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.
Last month we wrote about an ad for Unilever’s sustainability initiative: Couples expecting a child watch a video that shows images of war and poverty before moving on to describe innovations demonstrating that, in fact, “there has never been a better time to create a brighter future for everyone on the planet and for those yet to come.” In a similar but more pop culture-y vein, a Millennial-focused commercial for the Honda Civic starts off by showing some of the things young people are anxious about today—news about Wall Street crises and home foreclosures, environmental issues like melting glaciers—before tapping into the generation’s naturally optimistic mindset and focusing on both silly and serious reasons to feel positive.
“Today is pretty bad,” laments the lead singer of Vintage Trouble, the bluesy band seen in the spot, which runs 30 seconds on TV and for a full 2:38 online. But it’s really not so bad, counter a series of perky Millennials—science, selfies, puppies, even Nyan Cat are all reasons for optimism. (The spot gets specific about new innovations, naming “meta-materials, artificial blood, space mining, genetic therapy, biotech, 3D printers.”) The band’s lyrics soon become more upbeat too: “For the most part, give or take, today is actually … pretty great.”
Millennials, observesAtlantic correspondent James Fallows, are “tired of hearing that everything is terrible.” By contrast, this approach represents a “bolder ‘glass is way more than half full’ pitch than I recall seeing in any other political or commercial campaign,” he writes, while avoiding a “boosterish/denialist” tone. While the multitude of pop culture references feels like overkill in the longer version, the campaign smartly attempts to connect with the target audience by reflecting their hope-fueled mindset.
Today people are connected in so many ways, and yet in this globalized, fast-paced world, many people feel their interactions with friends and family have become more distant and impersonal. As we have reported, a range of brands (including Nestlé’s Abuelita in Mexico, Nescafé in Australia, the U.K.’s National Rail, and Tostitos in the U.S.) have responded to anxieties around losing connections to loved ones and missing out on family traditions by positioning their products as a means to get closer and reunite. Skype has joined in on this concept but from the digital perspective, emphasizing that online connections can help maintain strong ties when families are separated by long distances.
Skype’s “Stay Together” campaign illustrates that instead of breaking down family traditions, the Internet service enables people to maintain them. “Stay Together stories” show modern iterations of the family portrait, with Skype video from one end of the connection projected onto a wall at the other end, so the family can pose together; artist John Clang then creates a portrait. A 10-year-old in L.A., for instance, poses next to her cousin in Brazil to see how much taller the older girl has grown. The campaign also asks consumers to share their own stories about how they stay together with important people in their lives. There’s also a personal storytelling competition, and the most compelling entry will win an “Impossible Family Portrait” and a $10,000 travel certificate to bring relatives together in real life.
U.K. mobile operator O2 has launched a fun new campaign that reminds us that although we’ve all become bored and jaded, “the modern world is astonishing” and “we can do the most incredible things.” (An echo of Louis C.K.’s “Everything is amazing and nobody is happy.”) The Telefónica brand urges consumers to “be open to amazing new technology and what it can do”—by being more like a dog than a cat.
The “Be More Dog” campaign likens people to cats (aloof, unimpressed) and advises us to be “be a bit more dog” because “to them, life is amazing.” The message is that we’ve become so cynical that we’ve lost all sense of wonder at the joys of modern technology. The commercial, which keeps the focus off O2 itself, extols the canine’s approach to life while showing the type of delightful pet shots that will get distracted viewers to stop and watch. It also refers viewers to bemoredog.com, where they can play a “grab the Frisbee” game and link to more information about O2’s offerings.
Brands are more likely to connect with today’s anxious consumers by emphasizing the core value of hope, inspiring optimism rather than stoking fears, as we’ve long noted. O2 has found a way to tie its brand to a life-affirming message that most viewers can connect with, illustrated with the most viral of digital themes.
As The Times of India celebrates its 175th anniversary, the largest English daily in the world is rededicating itself to leading change in the country. (Five years ago the newspaper’s “Lead India” campaign, from JWT, won a Grand Prix at Cannes.) Sponsored by India’s largest automaker, Maruti Suzuki, “I Lead India” seeks to mobilize youth and make them grassroots agents of change at a time when Indians are filled with negativity and pessimism. The country has seen a shocking increase in both government corruption and crime, and Indians are losing confidence in their leadership.
The campaign advocates going beyond armchair criticism, with a TV commercial urging viewers to stop pointing fingers and blaming others. Instead, it pushes Indians to stand up and be counted. “It’s down to the individual. You are your own leader,” says the chant that accompanies scenes of young people joining together to set fire to the status quo. Print ads encourage youth to be the change they want to see (a sentiment often credited to Gandhi). On the Web, the Times is on the lookout for youth across 26 cities to create a brigade that could spearhead change, tackling issues of critical relevance to their cities. “I Lead India” is a clarion call for the next generation.
Earlier this year, Coca-Cola installed the latest of its “Open Happiness” vending machines with an ambitious aim: to break down barriers between India and Pakistan. The idea, coming out of a simple insight, is that what unites us is stronger than what sets us apart.
One vending machine was installed in a mall in New Delhi and one in a mall in Lahore, in Pakistan. These cities are separated by only 325 miles but are seemingly worlds apart due to decades of sociopolitical tension. The “Small World Machines” provided a live communications portal that linked strangers divided by more than just national borders, with the hope of promoting cultural understanding. The machines were equipped with first-of-its-kind 3D touch-screen technology that projected a streaming video feed while simultaneously filming through the unit to capture a live exchange. People on each end (and various walks of life) were encouraged to perform a friendly act together—wave, touch hands, draw a peace sign or dance—before sharing a Coca-Cola.
