary they used to kick off the campaign. If you want to read more about it, check out this Adweek article.
Another more recent example is from Ikea Sweden. This spot tells a simple, sweet story that touches on the taboo topic of divorce. To sell furniture. Crazy? I don’t think so. Watch the video and hopefully you’ll agree that it’s the perfect way to tell a touching, relatable story about something people usually don’t get that emotional about.
And to show that real and relatable doesn’t have to be mean a “broken’ family, here’s a spot from the great Campbell’s Soup campaign that highlights an imperfect moment in a traditional family.
The first two ads really resonate with me because I can see myself and my family in them both. Like the little boy in the Ikea spot, I had one room at my Dad’s house and another at my Mom’s. While the furniture in each room was different, they both had a Swatch phone where you could talk out of both ends. For a 13-year-old who loved talking on the phone, it was pretty awesome.
And like little boy in the #NotBroken documentary, the cast of characters at my birthday celebrations weren’t easy to explain. I remember one birthday, we went to my favorite restaurant, Kobe Steakhouse. If you’ve been to a hibachi restaurant, you know that the tables seat eight people. And if you have a party of seven and there happens to be one strange man dining there by himself, they will sit him with you and your non-traditional family.
For years, we laughed about his confusion when we explained how we were all connected, and that yes, my divorced Mom and my Dad were at the same table along with myself, my sister, my Dad’s girlfriend and her two kids. It wasn’t weird for me. It was normal. It was my family.
So the next time you’re writing a family-friendly ad, think about what most families are really like these days, and try to convince your team, and your client, to showcase life for how it really is. Perfectly imperfect.