'World's Toughest Job' Feels Absurdly Calculated And Underengineered

Jesus H. Christ. Enough with the blippin’ wonder-moms already.

Instilling brand videos with a healthy dose of mom worship has become the viral-bait equivalent of praising the troops. No reasonable person would disagree, right? Of course moms are wonderful! They are generous with their time and their hugs! Sometimes, they proffer baked goods! Truly, there is not a single recorded instance of a mother withholding affection, or berating her eldest charge for misplacing a bathing suit, or choosing to gab with the gals at Starbucks instead of painstakingly hand-stitching the frayed seams on Junior’s trousers.

That’s my roundabout way of saying, wow, I couldn’t be more put off by this week’s viral smasheroni, American Greetings’ “World’s Toughest Job.” Getting a head start on the manic card-gifting season by debuting the clip 27 days prior to Mother’s Day, American Greetings posits - put on your hot-take crash helmets now, my delicate little flowers - that being a mother is hard. It often involves personal sacrifice in the form of bending and mood moderation. It requires skill in resource management, first aid and diplomacy. Plus the hours (interminable) and pay (nonexistent) wag a defiant middle finger in OSHA’s face. Take THAT, stupid impotent OSHA!

In fact, being a mother is so hard that, if the job requirements were spelled out in a help-wanted ad for Rehtom Inc., nobody would apply… well, except for a smattering of curious georges and georginas, who throw their hats in the ring for reasons that are as mysterious as the rain. Are they plants? Whatever. Their job interviews are subsequently taped and form the basis of “World’s Toughest Job.” The clip ping-pongs between footage of the smarmy interviewer revealing details of the gig (“on holidays, the workload is gonna go up,” “if you had a life, we’d ask you to sort of give that life up”) and the applicants reacting with a mixture of bemusement and disbelief (“is that even legal?”).

But just when you start to think that the job may not be for you, what with the unending torment and whatnot, the plinky piano music starts to sound and the interviewer reveals himself as a softie. “What if I told you there’s someone that actually, currently holds this position right now? Billions of people, actually. Moms.” Whoa, I totally missed that “Rehtom” is “Mother” spelled backwards. It’s like the Keyser Soze and Luke Skywalker paternity disclosures rolled into a single cerebellum-melting reveal.

The interviewees, still bemused, acknowledge that, wow, you’ve sure given us a lot to think about, Mr. Person. Then an oddly obtuse brand message flashes on the screen (“this Mother’s Day, you might want to make her a card” - isn’t American Greetings in the card-making business itself? is the company trying to encourage stalwart young job-seekers to hang a card-making shingle of their own?), and we’re out.

Where to begin? “World’s Toughest Job” paints motherhood as ceaseless, self-abnegating toil, on par with working in the salt mines or at Wal-Mart. It paints motherhood with the broadest of brushes, not acknowledging that the “job” has evolved beyond 1950s sitcom stereotypes. It makes their sacrifices seem almost martyr-like in nature.

Worse, “World’s Toughest Job” feels absurdly calculated and underengineered. Yes, all marketing is calculated, but heavens, the thinking behind this clip doesn’t even rise to the level of pursuing the low-hanging fruit. It’s more like placing an immaculately buffed apple on a smooth tree stump beneath a huge “eat me!” sign, leaving it there for the taking by blind squirrels, disoriented deer or even Baldwin brothers. Again: being pro-mom isn’t like being pro-mandatory-annual-colonoscopy or pro-procreation. There’s no real room for debate here.

Also: As I’m reminded while slathering peanut butter across sheets of bread five times a week, sometimes dads do “mom” work. Also: let’s get a bunch of commercial fisherman to weigh in on the toughest-job-iness of commercial fishing vis-a-vis the challenges of carpooling. Also: if any of the interviewees applied for this job thinking it was a real opportunity, that sublime degree of desperation isn’t something to be celebrated. Also: I love you, mom, and I’m going to let you know this by telling you a couple of hundred times per year, rather than by mailing you a folded piece of recycled paper funnied up with the image of a yawning cat.

For a clip of this nature, I would imagine there’s the temptation to look at the volume of YouTube views and social-media likes and gloss over the obviousness and obliviousness of the appeal. Don’t be that person.

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4 comments about "'World's Toughest Job' Feels Absurdly Calculated And Underengineered".
  1. Paula Mcleod from Worth A Thousand Words , April 17, 2014 at 6:19 p.m.
    Larry, are you spoiling for a fight? The video is already very popular, not just with moms, but with their daughters, who based on what I see on my Facebook feed, are posting it on their mothers' timelines. I thought it was clever to catalog the responsibilities of motherhood-- there's a lot of drudgery and expectation and it all rang true to me. But then, I'm just a mom (and a marketer). And of course lots of dads do the same tasks, but we will have to wait til Father's Day to thank them. I do agree that it is odd that American Greetings chose to use this marketing ploy not for their line of paper cards (well sort of, as they are mentioned) but for their online card service, Cardstore.com. Why not say "make or buy her a card" or "send her a card?" I hope your mom doesn't read what you wrote!
  2. Clarisse Céspedes from BabyCenter en Español , April 17, 2014 at 6:21 p.m.
    I agree with you. But I watched the video and cried for a while. Yes, like soaking my tears with all and hiccups. So mission accomplished I would say to the video team who produced this. I would actually make a whole series of the Toughest jobs in the world, including dads and fishermen. It never hurts to feel understood when you are tired and sick of waking up with that same 2 questions every morning: what meetings do I have to attend today and what can I slather in my kid's bread other than peanut butter. Loved reading you!
  3. Connie Terwilliger from 42nd St. Productions - ISDN Voice Talent , April 17, 2014 at 6:46 p.m.
    There is nothing wrong with extolling the virtues and countless hours put in by the world's mothers, but this video missed the mark. It was contrived and the punch line became obvious well before that odd closing title graphic. Your post here sums it up well. Thank you. A much better, heart-tugging, point-making, yet still obvious video is the new Thai insurance video (Unsung Hero) with all the beautiful people with its message of giving. I am weary of the superficial, click here to be amazed mindset that is manifested in post after post. Mindless find out what color, flower, aura, Disney character your are surveys.
  4. Rick Monihan from None , April 17, 2014 at 9:09 p.m.
    With you on this one.