JWT’s AnxietyIndex is designed as a place to discuss how brands and consumers are responding to the global recession. With daily content updates, AnxietyIndex.com includes contributions from around JWT’s network, offering a truly global perspective.
Childhood offers nearly limitless opportunities for anxiety and embarrassment (and anxiety over potential embarrassment). Parents get to relive those moments through their kids—or, turning the tables, serve as the cause of humiliation. Ragú’s “A Long Day of Childhood” campaign lightheartedly addresses the pitfalls of growing up and suggests the spaghetti sauce brand as a solution for parents looking to provide comfort. The campaign features a series of TV and radio spots that highlight common childhood “traumas,” from having Mom wipe your face clean with her spit and friends drawing on you at night during a sleepover to walking in on your parents during their “intimate” time. Each spot ends with a country-twanged song featuring the lyrics, “They need Ragú, ’cause growing up’s tough. Give them Ragú—they’ve been through enough.” The spots end with the line, “A long day of childhood calls for America’s favorite pasta sauce.”
Ragú also created two YouTube videos from user-submitted photos of their awkward youth—full of bad haircuts and outdated styles— and will later include online and mobile phone apps that let parents share their children’s troubles with multimedia and even personalize the song’s words. Although embarrassing at the time, these anxiety-riddled moments have an inherent humor that Ragú successfully taps into, at the same time reminding viewers of how much their favorite brands offered some solace all those years back.
Thoughtful moments and kind gestures can make all the difference in everyday life. And while courtesy can be its own reward, a florist in the Detroit metro area is taking it one step further. Lori Morrison of Ribar Floral is asking people to nominate community members who have made a positive impact—anything from helping someone move to showing appreciation for the mailman running his route each day—and she will deliver one “Good Job Bouquet” each week to a nominee. In a city infamous for its crime and economic decline, the “Good Job Bouquet” provides a little recognition to those who help make life a little bit better. And in the process, Morrison’s small business is getting some attention too.
In a survey conducted by JWT last summer, 90% of adults from the U.S., the U.K. and Canada felt that “Companies need to do more good, not just less bad.” Brands big and small can give back to the communities that foster them, and they’re all the better for it when they do—there’s a shared value in positive actions (a rising belief in this concept is one of our 10 Trends for 2012).
A new year, a new tax season—and with it nightmares of audits, unexpected amounts owed and the panic of yet another impending April 15 deadline. It’s that time of year reserved for the begrudging acceptance of life’s other certainty. Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, however, is aiming to change those longstanding connotations—or at least remind taxpayers of the brighter side.
A new ad campaign, “Jackson Hewitt’s How You Do It,” highlights the potential reward of filing one’s return—the coveted refund check. One commercial, set to Montell Jordan’s 1995 track “This Is How We Do It,” shows customers and employees in a Jackson Hewitt office celebrating with awkward dance moves and exaggerated expressions after one customer earns a refund. Another ad begins with a girl falling in midair after her mother, who’s just heard about the family’s refund check, tosses her in joy at the news; more awkward dancing ensues.
Tax season may always conjure some anxiety, but Jackson Hewitt is right to emphasize the light at the end of the tunnel, especially since the company targets “Main Street Americans,” or moderate-income consumers who have struggled since the downturn, according to The New York Times. The prospect of dance-worthy good news could make those who normally rely on tax preparation software (or no help at all) think twice.
With the New Normal gradually becoming simply the normal, entertainment media is beginning to reflect this reality, as we highlighted in a recent post about the CBS comedy 2 Broke Girls, which has now been deemed a hit. In another example, Sesame Street recently aired a primetime special addressing the issue of hunger and food insecurity, something faced by more than 16 million American children, according to USDA figures. To convey its message, Sesame Workshop—the nonprofit that produces the show—created a new Muppet, Lily, a 7-year-old girl living in a food-insecure household (which the USDA defines as one that’s “uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet the needs of all their members because they had insufficient money or other resources for food”).
Through Lily, Sesame Workshop explored the issue in a positive and healthy way while putting a face—albeit a Muppet’s—on this growing problem for viewers big and small. As the negative effects of the New Normal become more pervasive, expect to see more content creators tackling the struggles of everyday Americans.
Michael Pollan has been urging “If You Can’t Say It, Don’t Eat It” for a while now, and slowly consumers have become more wary of ingredients pronounceable only by chemists and more inclined to question, What is my food? This anxiety is having an impact not only on brands that sell chemical-packed products but on any packaged-food marketer—in Argentina, rumors began circulating that Lay’s chips aren’t made with real potatoes, according to a PepsiCo ConoSur exec quoted in Ad Age. So Lay’s embraced Maximum Disclosure (one of our 10 Trends for 2010) to set the record straight in a unique way.
Set to start traveling around to Buenos Aires supermarkets, the Lay’s Machine looks like a vending machine but requires a shopper to deposit a potato (provided as part of the promotion) instead of coins. What follows is a “hyper-realistic” video of the chip-making process with the illusion that “your” potato is being turned into chips. At the video’s end, a bag of chips drops into the slot, heated to give the sensation that it really was your potato being transformed.
As customers see that the product is just made from real potatoes, vegetable oil and salt, they can feel assured that the “natural” claim is authentic. More engaging than an online video or classic promotion, the Lay’s Machine is a fun, interactive way to assuage people’s fears that they’re consuming something strange and unnatural by showing that neither is the case.
In a recent ad for Norwegian bank DnB NOR that promotes savings accounts, a dazed woman awakes in a hotel suite with no memory of the previous night, finding only the scattered evidence of a wedding—with her as the bride and her groom donning the head of a horse. She realizes fortune has smiled upon her when in enters George Clooney, the man behind the equine mask. In no time, the two are huddled over a computer, searching for their future home. The ad closes with “Some people are lucky in life. For the rest of us, saving up can be smart.”
Echoing the message of Australia’s UBank (which we’ve highlighted here and here), DnB NOR is encouraging people facing an uncertain future to prepare responsibly for the road ahead. Casting Clooney is a clever way to convey that the odds of suddenly striking it rich are all but nil (the widely lusted-after ladies’ man has long said he’s uninterested in a second go at marriage). The bank humorously tells viewers that fantasies may be fun to entertain, but these days there are no fairy-tale endings.