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.
Two years ago around this time, we wrote about a campaign that attempted to allay anxiety over tax season by focusing on the brighter side of taxes: “Jackson Hewitt’s How You Do It,” which emphasized the joy of receiving the coveted refund check. This year, tax-prep software brand TurboTax is similarly looking at the silver lining of tax season by positioning it as a chance to take pride in one’s accomplishments of the past year.
Commercials in the campaign, dubbed “It’s Amazing What You’re Capable Of,” each highlight a life event that impacts taxes, like getting married, buying a house or having a child. The spots then lightheartedly describe how exciting these milestones are. Taxes are just “a recap. The story of your year. And that’s why we make the tools we make,” explains the spot “The Year of the You.” The voiceover goes on: “That’s why we do everything we do. Because we think you should be the one to tell that story.” Viewers are not likely to see tax prep in an entirely new light, but the commercials are a nice way to prompt them to feel a little more positive about the process.
Most Indian families are of the belief that girls are better off at home after sunset, in part because of the belief that they’re not safe out alone at night. Hero MotoCorp, a motorcycle and scooter maker, is aiming to break down these prejudices through a campaign dubbed “Why should boys have all the fun?” Its scooter brand Pleasure, targeted at women, questions the status quo and asks girls to reclaim the night.
A TV commercial opens with a free-spirited, confident girl who is about to take off on her bike at night when her young male neighbor spots her and says that “Hitler Uncle” (her father) won’t be happy seeing her step out so late. She dismisses him with a nonchalant retort, “Why put brakes on a night of fun?” while taking off on her Hero Pleasure. She is soon joined by her friends on their bikes. The spot ends with her dancing the night away at a party with her father, while the neighbor who questioned her is dragged out by his ears, by his mother. The girl tells the boy: “My dad is happy, but your mom seems to be becoming the Hitler.” The commercial signs off with the line, “Why should boys have all the fun?”
Hero MotoCorp not only manages to raise a relevant social issue that bogs women down but also does so without hurting the sentiments of the older generation. It steers clear of becoming a brand that encourages “rebellious behavior” by ensuring that the approval of the father comes out strongly.
In France, as many as a quarter of young people are unemployed. The largest employer of young workers in France, McDonald’s is basing its human resources policy on the professional development of these employees with a policy based on three pillars: training, promotion and internal mobility. On the occasion of the Day of Trades, on April 16, McDonald’s launched a massive recruitment drive, aiming for 40,000 recruitments in 2013. The brand aired three TV commercials, an unusual means of recruitment for a private company (normally only public services use this strategy).
The commercials feature a “mate,” a market manager and a manager, who tell their evolution at McDonald’s from their start to their present status. In one, a 21-year-old named Nicholas says he started at McDonald’s two years ago on a CDI contract (a long-term contract), which “has provided me a certain stability.” He says it has allowed him to buy a car and get an apartment with his girlfriend. “We’ll see what happens next,” he says. “I am confident in the future.” Adds the voiceover: “A job at McDonald’s is a stable job.” While the campaign is not particularly interesting in terms of creativity, the message and the testimonial form are smart ways to quickly touch the target audience. Young people can easily identify themselves in this campaign, which represents a true call to action for them.
For many working parents, it is a daily challenge to make time for their children. It’s no different in Asia, especially in a city like Hong Kong, where the modern stresses of parenting weigh on families with young children. (According to a survey conducted in Hong Kong, only 38 percent of parents spend between 1.5 to 3 hours per day with their children.) Oreo’s “Bonding moments start with Oreo” campaign—which has been adapted around Asia—encourages parents to reignite and strengthen the connection with their children through the “Twist Lick Dunk” ritual.
In a TV commercial, a little girl has tea with her big teddy bear, inviting the bear to eat an Oreo with her and showing it the ritual of eating the cookie by starting with the twist. Her father has been on the phone observing her. He hides behind the bear, who gains a pair of hands that follow her “twist and lick”; she then demonstrates the dunking of the cookie. Her father finally pushes the bear aside and completes the dunk ritual with his happy daughter. The spot ends with the girl’s voiceover telling us that the “twist” of a happy moment happens only with Oreo.
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.
The horse meat scandal is perhaps the greatest food transparency issue in recent years. It continues to grow, and here in the U.K., the majority of big retailers have been affected in one way or another. The country’s largest retailer, Tesco, has felt the effects the hardest, with a number of their value products implicated. This resulted in an apology ad that guaranteed a full refund in national press.
By contrast, the scandal has played into the hands of Morrisons, which can claim “100% British meat” and has around 1,700 butchers across 500 in-store butcher counters in the U.K. They capitalized on the scandal with ads stating, “100% British. 100% of the time.” Morrisons has said they’ve had an unprecedented number of customers approaching them for advice and to buy fresh burgers, among other meats. The results have been significant: fresh meat counter sales have risen 18 percent, sales of fresh beef burgers are up 50 percent, and sales of beef mince are up 21 percent.
