Brands home in on family themes

In his Stray Thoughts, Breandán O Broin looks at brands embracing families

In many ways, autumn’s arrival signals the start of the advertising year. The frivolity of silly season summer offers is cast aide and marketing eyes turn to the real job of boosting brands, building awareness, and scripting award-winning Christmas blockbuster TV commercials. Not to mention the task of enhancing one’s own career and landing tons of new business.

But that’s only a by-product of our work, not a primary objective because unlike those tortured creative creatures in London adland, who proclaim a hatred of what they do, in Ireland we love our work. What it often seems we love most is to portray real people enriching their own lives cosseted within a strongly familial trans-generational framework.

In some ways, it appears innocently reassuring that at a time when much of what’s going on in our society seems chaotic, shambolic and fractured from both an institutional and individual perspective, that adland reverts to type and seeks comfort in the powers of persuasion we attribute to the ideal of the family – like what Tesco (above) is now espousing.

Obviously our depictions of family archetypes have matured over the years and our instincts and insights now encourage us to show the family as an ‘empowered’ societal unit capable of making its own decisions as to what and how it consumes the consumables on offer. Some of these depictions of real-life narratives are excellently conceived and portrayed. Take AIB (below).

‘Backing Belief’ ads, showing people who have achieved freedom from their mortgaged lives, are striking in their originality and delivery. Lidl turns to local heroes as Trolleycam captures the internal sparring that exists within the family unit. Like the Norse invaders of yore, both Lidl and Aldi seem determined to become more Irish than the Irish themselves.

The German discounter ads illustrate that the family that shops together is our modern-day equivalent of the long-lost Irish Catholic, Rosary-reciting family praying together and staying together. The old becomes the new; it is only the source of solace that changes as the Irish DNA, represented by family collaboration, becomes fundamental to the core communication.

The clear message is as a people, we Irish still worship the ideal of the family at the heart of the nation. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. At heart, we are a conservative rather than a creative people, much and all as we might like to proclaim the opposite. Our national sense of balance is probably just about right and it is right that advertisers reflect this as they hold up their communications mirror to our ever-changing, stay-put society.

So, to answer the question posed at the top of the page. The answer is in the affirmative – happy families can and do work in advertising. The only drawback is that too many united families leads to too many impediments to brand identity and correct product attribution. As other brands band-wagon on the authentic happy family strategy, similarity of approach soon   leads to confusion of identification. Who can remember who is talking on whose behalf?

Advertising apes itself; it was ever thus. Advertising must always reinvent itself. It will be ever thus. As you take to your creative cocoon seeking to find the spark to ignite your Christmas marketing message, insist you go against the grain of the times and avoid yet another warm-hearted portrayal of family life, however honestly and humorously observed.

To celebrate Christmas 2017, people who work in adland should perhaps concentrate on making sure that the happy families who work in advertising are their own.

Slán go foill.


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