It's a tough line marketers must walk when talking to women with kids: you can't show something so idealized that moms simply gape in astonishment at how daft the thing is -- but nobody wants to see, well, reality.
Panelists at the inaugural Advertising Week presentation, "Moms and the New Zeitgeist," said the ones who get it right -- companies like Toyota (Saatchi & Saatchi) with the "Swagger Wagon" campaign, and Olay brand, with ads where kids slather anti-wrinkle cream all over grandpa, who's asleep on the couch -- show a not-too-stark reality. But they deliver a message with humor and meaningful insights about motherhood.
The panel -- which included Tony Rogers, SVP of marketing at Walmart; Katherine Wintsch, VP of group planning at the retail giant's AOR, The Martin Agency, and author Michael Clements -- talked not only abut media and the creative challenges involved in reaching a portion of the market representing $2.3 trillion in spending power, but also about the institutional barriers.
Rogers, who joined Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart in 2005, said the hardest thing about reaching moms begins inside the company. "What I have found is getting the right insights, creative and media plans to talk to moms is difficult because there aren't enough moms in the process," he said, adding that The Martin Agency has put moms on its creative and media teams.
Easier said than done, said Wintsch, who argued that it's hard simply keeping moms in the agency. "It's a huge challenge. It's a male-dominant industry, and when you are a working mom, you are one woman working in two worlds. Agencies must respect that there is another life at home."
Wintsch said the tendency of marketers and agencies to look at "moms" as a homogenous, one-dimensional group leads to monochromatic creative. "Moms are not just people with three-year-olds," she said, noting that in a lot of ads directed at mothers, the kids are toddlers and the mothers are supernaturally effervescent.
"But, then, moms are also a major part of the problem because they show up to focus groups and say, 'Hi, my name's Catherine, and life's great!' They want to look good in front of other moms, so it's a vicious cycle. Really, we need to figure out how to do research that doesn't allow this."
Rogers said Walmart has a unique perspective of having supply partners who neutered the idealized view of the world. "If you take beauty and track us over time, you see us infusing authenticity into the work," he says, noting the Oil of Olay campaign Walmart did with P&G.
He also said the company has gone heavy into social media, initially as a learning project. "We had been focused on TV, but now we have 10 million fans on Facebook. It's moved from a hobby to a real marketing vehicle."
Wintsch said social media is especially important when it comes to reaching moms because they are time-constrained, don't watch as much TV, and "digital lives in the gaps in her life -- two minutes here, five minutes here. And moms say digital serves a purpose: to make life more efficient, period. Marketers have to ask themselves what their efficiency quotient is with digital," she said.
Other ads panelists said were spot-on for reaching moms: Kraft Macaroni & Cheese by Crispin Porter and the diminutive-Darth Vader ad for Volkswagen's Passat.