Behind every big moment, there are lots of small ones.
Pick them back up.
Where are the tissues?!
As the 2014 Winter Olympics have come and gone, what I come away with is not so much the medals won, but the stories of the athletes’ moms. Mothers took center stage at this 2014 Winter Olympics. Yes, indeed, moms showed up in the personal stories and in the Proctor & Gamble and TD Ameritrade sponsored ads. These were welcomed all around. Of course, I’m a mom of athletic teenagers so I’m smack in the center of target market. Just go ahead and pull on my heartstrings.
I never really got tired of the odes to moms or childhood footage of the athletes, as I did all the other repetitive ads. And we had plenty of exposure since it was school winter vacation week. But the appreciation of moms was important in one major way. It offered a counter culture message on motherhood. I’m not sure if you have noticed that in our recent past—oh let’s just say the past decade—moms have been portrayed as vacant, self-absorbed vixens trying to reclaim a youthful past through cutthroat housewife vanity or vicariously experiencing life through the talents or looks of their daughters. Or alternatively, moms are characterized as the classic, ditzy but well-intentioned stay-at-home mom that was once so well done by the inventive Lucille Ball in “I Love Lucy.” Sadly, the cultural portrayal of mothers is now imbued with a sense of cluelessness and disconnection when it comes female identity and raising children.
Think of the moms in the teen cult classic, Mean Girls (2004), Marge Simpson, or any mother in portrayed reality TV shows, like Dance Moms or Toddlers & Tiaras, or shows like Say Yes To The Dress, that bank on the emotional drama between mothers, daughters, sisters and girlfriends. Or consider Modern Family’s Clair played by Julie Bowen, who is perhaps the current version of Lucille Ball. I admit that Modern Family can endlessly entertain my own family.
Overall, it’s not pretty for moms. It’s actually disparaging in covert and overt ways. I’m sure there may be consumer research on motherhood personas but that’s not my field. My fantasy is that the ad agency for P&G had a good number of focus groups that showed what moms desire is respect and appreciation for the hard work it takes to raise a child, not just a super athlete. Moms don’t want to be rock star moms, they just want the light to shine on the love and dedication to their children. Yes, give them that break, please.
P&G had great success with the Thank You, Mom campaign in the Summer 2012 Olympics. It was a tearjerker. This year’s Pick Them Back Up was a good sequel. Maybe next time P&G will focus on Dads (who seriously need a whole new makeover in our culture and media), but this is unlikely since dads don’t typically buy the household goods or cut out coupons from the Sunday paper.
TD Ameritrade campaign slogan was: “Behind every big moment, there are lots of small ones.” Matt Damon is the voice behind it. The intent was to make a connection between the long-term commitment it takes to be an athlete and financial investment. The ad agency for TD Ameritrade collected childhood videos from various Olympic competitors (#itaddsup). For me it blended in the P&G campaign about moms. You could hear moms’ cheering voices behind the camera. See ads with snowboader, Louie Vito, speed skater JR Celski or skeleton racer an mom, Noelle Pikus Pace.
It was brilliant, if unintended.
I don’t want to have to wait another two years to see accolades on parenting. The media, for better or worse, has the funds and the means to send influential messages to millions of people, who are largely addicted to screens. Wouldn’t it be great if they could turn the success of such advertising campaigns in to a true social mission to empower parents – moms and dads – as effective agents and loving influencers in their children’s lives?
What a world it could be.