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.
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.
In Italy, about a third of young people are unemployed, making it the third worst country in Europe to be young and jobless, behind Greece and Spain. The historic Italian brand Campari recently launched a social project dedicated to young unemployed people in Sesto San Giovanni, the town near Milan where the company is based. The project, called Passion Works, is the brainchild of a group of employees entrusted with the task of proposing concrete solutions to the problem of local youth unemployment.
Famous for the many cocktails that use it, the brand is opening the doors of its bartender academy to 30 locals between age 18 and 25 who are unemployed, enabling them to turn a passion into a job. Users scroll down the website as if they’re reading a recipe; anyone who meets the requirements can apply at the end of the page. Those chosen by Campari will be admitted to the professional bartender course at the Campari Academy this month and get a bartender degree upon completion of the course in December.
Campari presents a concrete response to the difficulties faced by a workless generation. While it’s a small-scale effort, it shows the big brand’s attentiveness to the realities of its local community.
Nations around the world are grappling with high youth unemployment, a cause that Italian fashion brand United Colors of Benetton took up last year in a global campaign. “Unemployee of the Year” aimed to not only draw the public’s attention to the issue but present “a practical response to the problems we’re raising,” as chairman Alessandro Benetton told The New York Times.
The campaign revolved around a contest for unemployed people between 18 and 30 run by Benetton’s Unhate Foundation, which is devoted to promoting diversity in local communities. Contestants submitted ideas for projects that could create concrete social impact in their community, and these were voted on by the online community. The foundation promised 5,000 euros to each of the top 100 projects. In line with the company’s history of raising awareness around socially delicate and controversial issues, Benetton offered an “unfiltered” view of so-called NEETs (young people who are not in education, employment, or training) in a manifesto video. Celebrating the ability of young people to find new, intelligent and creative ways of facing unemployment and to come up with their own unique solutions, the video ends with the line, “A job doesn’t define me—what I fight for does.”
Some questioned whether the company should apportion more resources toward effecting change and fewer into the marketing element, a valid point—but supporting some solutions to social problems rather than simply pointing them out is a good start.
With continued economic uncertainty, many shoppers remain hesitant or unable to make big-ticket purchases, especially the un- or underemployed Millennials. In response, some brands have been creating crowdfunded registries for consumers. We wrote about Best Buy’s Pitch In card back in 2010, which we described as “bridal registry meets microfinancing meets layaway”: Friend or family contributions to the card tally up to help customers secure the costlier items on their wish lists.
Now an automaker is embracing this concept. Consumers looking to buy a Dodge Dart—a compact sedan that Chrysler introduced last year—can log onto DodgeDartRegistry.com, customize the features and then seek funding for specific car parts, using social media to promote their cause. As a TV commercial outlines, “Dad sponsors the engine for your birthday. Grandma sponsors the rims for graduation.” Car seekers can ask for enough dough to fund a down payment, the car in full or anything in between. As with a Kickstarter campaign, there’s a time limit: Fundraising can run for a maximum of 90 days. At completion, buyers receive a check, with which they in theory purchase their new Dart. Since the launch earlier this month, around 1,200 people have created registries, but donations have thus far been minimal.
It’s likely the campaign will resonate with Millennials, the target audience here, who firmly believe in the collective ethos—that every bit counts in addressing today’s challenges.
At night, some kids suspect monsters are hiding in the closet or under the bed. Some have nightmares, others are just afraid of the dark. A nicely produced student spec spot for German teddy bear brand Steiff offers the bear as a solution to help children cope with these fears and anxieties. We see a little boy alone in a dark forest, chased by a giant monster. The boy wakes up but finds that his nightmare is not over: The monster breaks through the window and bursts into his bedroom. The last line of defense for the boy is his teddy bear. It fights his battles and in the end defeats the monster.
The teddy bear acts as the boy’s defender and his savior. The spot presents the bear not just as a simple fluffy, cuddly stuffed animal but as a protector—a provider of comfort and source of confidence, especially at night.
In Colombia, the unemployment rate among young people hovers around 47 percent. For this cohort, the idea of a better future is a difficult dream to hold on to. There’s little hope of saving enough money for a home or going to college. Plus, Colombians tend to presume that opening a savings account will require a significant amount of money and come with too many terms and conditions. Many simply keep cash under their mattress or opt for other informal savings schemes.
Against this background, local banking institution Banco Caja Social is working to address the structural causes of poverty by trying to develop a culture that believes in the benefits of saving via a bank account. The bank helps by offering flexible terms and conditions that cater to each person’s needs. In a recent campaign, a TV commercial showcases a young man in a hard hat who’s seeking to “go further” in life by advancing in his education. “I have to save to accomplish my goals,” he says. “That’s why I opened my ‘Friend Account,’ to save. And I really save without being charged.”
For young people, the idea of having a bank on their side, helping them move ahead, may help motivate them to start banking and to do so with Caja Social.
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.