Advertisers turn Mother's Day on its head to sell more

As expected, there are lots of Mother's Day ads running right now. But as CBC Ad Guy Bruce Chambers points out, many of today's ads do the unexpected to get our attention.

CBC's Ad Guy looks at how marketers break convention to sell products for moms, and their kids

A still from an ad for the pediatric milk brand Anmum. According to CBC Ad Guy Bruce Chambers, marketers aim to draw attention with surprising ads around special occasions like Mother's Day. (AnmumTV/YouTube)

Mother's Day is coming up, and as expected, there are already lots of mom-related ads running. Breaking from convention, though, many of today's ads do the unexpected to get our attention.

In a Telus ad from last year, for example, we see three tough-looking, unsmiling guys finishing up work in a big industrial plant before heading out to their motorcycles and half-ton trucks. 

But just when we think it's an ad for beer, bikes or trucks, the guys pull out their phones and burst into smiles. It turns out all it takes is a chat with Mom to make these men happy.

At the end of the ad is the text "Happy Mother's Day," and the Telus logo. And it's not quite what you'd expect amid a sea of sweet, heartwarming, utterly forgettable Mother's Day ads.

Another ad from 2015 shows several moms' astonishing ineptitude at texting. The moms send texts that are way too long or empty, or ask questions like "How do I rewind my texts?"

The ad ends with "There's no one quite like Mom. This Sunday, give her a call," followed by the Samsung logo.

Equally unexpected is an ad which ran in Malaysia, Hong Kong and the Philippines last year.

It features several people who lost their mothers early in life and were mothered by others.

Type on screen says, "As we celebrate Mother's Day, let's also celebrate the other mothers in our lives. Happy Other's Day."

Then we see the logo for a Anmum, a pediatric milk brand.

Another ad proves that taking an unexpected approach to get our attention doesn't mean a commercial can't be emotional.

In a 2015 ad for a Danish jewelry brand, we see blindfolded children who are asked to pick their mothers out from a group of women. The kids unerringly find their moms.

Finally, a 2014 ad shows women and men being interviewed for the world's toughest job.

The interviewees are increasingly disgusted by the unbelievable demands of the job.

But things really turn sour when the applicants discover the job comes without a salary.

Then the interviewer comes clean, and the mood changes dramatically as the job title is revealed — "mom."

It turns out mothers around the world work above and beyond for no money, all the time.

And at the end is the American Greetings logo.

The element of surprise, whether it's mined for humour or emotions, is an effective way to get attention and keep viewers engaged.

This is especially true at Mother's Day, when most ads are so predictable, they do exactly what we expect them to. 

Bruce Chambers is a syndicated advertising columnist for CBC Radio. 


Bruce began his career writing radio commercials for stations in Red Deer, Calgary and Toronto. Then in-house at a national department store, and then ad agencies with campaigns for major national and regional clients. For the past couple of decades, he's been a freelance creative director and copywriter for agencies in Calgary and Victoria. He began his weekly Ad Guy columns on CBC Radio in 2003.