Fighting couples are good for Valentine's Day sales

For some marketers, Valentine's Day means uncomfortable imagery, including arguments, violence, trauma and suffering. When you want your ad to jump out of the pack, you sometimes need to go against the tide.

For the CBC's ad guy, pitting partners against each other makes marketing sense

Valentine's Day is traditionally all about love.

But several recent Valentine's Day ads focus on conflict and outright violence.

You can see it in a 2014 Valentine's commercial from FTD florists, where a couple disagree about who ruined last year's romantic outing. The woman didn't appreciate the restaurant with the all-you-can-eat shrimp, and the man clearly enjoyed it far too much.

In another ad from the same campaign, it's obvious the couple have very different ideas about what "not getting anything" really means on Valentine's Day.

Even though the commercials end with the message, "Flowers say it better," we're still left with the impression that Valentine's Day leads to arguments. That impression is reinforced in this 2015 ad for a Lenovo tablet. A couple argues about who's going to take the dog for a walk. Fortunately, the dog is clever enough to use a tablet to show his owners a slideshow of themselves in happier times, which rekindles their romance. 

Type at the end says, "Project a little love this Valentine's Day."

Even a 2015 Valentine's tribute to loving couples from Ikea starts with conflict, in both Swedish and English. One of the voices is an Ikea clerk saying, "At times, I'm amazed they're together."

By the Valentine's greeting at the end, though, we've also met many long-term, loving couples.

If only things ended that happily in an ad for the Portal 2 game. In the 2011 ad, an animated man gives chocolates to an animated woman because, as a fact bubble reveals, "Chocolate is the most popular Valentine's gift."

Then a more suspect bubble reveals that "54% of women are allergic to chocolate," so the woman becomes ill. He then tries giving her a giant diamond, which crushes her to death.

In a prank video that Ford created for last Valentine's Day, we see various unsuspecting guys going on a blind date with an attractive woman.

She offers to drive on their date, then cuts through a vacant parking lot where she gets the guys' pulses racing by pulling stunts and driving at a heart-pounding rate.

At the end we see "Happy Valentine's Day," along with the Ford logo and theme line "Go Further," which surely takes on new meaning here.

As we've seen many times before, when marketers want to get our attention, they often do the opposite of what we expect. When everyone else is portraying romance for Valentine's Day, these marketers break through by focusing on mayhem.

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.


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