Posts by Alexandra Stieber - Atlanta

McDonald’s Austria positions breakfast as a break from manic mornings

From the buzz of the alarm clock to the frantic rush to get ready, early morning can often be the most anxiety-producing time of day. Recently we wrote about Tropicana’s “Worst Morning Ever” campaign, which empathized with harried commuters. Now a spot from McDonald’s in Austria uses whimsical humor to show a McDonald’s breakfast as a respite from a typically stressful morning.

With the line “Not everything is as easy as a McDonald’s breakfast,” the “Easy Morning” commercial puts a slightly surreal spin on a man’s morning, from alarm clocks buzzing around his head to a horde of impatient shoes awaiting him to a claustrophobic sidewalk crowd. Relief comes at McDonald’s, where the protagonist relaxes with a very appealing looking “Viennese breakfast” and cappuccino. Though most of us don’t actually have time for a leisurely breakfast stop, the commercial makes us aspire to do so.

Volkswagen targets new families in sweet safety-themed spot

The Volkswagen Jetta has long been a go-to vehicle for singles, but now the brand is also targeting young married couples. A safety-centric spot addresses head-on the anxiety and apprehension new parents feel about protecting their vulnerable new baby. New parents leaving the hospital carefully place the baby in a car seat and pull the car out, only to be cut off by a van. Scared, the baby sees his brief life flash before his eyes—the gentle humor here lies in how short and basic his flashback is. “If your life flashes before your eyes, make sure it’s in an IIHS top safety pick,” says the voiceover.

By focusing on the emotional experience rather than the product feature, the message of safety resonates and takes on more meaning.

Ikea positions storage systems as a way to ‘Make Room for Your Life’

With stress spiking and happiness a hot topic, as cited in our 10 Trends for 2013, we’ll see more marketers emphasizing themes of stress relief as a way to boost happiness. In 2011, we highlighted Hanes’ message that consumers could de-stress by de-cluttering their underwear drawers. Now Ikea is tapping into this idea in a U.K. and Ireland campaign for its storage and organizational systems: A commercial beautifully creates the anxiety-provoking atmosphere of an uber-cluttered home, with piles and piles of stuff keeping a young couple apart—until their place is transformed into an organized ideal. The tagline: “Make Room for Your Life.”

Happiness guru Gretchen Rubin (The Happiness Project) is currently promoting a similar theme in her latest book, Happier at Home, which outlines a yearlong guide to improving one’s home and, as a result, one’s quality of life. While the Ikea scenario is an exaggerated one, most of us can easily imagine feeling happier if only the mess at home could be sorted out.

New York restaurant creates visual, digital Instagram menu

This week we posted on our sister site,, about Rent the Runway showcasing user photos so customers can see how the designer dresses look on similarly sized, everyday women. New York restaurant Comodo is taking this idea into the dining realm, encouraging customers to share photos of their meals on Instagram using the hashtag #ComodoMenu. This results in a visual menu showing what all the Latin American-inspired dishes look like. The restaurant’s menu includes the hashtag, so patrons can readily find the “Instagram menu.”

By tapping into consumers’ love of photographing and sharing their meals over social media, Comodo simultaneously spreads word-of-mouth and helps to reduce any anxiety among current diners about ordering badly (a more common worry as diners get increasingly budget-conscious). Seeing the pictures, and any comments, can help patrons avoid remorse over ordering a disappointing dish and feel more confident about what to get. The Instagram menu also makes ordering more fun and turns the experience into a collaborative one, giving customers a solution to their concerns and also encouraging them to be a part of that solution.

American propaganda posters repurposed for political protest

During World War II, propaganda posters represented America’s unity: It was “us vs. them” during a difficult time. Today’s Americans may also feel they live in difficult times, with the economic climate enduringly bleak and the nation’s leaders mired in partisan bickering. But if there’s an “us vs. them” mentality, it’s a sense of the people vs. big institutions, especially the government. Americans feel deserted by their leaders—perceived as putting political interests before those of the people—and there’s no longer a sense that we’re all on the same team. (For instance, in a JWT survey conducted last year using our propriety online tool SONAR™, almost 8 in 10 expressed dissatisfaction with the government and only 12 percent viewed Congress favorably.)

In response, the 2-year-old Chamomile Tea Party has bought backlit platform ad space in the Washington, D.C., Metro to display posters inspired by WWII-era propaganda, speaking out against Washington’s partisan bickering and stalemates. For example, one headline reads: “I lost my job… And my home and my health care and my retirement and my self-esteem, while you played party politics.” The organization, founded by a graphic designer, is dedicated to disrupting partisan gridlock. The posters are bold and striking in tone and imagery. And by harking back to old propaganda messaging, they remind us of a time when America came together, a sobering contrast to the divisiveness of today. As the election nears, it will be interesting to see if other organizations or marketers tap into Americans’ discontent with and anxiety over the status quo.

Photo Credit: outtacontext

Liberty Mutual shows its empathetic side with ‘Humans’ campaign

Insurance companies are at the center of anxiety-producing incidents in consumers’ lives, and many people feel that dealing with these companies only compounds their stress. With its newest campaign, “Humans,” Liberty Mutual is trying to distinguish itself in the category by making the company seem more, well, human, with a commercial touting its “empathy towards policyholders in times when they need us,” in the words of a press release.

