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Chat Transcript: That Hallma—  Er, American Greetings Mother’s Day Video


Words do this to us. They feed us even before we see. They build expectations. They are things too. And they lead us to see other things in a certain way. Words activated like and paired with the visual are the message.

Chat Transcript: That Hallma— Er, American Greetings Mother’s Day Video

Danelle Cheney

Welcome to a new feature on WTAT, where we chat about a recent creative project that caught our attention.


D: Ok! You start. What do you think of Hallmark’s TOUGHEST JOB IN THE WORLD ad?

A: I think you can tell Hallmark is located in Kansas City.
Where maybe the two toughest jobs are steer wrangling and being a mom when dad gets lost in the mountains for four months.
What do you think?

D: I just laughed like a hyena.
To be fair.. I’ve been to Kansas City once and didn’t hate it. There’s a cool piano bar there.

A: Okay: piano players. Sitting ALL NIGHT LONG and whoring themselves for dollar bills. 
Trudging home to a family who says, 'You were going to teach or be on Broadway, what the hell happened? you work in A BAR."
Write me a card for THAT, Hallmark.

D: I think about advertising / creative / art in two different ways:
1. Is it successful? 2. Is it intellectually and conceptually sound? 

So.. stuff can be #1, but not #2. And vice versa. And also both.

A: Because of the world today. I add 3. How does this ad affect the way we think of our lives and ourselves.

D: Yeah, that’s a great point. Because nothing happens in a vacuum.
For me.. this falls in the category of being #1 only.

A: Do we know if it WAS successful? Because, people are going to buy cards?

D: My GUESS is that it’s successful because 1. It got people talking. 2. I saw a TON of people sharing the video with their moms, on social media and etc. So it had traction there. And 3. I assume that out of all the people who saw it, a percentage felt guilty and a percentage of that percentage took action and bought a card.
But… all ASSUMPTIONS, of course.
This also largely depends on how we define success. In this case, success = sales ? Or?

A: I think the people who watched it and talk about it are 1. Ad people like us; 2. Moms who already know how hard their lives are. Are dads listening? Kids? I don't really think so?
Tons of people sharing with their moms, that is good. How many cards did they buy?
I am hard nosed about that, you know me! Haha.

D: On a personal note.. I beat the system.
Because I saw it and thought “how cheesy” then posted it on my mom’s Facebook wall. “Thinking of you!” And she called me to say how sweet I was. Then I proceeded to hand-make my own card to send her.

I made sure I bought a NON HALLMARK card this year because I found it so annoying. Not even kidding.
So, score among our test group of two: I bought a card from a Boston design firm, and you made your own... -2
I will bet you that many who sent the video feel that was the accomplished task, as it said something. Possibly Hallmark's best move would have been somehow related a card line to work with that ad format.
"FORWARD THIS VIDEO and get a coupon for a free Hallmark Card when you buy one.”
And creative synching with the ad somehow for a card group. "You saw the ad I forwarded to you, here's the card to say I mean it!”—Then, that is more successful to me.

D: Full disclosure: I did buy some glycerin lotion from a Hallmark store for my mom at Christmastime. Does that factor into our scorecard here?

A: Yes, I will give you a half point for the glycerin purchase.

D: Also to your point, I’m thinking of Lindy West’s article on Jezebel… what about dads? I keep thinking.. it would have been so simple to throw an inclusive mention of dads in there, you know?
Just something like “We didn’t forget about you either, dad.”
And that opens the door for a FATHER’S DAY CAMPAIGN.

A: YES!! Open that door for a FATHER'S DAY CAMPAIGN!! I cannot believe it is 2014 and the cards are still going to show fishing rods, lakes, baseball mitts and golf images BUT THEY WILL.
—And a nod to the family members who help out the busy moms, be they dads, grandparents, siblings, oldest kids, in-laws.

D: Agreed. Obviously we know that for an ad spot.. SIMPLE is best. But.. there is room for that in the cards section certainly, and there is room for opening the door for other campaigns.

A: You cannot address this in an ad spot, no. BUT the sort of hackneyed topic of this spot instantly made me think of the past, old articles, and it does not make me think Hallmark will be in 2014 in general addressing multi style parenting.
but… I would classify this ad by "gimmick delivery" versus "solid thoughtful content" frankly.
And the artwork on Father's Day cards …
It is like everyone at Hallmark in the Mother's Day department probably looks over at the guys in the Father's Day department and says to each other, "Lazy sods, they have been putting out the same cards since 1961.”

D: I was in the gift card section while shopping just the other day and was pleasantly surprised by the card designs. I have seen some thoughtful work there, but most of it is like..
“Dad, yer the best. Here’s the remote.” or “Dad, yer the best. Wanna go fishing?”
As though Dads today have no other interests besides watching TV and fishing and beer and etc.

A: EXACTLY!!! You can hear people smacking their foreheads and sighing.
Seriously I think that there are many traditional families… Moms who will be happy to see someone sees how hard they work. BUT I think there is also an entirely different parenting world—hell, you can even see this "other" crappier parenting world referenced in Hallmark Channel movies! They do some "like a mother to me" cards, but maybe they need to address broader parenting niche groups, not just a 1980 "Moms work hard" thing.

That is why i said earlier I would classifying it as “successful.” It is gimmicky, but it is a formula that they know works.

