We Love Our Moms (And So Do Advertisers!)

With just a couple weeks until another one of the biggest card holidays, Mother’s Day, card companies are gearing up their promotions. Last week, American Greetings released their new ad, “The World’s Toughest Job” and with over 14 million views in just one week, it’s safe to say the video has gone viral. This call to action is sure to have you considering whether or not to switch from Hallmark to American Greetings this year.

Prior to this advertisement, American Greetings ads consisted of mainly cute animals – much like the ones you can find on their actual greeting cards. What these ads were missing were what this recent ad captured – emotion evoking concepts – something competitors such as Hallmark have been relying on and capturing for years. See Hallmark’s “Proud Mom” ad below:

Yet, it seems that even Hallmark couldn’t capture the raw emotions that the Mullen Agency was able to evoke from the interviewees – simply starting with a job posting and 24 interview candidates. The finished piece was a compilation of honest reactions that left viewer’s hearts melting.

The American Greetings’ spot isn’t the only ad that has played on the love and appreciation of our mothers this year. Proctor and Gamble’s “Thank You, Mom” series showed the mother as much a part of the Olympics as the athletes themselves. Several other companies including British Airways and General Electric have recently produced ads centered on mothers.

So what do these “tribute to mom” ads tell us and why do our hearts warm when we watch them? Understanding how advertising works tells us the answer. Ads tell us what is virtuous and what is our ideal world. These “shout out to moms” tell us what we virtue – the compassion mothers have and the love families have for their mother. In the ideal world, that appreciation would be shown by a card everyday, but since this isn’t the ideal world we hope to make it up on Mother’s Day.

So what do you think about all these ads centered on Mothers? Is it ethical to exploit this relationship that our society holds so valuable? Will you turn to buying an American Greetings card this holiday or stick with Hallmark?

Caroline Robinson, Elizabeth Harrington

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17 thoughts on “We Love Our Moms (And So Do Advertisers!)

  1. I think that advertising campaigns focused on evoking an emotional response are the most successful–one of the reasons American Greetings did so well this time around.While it sometimes isn’t the safest option to advertise with this particular goal in mind, it is often smarter to accept the risk instead of staying with an advertising campaign that is familiar and “safe”. It may not be the most ethical advertising, but in our society today, there is rarely advertising that is still considered truly ethical, in my opinion. People need to remember the underlying goal of American Greetings’ “World’s Toughest Job” ad campaign, which is to honor mothers on their special day, not to exploit a relationship we value in an unethical way. When I buy a card for my mom in the next few weeks, I am definitely going to keep my eye out for American Greetings.

    • Lauren,

      Thanks for the comment! There is certainly advertising and marketing communication that is unethical, an example that comes to my mind is companies that participate in pink washing. I agree that American Greetings is not exploiting this relationship, but they are showing their company values of sharing moments and being thankful through this video.

      -Caroline R.

  2. I agree with Lauren that there isn’t much advertising out there anymore that is truly completely ethical. Many brands and companies recently have been so willing to take any risks at all in their ads in order to increase attention and brand awareness whether it receives positive or negative press. I think that American Greetings chose to advertise this way because they were wanting to connect in a strong way to what they believe almost all American’s can relate to and appreciate. They were also showing their values and being unafraid to exploit them in that way, they know that companies like Hallmark have been trying to “pulling on the heart strings” of customers for years and so why not so the same when more and more companies are centering their ads these tribute holidays.

    • Avery,

      Thanks for the comment. I think companies are very aware of the press they generate. Now, with social media, they are more aware than ever since customers can relate their opinions to them directly. It is true some brands do operate in an unethical way, but I think much marketing communication is done with genuine intention. If we think back to the way marketing communication works, is it really unethical to show glimpses of our ideal world? Or even to show values we are proud of? Chevy and Budweiser brands play on the American dream and values. Would you say emphasizing that is different from emphasizing the relationships we have with our mothers?

      -Caroline R.

