should advertising mirror reality?

The ad above, which is part of Ford's new "Bold Moves" campaign, starts out very formulaic, with the picture-perfect family-- two parents, two kids, and a dog-- spending a leisurely day together, but what is particularly salient is the ending. The father is dropped off at his apartment after thanking his apparent ex-wife for letting him spend the day with them. Hmm...

Why was this surprising? With divorce such a common occurrence in society, one would think that marketers would not feel the need to shy away from the issue. However, an article last week in The New York Times, which highlighted Ford's treatment of the subject, suggests that perceptions are changing and many companies are becoming more comfortable reflecting the once stigmatized issue in their advertisements.

“Divorce is so common that I don’t think people view it as sad and depressing anymore,” said Allen P. Adamson, managing director at the New York office of Landor Associates, a corporate identity consulting company owned by the WPP Group. “It’s on every movie, every TV show. There aren’t any more ‘Leave It to Beaver’ families around.”

On one hand, it is admirable that Ford and others are attempting to more accurately reflect the realities of their customers' lives, but the question then becomes-- is this really what people want? Mr. Adamson says there aren't any more 'Leave It to Beaver' families, and he may be right. That actual dynamic may be waning, but what about the idea of the family archetype. After all, aspiration is the bedrock on which the majority of advertising is built. Any thoughts?


At 1:17 PM , Blogger Michelle Marts said...

You know, I saw this ad a few days ago and thought the same thing. It started off like the typical feel-good-with-the-family car spot, but the end just made me sad. Yes, it's realistic, but I don't want to be one of those divorced parents putting up with the other for the sake of the kids - no matter what car I drive.

This kind of makes me think of the new Volkswagin safety spots. Both Ford and Volkswagon seem to focus on reality, but end up leaving me confused. I think we deal with enough "real life" issues everyday. I'd rather not see it in ads. But then again, I'm also not a fan of reality television in general...

At 4:40 PM , Blogger john gibson said...

Hi Michelle, I apologize for the despicably belated response. About your comment, I agree with you-- I actually prefer advertising that portrays a slightly more censored version of reality, however idealistic it may be.


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