A: Hahah you know me… it works, but does it WORK work.

D: Well, and thats my #2: Is it intellectually sound. NO.

A: It implies no job is harder.

D: So what’s our score so far? -1.5 ?
(Accounting for my Christmas purchase.)

A: Yes. 
I mean, I PARKED IN FRONT OF A HALLMARK STORE. I looked at it and actually became annoyed.
"My job is HARDER.” “No MINE is.” Ask some mom sewing shoes in Indonesia about her life.
Matt Walsh has a good take on it over at his blog too.

D: I like what he’s saying about how they described the job:
“Standing “all of the time”? NO rest at all? NO sleep at all? Who are we supposed to be parenting here? A chimpanzee on speed?"


D: As a side note: I have a very hateful reaction to viral headlines. “Watch this, you won’t believe what happens.” “Wait to see this, you won’t believe your eyes.”
So I avoided watching this video for about three solid weeks, solely for that reason.
When I did finally click on it, it was out of anger: “LET’S JUST GET THIS OVER WITH.”
But I know I'm the exception, not the rule. They're viral headlines for a reason.

A: Wait I am looking and it says MULLEN did this for CARD STORE for AMERICAN GREETINGSand I am saying Hallmark.

D: I thought it was a Hallmark ad too???
I mean, I knew an ad agency had done it, but…

A: WOW. Even BostInno had to file a correction because they got the client wrong: "Correction: An earlier version of this post misstated the name of Mullen's client. It is Cardstore from American Greetings." 
An innovation website that first wrote about it didn't even get the client right.

D: I am giggling and whispering "holy shit."


D: I would like to award them .5 points. I just rewatched and it says "Maybe you should make her a card."
I like that it wasn't an overt "BUY OUR STUFF." Although I agree that part of the campaign should have included incentive to buy a card, for those who do not feel crafty or have the time to make one.

A: Will that pay for the ad?

D: HOWEVER. Because not only us but other people thought it was Hallmark.. I feel like we need to deduct at least a point or two.

A: Exactly.

D: Okay, maybe the "make your own card" is only worth a quarter of a point.
And maybe they lose another point for maybe giving Hallmark accidental business?
OR maybe they gain a point because you were so annoyed by an American Greetings ad that you did NOT buy a Hallmark card?
This is a real conundrum.

A: HAHAHAH. "It worked! another person was so mad they didn't buy a Hallmark card!"
But—I didn't buy American Greetings either.
Looking at this with strict RESULTS eyes—no sales, and didn't get company name across well unless I sit through it forever to the end... I was annoyed by the sappy ending and never got to the titles.

D: I thought I watched it through the end and saw a Hallmark logo—I could've sworn.
Obviously I did not. I was probably imagining it, because I like the Hallmark logo more than American Greetings.

A: That is the classic test they often put focus groups through—“Whose ad was it"—because our brains are built on expectation and filling in the blanks (like autocorrect) and people will often swear they "saw" another brand name.
That is why it is so dangerous to look like another brand's style as we have talked about before with clients.

D: Yeah, exactly. A good example for us to file away.

A: Well… this has been educational.

D: It has.
Okay... a final score? Remembering our scoring is "Whose Line Is It Anyway" style.

A: Hahaha. Yes.

D: So: 
-1 Because you went out of your way to NOT purchase a card from a big company
+1 For viral-ness
-1 For not saying anything new
-2 Not extending the campaign with incentives
-2 For zero brand recognition (We thought it was Hallmark, and we weren't the only ones)
- .5 For reinforcing gender stereotypes
- .5 For preying upon innocent job seekers in this economy
+1 Cause my mom liked it

A: Finally….production values?

D: Oh yes, we should also discuss that.

A: Looks like CNBC designed it, so -2. You?

D: I will say.. I like the format. Webcam interviews. It was engaging to watch in that sense, at least for me.

A: Webcam, okay. I think I found it bland looking, color wise, so I got kind of bored quickly somehow.

D: I like advertising that utilizes digital experiences like video chatting and facebook and web browsing. Its relatable, people see that daily and are familiar with it.

A: Yes but look how well it is done for the ads for the youtube makeup artist and baker who have their own online shows.

D: We’re debating basically polished vs. non polished. I think they were trying to make it feel "REALISTIC," to make more people think it was just a viral video and not an ad, so they chose non polished. I can see the reasoning.

A: Because the "guy on phone" thing was instantly so fake to me at the top of the ad, I knew it was a fake, so that skewed me, then I was all into how bland it looked

D: Hahaha. so this is a DRAW. +1, -1 = 0 points

A: Okay we will hold it to -5 then?

D: Yeah, I think thats fair and accurate.

A: This is why I have to give it to P&G's Olympics spot for moms last year which beautifully wove the "hard work" into the "but creating something wonderful" for a more positive yet sympathetic view of mothers.
P&G: “The hardest job in the world (we will debate this of course as we just did) IS THE BEST JOB IN THE WORLD” (again debatable but it tried to make a point).

D: Obviously we know that an ad agency did this campaign for them, and we do not understand the dynamic of the relationship there—who made the decisions, etc. It could have started out as something we would have scored high and got “tweaked” to what it is now.
That's something we have to acknowledge as we know client relationships and approvals processes can be... er....... tricky.

A: That is very true.