Mother’s Day Advertising—Gag Us with a Spoon!

Mother’s Day has ended, and husbands and children everywhere are wiping their collective brows—they survived. As someone who grew up with a mom who did her share of huffing away from the dinner table full of ungrateful kids, or from the pile of the three of us kids pulling each other’s hair out, or from the *insert your favorite disappointment of real life that makes Mother’s Day not actually fully magical here*, I try to keep it low pressure for my family. After all, on Mother’s Day, my kids are still the same whiny lovely angry funny crybaby sweetheart humans that they are every day. I get that. I will not be the mom who huffs away.

And I actually do enjoy Mother’s Day. It’s a chance for us to celebrate motherhood—to feel feelings and wax poetic about all of the many things that are great about this shared adventure of parenthood. You just have to scroll through your Facebook feed to see how sentimental people get about it. Picture after picture of moms, “lucky to have these kids” and adults whose moms are their heroes. It’s an overall happy day—lots of good feelings shared, very little disagreement or negativity.

And advertisers jump right on board. Or they try to at least. Mashable and American Greetings teamed up to interview kids about why they are thankful for their moms.

And even the White House jumped in and had Obama call three random mothers to tell them they are doing a good job.

But these two videos, to me, missed the mark. Both attempt to tug at the heartstrings, but do not get even close. The kids’ responses are boring or coaxed—the interviewers clearly had some pliers and were pulling teeth to get something worth sharing. And the people on the other end of the line with Obama take forever to believe he is actually even calling them. They feel like they are being duped, but are polite and grateful in their responses just in case it happens to be him. I do not cry, and I do not feel feelings.

Teleflora also tried to made us cry by delivering marines and soldiers home to their moms.

It may get us a little at the end, but it’s such a familiar story. We’ve seen this before—on Ellen, in shows, in other commercials.

The problem with all of these videos, though, is that none are memorable. As I scrolled through my Facebook yesterday, my eyes blurred over. I get it, I get it. We all love our moms. If we have kids, we’re lucky to have them. Everyone is saying the same thing—advertisers included—and it has lost its effect. (It’s a similar problem with April Fools online. Brands all pull their pranks and release their fake products and we all fake laugh at them. We thought it was funny a few years ago, but it is expected rather than surprising now. It is white noise.) If they are lucky, we cry and share. But nothing about it has sticking power.

And then, as I scrolled yesterday, I saw a post from a friend that was different. She said, “There’s something about shouting to your youngest that he can’t stand on his oldest sister’s head to make Mother’s Day complete.” Gah! Real motherhood!

Advertisers could take a cue here. Some have. I found this Samsung approach to Mother’s Day to be totally refreshing:

So the challenge is on for next year. Rise above the white noise, advertisers. Mother’s Day comes with enough mush. Let’s be original. Let’s be real. Let’s laugh at motherhood. This is what the people are missing—this is what they will remember.