  3. I think that it is interesting to take a step back and question why these types of ads are so successful. We probably all have that “warm” feeling when watching the videos, but rarely wonder why they make us feel that way. American Greetings, Hallmark, and others are tapping in to this “ideal world” concept to express what we virtue, and we often are not even aware of it. I don’t think this makes their strategies unethical, I think it makes them realistic. Just as others have mentioned, it is rare that a brand completely reveals their reasoning behind every ad and I don’t think this has to be seen as unethical. Targeting certain things that our society holds valuable also represents what the brand holds valuable, and shapes how they are viewed as a brand. American Greetings successfully created conversation about their brand will most likely benefit from their new approach. I know I will definitely keep my eye out for one of their cards this Mothers Day.

    • Jamie,

      Excellent analysis. I think the key concept here is that American Greetings has captured our heart because we share the same values. I have noticed most of you saying that you would consider buying their cards because of this ad. Yet, we haven’t even looked at their cards to see if they are better quality, funnier, or visually more appealing. Thanks for the comment!

      -Caroline R.

  4. I agree with the comments above. The company wasn’t taking advantage of an emotion situation, but just showing their appreciation for that situation and using that to their advantage. They are able to incorporate their company name into an emotional situation while simultaneously giving the viewers a motive for purchasing their product. At the end of the video you almost feel obligated to go out and buy your mom a nice card. I think it was a very smart and successful advertisement.

  5. When an advertising campaign uses pathos to buy a product, I feel like it is successful because it has a way with resonating with people that other techniques like comedy or celebrity placement does not. American Greetings did well with this campaign because they were truthful in their emotional approach. This to me was a smart but also ethical approach to selling a product because it uplifted a special person rather that totally exploiting them because they show how much they respect Moms. Most people do have a mother or mother-like figure that they thought of while watching this ad and when we think about it, the ad is right in saying how tough a job being a Mom is. They show their reverence for Moms and we know that when we buy a card for our Mom(s) we will be showing reverence for them too. I liked it and I would support this brand.

  6. I think American Greetings and Hallmark did an excellent job targeting audiences using emotion. Both of those commercials just make you stop and think about how much your own mother does for you personally and I think many can relate to it on some level. When you realized how much your mom does for you (which this ad does) it makes it seem like a card can make a world of difference on a special occasion. Whether it is picking up a card for a special occasion like mother’s day or just a simple thank you card, it is a gesture that is not expensive and can say so much. Since everyone can relate (maybe not all in the same ways but to some degree) it is a very compelling and convincing ad. This was not a “buy this product because it is the best” commercial, it made you want to go out an buy a card to simply say thank you because you do not realize how much your mom does each day. I really liked both the Hallmark and American Greetings commercials and feel that the concept was advertised extremely well. I would definitely support both of those brands.

    • Mary,

      Thanks for the comment. One reasons I thought this as was successful was because, like you said, it made you stop and think about something. I personally prefer Hallmark because I am more familiar with their brand and buying their Christmas ornaments is one of my family traditions. But I feel this commercial has made Americans Greetings more than just another card company to me. (Even if I still choose the Hallmark brand.)

      -Caroline R.

  7. It is refreshing to see the way that American Greetings took a stance on Mother’s Day. Personally, the warm fuzzy feeling that most cards give you is effective but simply not as intense or long lasting as recognizing the difficulties that come with being a good Mother. To me, there are no ethical boundaries being crossed in the ads done by American Greetings. I believe that it is easy to say “Mom, I love you… you are amazing and the best Mom ever” on Mother’s day and perhaps buy her something nice. However, to actually begin to try to understand the effort, time, and emotion your Mother put in would be more appreciated by Moms (my Mom especially).

  8. I think this Epideictic form of advertising was really touching and meaningful. Epideictic Rhetoric shows what we hold virtuous in our world, and the ideal world that society wants to live in. Respecting our families and having that bond is definitely something that we have fought for since day 1. Americans Greetings connects with the audience emotionally in a way that they are representing themselves as a brand that bonds with their customers in a way that they are sharing those very virtuous beliefs and attitudes that we hold special in our society. I respect the fact that the mom in this commercial is a single mother working hard to get her daughter into the school that she hoped to be accepted to. It shows nothing against single mothers or the fact that the father wasn’t in the picture. This story is very relatable and with that being said I don’t believe there should be any ethical issues in exploiting this mother-daughter relationship for mothers day. I would definitely keep my eyes peeled for an Americans Greetings card.

