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.
Fear of the unknown is one of the greatest causes of anxiety, especially when dealing with it alone. An online ad for Google demonstrates how the company’s tools, such as Google Chat or Google+, can help people deal with their uncertainties and worries together. In showing a young couple expecting a baby imminently—the most tense of times—Google illustrates its claim to “make the web work for you.”
The sweet two-minute film illustrates how the couple stay in touch throughout the day, using Google, and seek answers to their pressing questions. The wife seeks natural ways to cope with labor, the husband nervously calculates tuition fees, and each of them searches for baby names (the wife lands on Beatrice for a girl, the husband on Elvis for a boy). The wife seeks advice from friends on Google+, wondering how to tell her husband there will no longer be room for his record collection. Finally, the location-sharing feature comes in handy when the contractions begin, allowing the husband to find his wife and get to the hospital in time.
Google successfully conveys that it is more than a search engine and that its various products can make daily life easier, more efficient and even less anxious.
Educating kids is a task that can create many moments of anxiety for parents. Not all parents know how to cope with the curiosity of their children, and some are afraid they won’t give the right answer to ongoing questions. One of the most feared and inevitable questions, of course, is “Where do babies come from?” In this amusing Kia Sorento commercial, which debuted on the Super Bowl, a father copes with this awkward question by telling his son about Babylandia, a planet filled with all kinds of babies. When it’s time for the tots to leave, they carry out an epic space journey by rocket and touch down on Earth.
The skeptical son starts to offer an alternative theory conveyed by a friend—which is when the father interrupts and orders the car’s voice-controlled music system to play “Wheels on the Bus.” In the end, the Sorento has succeeded in extricating the father from an anxiety-provoking situation. As more cars gain advanced technologies, brands will need to focus less on the technical specs and more on how the tech meets everyday needs. Here, the family car brand shows that its technology provides the tools to deal with a familiar family issue, giving parents confidence that “It has an answer for everything,” as onscreen copy promises at the close.
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.
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.
Parents face constant anxiety about whether they are doing the right thing for their children, and when to say yes vs. when to say no. Arguably, today’s parents are more indulgent than ever, and the inclination is to give in to every desire and demand. Norwegian financial services firm DnB Nor takes this “new normal” to a very abnormal extreme by showing a mom who has granted her teen boy’s fanciful childhood wish to marry his parents so they could stay together forever. The mother explains how they had to move to a rural area outside Norway to get married and are now spending the boy’s savings on his long-ago dream of a rocket ship that will fly to Mars and hand out ice cream. We’re clearly far outside the orbit of sanity.
The surreal spot ends by advising, “Don’t give your children what they want, give them what they need” and pointing viewers to a new savings account for children. DnB Nor’s promise is to help people act more intelligently when it comes to money (a message conveyed with somewhat less offbeat humor in a 2011 ad featuring George Clooney) and more profoundly, there’s an implicit promise to help parents stay grounded in reality, doing what’s really right for their kids.
Watching a child fly the nest must be one of the most anxious points of a parent’s life. Can it really be that the vulnerable baby they brought into the world is ready to face it on their own? This year, just as Britain’s teenagers sat for their final school exams, two brands released TV spots themed around reassuring apprehensive parents.
Volkswagen, which has built a reputation for safe, reliable cars, positions the Polo as something of a surrogate parent in a charming and emotionally charged 90-second spot. It shows the relationship between dad and daughter build from the moment she’s brought home from the hospital to the day she heads off to university, driving away in a new VW Polo while her father chokes back the tears. The car acting in loco parentis offers a seamless connection between the brand and the sentimental story, allowing VW to forge a bond with consumers and reinforce its longstanding brand values.
In a somewhat clunkier variation on the theme, NatWest uses the (mis)adventures of a young woman (is it just daughters that cause such worry?) on a gap year to promote its latest online banking tool. It’s a platform for the bank to show off their mobile app and further the customer-focused positioning they’ve been using in a bid to rebuild trust following the global banking crisis. But it seems an arbitrary choice to promote what is, essentially, just Internet banking; it almost feels as though the bank is exploiting parental anxiety. Although it may seem right to approach advertising by understanding the anxieties in consumers’ lives, it has to be equally relevant to the brand or product, or it feels false.
As wonderful as it is, being a new parent certainly comes with major challenges. One of the most anxiety-producing is coping with a tired, cranky, continuously crying baby who’s refusing to fall asleep. Philips Avent, a manufacturer of baby products, is tackling this with a commercial that features tips from real moms on how to coax a baby to sleep. For instance, Jeanine’s tip for Kian is to produce a hair dryer noise, Sophia’s tip for Maya is to use a gentle bottom pat, and Hiroe’s tip for Saya is to have staring contest. All these examples have one thing in common: They work, at least with these babies, making it easier for mothers to care for their child day-to-day and reducing their level of stress, tension and frustration.
Although there’s no product placement, we perceive Philips Avent, through the video, as a brand that aims to make daily life as a parent easier. To strengthen this concept, parents are encouraged to visit the brand’s Facebook page for more tips and other helpful discussions.