As we noted last year during the “pink slime” scandal in the U.S., as consumers grow increasingly anxious about food quality, brands that can clearly illustrate safety and purity will continue to gain ground over those with suspect ingredients.
In recent years, the higher cost of living, unemployment and drought have pushed many Thai families into long-term debt. In a March 2012 study by the Thai Chamber of Commerce, 80 percent of Thais admitted to problems repaying debt over the previous 12 months. Many Thais, especially villagers and low-income families, lack the skills to formulate strategies to handle accumulating debt. Instead, they tend to simply hope that someone will intervene on their behalf or that a stroke of good luck will provide the needed funds.
For the past six years, the Ichitan green tea brand has responded to this situation with a hugely successful marketing campaign built around a lucky draw promotion called Richie Thunder Jackpot. The latest installment asks consumers to send an SMS with a unique code printed inside the bottle cap. Every day for 60 days, Ichitan selects a winner, who receives a gold bar valued at 1 million baht (just under $35,000). A TV commercial for the promotion features company founder Tan Passakornnatee as a hero whose mission it is to solve debt issues. The spot reminds Thais of the most urgent problems associated with debt: coping with rising food prices (represented through duck, chicken and pig mascots) and the difficulties of small businesses facing bankruptcy.
The commercial is lighthearted but demonstrates that the brand understands consumers’ current anxieties and offers a solution to a lucky few.
There’s a lot to worry about in life. “Paying bills, raising your kids, keeping your job, preserving the planet, saving your marriage, picking a president, perfecting your handshake, honoring veterans, undercooked chicken, catching the train, hiding your tattoo, networking socially, getting your hair cut, maintaining your blog, feeding your dog, training your cat, buying an unpretentious scarf, calling your mom, gray hairs …” The list goes on and on in an outdoor ad that’s part of a recent branding campaign from U.S. TV, phone and Internet provider Optimum.
The company positions itself as a one-stop “effortless” solution for digital services, allowing subscribers to keep up with the more important things in life, like dealing with their children’s classroom antics or signing up little ones for ballet lessons, as two 30-second spots illustrate. An anthem spot explains the company is there to “sweat the small stuff and the big stuff, so you can sweat your stuff.” Given that stressors seem to be mounting and multiplying for today’s consumers, Optimum is smart to humorously acknowledge this and position itself as a provider that won’t add to the all the everyday pain points with which people are grappling.
With many U.K. consumers facing an austere Christmas, upscale supermarket chain Waitrose created a stripped-down TV commercial for the holiday season and donated an additional £1 million to local causes. “At what is a difficult time for many people across Britain, we feel that Christmas is the right time to give more back to good causes in the communities we serve,” explained Waitrose’s marketing director in a release. The ad shows food celebrities Delia Smith and Heston Blumenthal—who regularly appear in Waitrose ads and waived their fees this time around—in an empty studio. They explain that “instead of a fancy TV advert,” Waitrose is giving more to charity (customers help decide which causes Waitrose should allocate money to).
Will consumers feel the gesture is appropriate in light of their current economic anxieties, regarding the lavish commercials from Waitrose’s rivals as wasteful? Or will they miss the usual festive flair on their screens and see the retailer as “a bit holier than thou,” as one YouTube commenter complains (“Like when someone gives some village a goat for Christmas on your behalf”)?
Adopting extreme diets in the name of health and wellness has become common practice. But whether or not they’re effective, sticking to them inevitably bumps up anxiety and stress (scientists have even drawn parallels between the effects of suddenly cutting out high-calorie foods to the withdrawal symptoms felt by detoxing drug addicts). So some food brands are assuring consumers they can “Fuck the diet,” as Unilever’s Du Darfst said in a controversial tagline earlier this year, by eating in a more sane way.
In a recent campaign for Healthy Choice, converts to the brand comically testify that the frozen meals helped save them from years of “desperate” diets that had them living abnormally deprived lives. A former “No-Carb Queen” confesses, “For years I thought I hated children’s laughter. I had no idea I was just hungry.” A man who had fallen into the “Juice Fast” explains that Healthy Choice entrées helped him “turn his life around” and realize he loves solid as well as liquid food. The spots conclude, “Don’t diet. Live healthy.” Similarly, Du Darfst, a line of convenience foods, aimed to acknowledge the frustrations tied to following various diet rules (e.g., “No fat, no carbohydrates and no food after 5:00,” as the brand’s site joked). The campaign aimed to help diet-conscious consumers “reawaken (their) passion for food.”
Healthy Choice and Du Darfst address consumers’ anxiety about making smart food choices by promoting balance rather than an “all or nothing” approach. Increasingly balance is becoming the prevailing ethos when it comes to healthy living, with the appeal of extremes—from food to energy drinks to medications—starting to fade.