The resulting video, which went viral on social media, features affectionate encounters, such as a young girl in Delhi touching hands with an older woman on the Pakistani side, as well as more spirited interactions, like an impromptu dance-off between two men in their 60s that went on for several minutes. The initiative was a great way to remind people that their cultures are more similar than different and a small step to bringing them closer.
It’s been more than two years since the date 3/11 took on a special significance in Japan. This disaster followed 20 years of recession that caused the Japanese to shrink emotionally: With the country’s competitiveness declining, the whole society became accustomed to getting overtaken by many emerging countries. Then came that disaster, and many Japanese felt they might never recover. But anxiety seems to improving, thanks in part to the new prime minister, who emphasizes the will to be No. 1 in the world in certain areas and is urging industries to institute pay increases; the stock market is rising for now.
Responding to the inferiority complex that Japanese often have when it comes to comparisons with Western nations, especially Americans, the satellite broadcasting company Wowow recently ran a campaign called “Japan is doing well.” Eight TV commercials, which promoted the company’s monthly featured programs, showed a typical Japanese boy cleverly outwitting a competitive Western boy to attract a girl’s attention in a comical way. The idea points to Japan’s recovery and captures a feeling of optimism that some people are starting to feel.
We’ve seen a lot of brand messages in the past two years that can be categorized as “cheering-up,” “social contribution” and “love and bonding.” It looks like we’re now getting to the stage of motivating beyond optimism.
Coca Cola brought its “Happiness” brand message to consumers in Italy last fall with “Let’s Eat Together,” a campaign focused around making mealtimes more sociable again. For its “Happiness Table” stunt, the brand drove a van with the iconic Coca-Cola branding into a square in Naples and set up dining tables, inviting locals to join the fun. Bottles of soda were served up alongside some signature dishes from Italian chef Simone Rugiati. The concept extended to a Let’s Eat Together tool on Facebook, enabling users to invite family and friends to eat with them.
While “eating together is a primary source of happiness,” as the brand notes in this case study video, our busy professional lives are draining any quality time we have with our friends and family. Italy, the birthplace of the Slow Food Movement, seems like an ideal place to pitch a message that Coke has been spreading across markets (we wrote about the German campaign “Coke sets the table” several years ago).
As Spain’s crisis grinds on, more of its marketers have been addressing the situation directly, as Agence France-Presse reported last year, “trying to lure hard-hit buyers by appealing to Spanish values of friendship, family, and proud resistance.” We’ve posted about some of these efforts over the last few years, including campaigns from a radio program, Mahou beer, Carrefour, Coca-Cola and Campofrío, a deli brand. The latest from Campofrío is a sweet, humor-tinged 60-second spot that aims to boost viewers’ national pride and give them hope for themselves and their country.
The spot opens with the famous clown Fofito saying he’s read that sales of antidepressants have reached a record, and that with the joblessness and pervasive news about how badly the country is doing, “it’s only natural that you end up thinking you are useless.” He’s speaking about the country itself. So he goes on to create a “résumé” for Spain, detailing a range of achievements—everything from seven Nobel prizes and Oscars to Don Quixote, Chupa Chups, athletic prowess and infrastructure. “Don’t forget today’s youth,” two young women tell him, assuring that while younger Spaniards are leaving, “we’ll be back.” The oldest generation gets a nod too: A grandma is a “champion” for supporting her children and grandchildren with her pension. Along the way, several Spanish notables make cameos, including tennis star David Ferrer and singer Malú.
“You are smarter and stronger than you think,” says Fofito as the spot winds down. It concludes: “Let nothing and no one deprive us of our way of enjoying life.” Campofrío connects the brand with an optimistic national outlook (much like Chrysler’s “Halftime in America” at last year’s Super Bowl) that’s also grounded in facts and faces that strike a chord—and turns enjoyment of its products into a statement about not giving up on Spain or life itself.
To view with subtitles English subtitles, click here.
Anyone who’s ever lived in New York knows just how grinding-down and numbing the subway commute can be. Missed trains and hurried crowds, combined with life’s other frustrations, make for plenty of negative energy during rush hour. Recognizing this, Tropicana offered its Twitter stream for people to vent their morning frustrations as part of its “Worst Morning Ever” campaign. The outdoor component features the tweets with the best (or worst) morning mishaps, displayed around the city’s subway stations. Says one, for example: “Turns out I did check the correct weather, for California.”
The campaign isn’t all snark and gloom. Some of the billboards instruct commuters on how to reverse the negativity, encouraging passersby to help beautify the transit system by smiling. And naturally, Tropicana is positioned as the good part of New York mornings in other posters. The campaign succeeds in addressing consumer stress and anxiety by helping commuters realize they’re not the only ones grumbling on the way to work, helping the weary find some strength in solidarity.
With Spain’s unemployment rate reaching a record 26 percent (double the EU average, according to the BBC), some 6 million Spaniards are currently jobless. Aiming to brighten up the day for some of those without work, radio program Carne Cruda 2.0 on Spain’s Cadena SER radio network organized a flash mob to serenade an unemployment office in Madrid.
A woman with a clarinet stood up and began playing the opening chords of “Here Comes the Sun,” The Beatles’ 1969 Abbey Road hit. As onlookers took notice, a second clarinetist joined in, and before long the waiting room was filled with musicians playing the tune. An adorable young woman cheerily belted out the lyrics as a chorus came in, accompanying her. Onlookers smiled, some taking out their phones to document the event. Workers in the office emerged from their cubes to see what the commotion was about, and for a moment everyone in the room seemed to forget their troubles. This simple idea helped bring some cheer to struggling Spaniards in that office and beyond (the video has generated around 1.5 million views in three weeks).