“At Liberty Mutual Insurance, we get that it’s tough out there, and our job is to make it less tough,” says the voiceover (actor Paul Giamatti) as we see golfers unwittingly hitting balls into a car window and a husband accidentally putting his foot through drywall. Other mishaps range from the serious (a car rolls downhill without its owner) to the silly (a woman’s blouse gets doused with ketchup). Liberty Mutual shows that it forgives consumers for their human flaws in a lighthearted and relatable way, an engaging contrast to typical insurance ads. The humor is also more earnest than that usually seen in the category, and likely an approach that consumers who hate dealing with insurance companies will respond to more positively. The simple, understanding message really does a nice job of portraying Liberty Mutual as a supportive partner, breathing humanity into an industry often chastised for its lack thereof.

Norfolk Southern positions the railway as enabler of ‘possibilities’

With America’s national political conventions on the horizon, the economy remains a hot topic. A new campaign for Norfolk Southern Railway, a large freight train company, acknowledges America’s prevailing anxiety with a message centered on resilience and rebuilding. Targeted at political heavyweights, the spot positions Norfolk Southern as a catalyst for growth and recovery.

“City of Possibilities” delivers the message in a lovely dreamlike execution that harkens back to the imaginative world of childhood and kids’ fascination with trains. A boy plays with a train in his bedroom, and a toy city forms around him. The message taps into the idea that children believe in limitless possibilities, with the voiceover conveying the optimistic message, “Wherever our trains go, the economy comes to life. Norfolk Southern. One line, infinite possibilities.” The spot makes its message relevant by alluding to our economic anxieties but through a positive lens, laying the rails for other messages promising growth and commitment to the nation’s recovery.

Jiffy Lube tells car owners to ‘Leave worry behind’

When people think about car care, they don’t often get the warm and fuzzies. Auto maintenance is often a stressful process, leaving drivers feeling like they’ve been up-sold or inconveniencing them to the point of deep frustration. While drivers understand the importance of routine maintenance—particularly as more of them try to hold on to their cars longer—many put it off for as long as possible, not eager to be stranded at the dealership for hours while wondering if that mechanic is trying to find something to fix.

Jiffy Lube recently launched a campaign via JWT Atlanta with the tagline “Leave worry behind,” centered on relieving anxiety around automotive maintenance. The message is that Jiffy Lube’s expert preventive maintenance services mean you don’t have to worry about being hoodwinked by those “other guys.” While the TV commercial focuses on differentiating Jiffy Lube from other maintenance providers, the service centers further support the mission of combating customer anxiety, with improved appearances, free coffee, additional transparency through windows overlooking the service bays and the use of a database loaded with manufacturer recommendations. In addition, the OCS program, introduced last year, enables customers to pick their own oil change intervals, giving them a sense of input and control in the process, whereas before they felt little to none.

Jiffy Lube is rethinking how we think about car care, taking steps to make the process more pleasant for drivers. How can other categories that also create anxiety similarly help to alleviate undue stress?

Prudential address ‘new normal’ head-on in ‘Bring Your Challenges’

In the wake of the recession, visions of retirement are no longer what they once were. Rather than dreaming of sailboats and vacation homes, Americans are simply dreaming of retiring at all. Given that fewer than a quarter of those with a retirement account say they feel financially secure and look forward to retirement, according to Mintel, it’s clear that there’s great uncertainty and insecurity around the issue of retirement. While many financial services companies have attempted to reassure insecure consumers by highlighting their strength and stability, a new campaign from Prudential goes a different route.

The “Bring Your Challenges” campaign confronts head-on the stark realities faced by most Americans when it comes to retirement and rallies consumers to bring Prudential these challenges rather than shying away from them. The print executions very frankly acknowledge the changing realities and needs of today’s retirees and illustrate how Prudential is there to help navigate this new landscape. Underscoring the reality theme, the “Day One” TV spots feature real-life Americans on their first day of retirement, and the “Day One” microsite lets consumers communicate with each other about retiring.

Prudential is attempting not only to redefine how consumers view retirement (as a start, rather than an end), but how they speak about it. The company also directly addresses the new normal of today’s economy, sending the message that it’s there to help apprehensive consumers adjust.

Photo Credit:

In challenging category, New York Presbyterian breaks through with powerful testimonials

When it comes to hospital advertising, consumers often react with fear and anxiety, even extending to feelings of guilt. The ads frequently broach subjects that are uncomfortable for the average person. Sometimes, the category tries to break into more emotional, heart-wrenching territory, but those campaigns can quickly become cliché, losing the audience before the real message has been delivered. As a result, the category is one where it can be hard for consumers to feel a connection. So how does a hospital talk about real issues without building anxiety or feeling trite?

At a time when consumers are responding to authenticity and genuine voices, New York Presbyterian stands out with a powerful testimonial-driven campaign. These understated black-and-white spots are distinctive in their simplicity of message and authenticity of voice. Former patients talk openly about their experiences, sharing incredible stories about defying the odds and further supporting the hospital’s ongoing “Amazing Things Are Happening Here” campaign. By keeping its approach simple and honest, this hospital is able to broach anxiety-producing subjects in an engaging, genuine way. Other brands may be able to make similarly difficult subjects more approachable by considering this type of tactic.