The marketing world has typically steered clear of the subject of divorce in advertising.
In a lot of ways, the topic is still somewhat taboo. Addressing the breakdown of a family while tastefully pitching a product is tricky, and most companies would much rather play their ad campaigns conservatively.
However, Ikea recently joined a small group of brands willing to address divorce in their advertising.
Ikea’s 60-second commercial, which is titled “Every other week” and includes the tagline “Where life happens,” depicts a divorced father picking up his son from his ex-wife’s house. The young child fidgets nervously as he waits for his dad in his room adorned with Ikea furniture. The boy is clearly nervous as he rides in the car and enters his father’s apartment.
However, he is reassured when he enters his room and sees it decorated the exact same way as it is at his mother’s house.
Ikea is “right there where life happens, whatever happens – and is not afraid to show it like it is,” said Akestam Holst, the Stockholm agency that produced the ad. “Living in two homes with divorced parents is a reality for many children in Sweden. Ikea can ease this situation and perhaps also ease some bad conscience among single parents and help acknowledge the children.”
Although rare, a couple other major brands have also taken on this issue.
In 2014, Honey Maid produced an inspiring campaign celebrating blended families, which encompasses 40 percent of Americans, and children of divorce. The two-minute ad opens with a child of divorce talking about his family’s unique dynamic.
“Sometimes it’s hard to explain our family to people,” he said. “I have two moms, and I’ve got two dads.”
The commercial then cuts between interviews with the divorced parents talking about how they worked together to make the transition easier for their child while clips of each family spending time together plays.
“It’s who we are,” the mother says. “As perfect as we’re supposed to be.”
The ad also plays off the faulty idea of divorced families being “broken” by using the #notbroken hashtag.
In the two months following the ad’s release, Honey Maid saw a 7 percent increase in sales and 400 percent boost in Google searches.
Perhaps the riskiest ad involving divorce comes from Ford Denmark, which produced a three-part short film that is darker than probably any automobile commercial you’ve ever seen.
The film, titled “Familien,” begins with a father and daughter having a snowball fight while the young son stubbornly sits in the car. We quickly learn he is refusing to get out because he is protesting his parents’ decision to divorce.
Parts II and III follow the family as they fall apart and then reunite because of a separate crisis. The viewer is left with feelings of melancholy, but also a sense of hope.
A majority of the scenes in the ad takes place in a car and the message is clear: a lot of your life happens in a car, so you better make sure you have a good one.
“We started thinking about how prevalent the car is in a divorce. It is both a tool and a setting,” said Daniel Kragh-Jacobsen, the director. “Ford’s demography really is the Danish middle class, who do have the highest divorce rate in the world. And so we pitched this film under the banner ‘Ford. Supporting families against the odds.’”
It remains to be seen if other brands will follow the lead of these companies, but the fact is divorce is a reality for millions of people across the globe. As we’ve seen with the rise of “dadvertising,” brands stand to benefit from producing ad campaigns that are realistic and relatable.
Ditching the stigma of divorce could also have positive societal effects. As the child in the Honey Maid ad acknowledges, it’s reassuring knowing you’re not alone.
“At first I didn’t think there were a lot of families like ours,” he says. “But then I realized we weren’t that different.”