  9. American Greetings did an excellent job appealing to the emotions of their audience. When I first saw this commercial, I was confused and not sure where it was going but when the man said at the end that millions of moms do this daily, it put everything into perspective. Through this emotional appeal they have captured their audience. It’s one thing to hear, “moms make our lunches, tuck us into bed, help us when needed, etc.” but when you are in a focused job interview and hear the duties and responsibilities of the job, it makes you take a step back.

    I do not think American Greetings are exploiting our special relationships with our mothers but giving us another opportunity to fully realize and appreciate what mothers around the world do constantly for their children. In some ways they could bring that bond back to life. This is because many people tend to underestimate the sacrifices that many mothers must make daily for their children. Through the use if emotional appeal, it makes the story relatable to others.

    In this day and age, I have not seen many advertisements that are 100% ethical anymore. It’s all about what can generate the most sales, what can get the most media coverage, what can gain the most attention. I would not say that it was because of this ad that I solely will start buying American Greetings cards over Hallmark. Although I have found this ad sweet and sentimental, it has solely not made me switch over to their brand.

  10. It’s hard for me to see this sort of heartwarming ad as exploiting or unethical in nature. I think that if American Greetings chooses to design a project that will honor mothers in general, arouse respect and love for mothers in general, and make a buck or two as a result, the ethical question is if anyone is getting hurt or exploited. I doubt any mothers would feel exploited after watching the video, it is more likely that they would feel appreciated. As to whether or not this makes me want to buy an American Greetings card as opposed to a Hallmark card: Yes, I am more likely. Not because I think that the company will have much better cards than Hallmark, but because the company showed me that it recognizes why mothers should be celebrated. The company displays that they appreciate the hard work that mothers put into their families, and that provokes me to view American Greetings as more ethical, not less.

  11. I feel that for the greeting card company, evoking this sense of feeling and admiration for mother’s on this one day, is a grand slam for their profits. However, I feel for mothers themselves, it takes away from them during the other 364 days of the year. I feel it is great to make mothers feel extra special but it is sad to think that we need to be moved by an ad in order to feel inclined to do something nice for our mothers. This bricolage definitely makes mothers feel great but we don’t need a commercial to remind us of how blessed we are by having our mothers.

  12. I find these Ads on Mothers to be a sense of relief and a nice break from the constant emotionless and false advertising today. What better way for American Greetings and Hallmark to advertise Mother’s Day then by giving their audiences a clear image of how much love people really do have for their mothers? After watching commercials for both, American Greetings and Hallmark, I really related to the relationships presented which attracted me a lot more to the brands than false advertising where I usually cannot relate. It is ethical to explain these relationships between a mother and child because what harm do these commercials bring except by showing how a child truly values their mother? Although the American Greetings commercial successfully caught my attention and emotion, I will most likely stick to the original and go the Hallmark route. Hallmark has always used the emotion path which has made me a returning and loyal customer to them for years.

  13. I am very impressed with American Greetings advertisement “The World’s Toughest Job.” The first time I saw a link to this video was on Facebook, however I did not immediately click on it. When I went home for Easter break, my mother was watching the video that my brother sent to her on her phone. I caught the last thirty seconds of the video, and thought it was sweet. During one of my classes I had the opportunity to watch the full video, and I was blown away by the effectiveness of the video. Initially I did not even catch the end where it is promoting American Greetings. I did not realize that this was an advertisement. I thought it was just a viral video that was going around that effectively used pathos to get their message across. American Greetings advertisement definitely outshines Hallmark’s. Although I liked the concept of the Hallmark video, it was a bit slow getting to the point. Although American Greetings’ advertisement was longer, the hint of mystery kept me intrigued to finish the video, and it was worth it. I believe American Greetings’ advertisement is ethical. These are the raw emotions from the interviewee’s, from what I read about this advertisement. It is real, and that is what audiences want to see and feel in an advertisement.

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