Geile/Leon Marketing Communications

Trending from G/L: Marketing a Sensitive Subject

In our weekly status meetings, we bring in advertising and marketing trends that we want to discuss. While it’s always a great thought exercise, this week Grace brought in a video from the Marie Curie Foundation from Great Britian, a non-profit organization that deals with palliative care and encouraging families to discuss the plans for a loved one’s impending death.

If that sounds heavy… well… that’s because it is. It’s not an easy subject to talk about, which is undoubtedly why this organization exists in the first place. However, this video spot turns that uncomfortable feeling on its head. Since talking about death is so difficult, the English language on either side of the Atlantic Ocean has an innumerable amount of euphemisms for it. So the Marie Curie Foundation took those euphemisms, added a playful tone, wrote a lighthearted song and animated those expressions in a semi-morbid way. 

After watching the video, we reacted immediately. Rightfully, many thought it was a flip and overly cutesy way to talk about such a literally dire subject. Would this actually encourage people to talk about their terminal illnesses and work with their family to put together an end-of-life plan, or would this make the uncomfortable subject even more uncomfortable by making it child-like when a child-like innocence is not conducive to talking about death?

On the other hand, we began to discuss the cultural differences between Americans and the British. Just a look at British television programming shows plenty of humor that celebrates the macabre, including Snuff Box, a sketch show about two hangmen who make jokes while hanging people. 

That’s not to mention the differences in how our cultures communicate with each other. While Americans tend to be more direct and to the point, the British communication style can be complex in its indirect nature. In fact, the British have a tendency to often say the opposite of what they mean as a joke. And not even in a sarcastic, or even perceptible, way. Not to mention the sayings, sometimes colorful and often completely obfuscating the entirety of what they really mean. 

So perhaps this spot is directly taking on the British tendency to avoid speaking about difficult subjects directly. Does that mean it will be successful at it, however? Can it change a cultural tendency ingrained over generations upon generations? 

In the end, we were there discussing it, exactly the call-to-action they wanted to attain. So maybe the results are all that matters. Emotional reactions aside, how effective is this ad? Did we lose something in translation? Maybe it will effect change. Maybe the traditional, somber way of talking about serious issues isn’t working and needed to be disrupted. However, it did bring about a discussion that every marketer should keep top of mind: messaging should have a deep understanding of those who it is targeting first and foremost. 

And that’s why in everything we do at G/L, the underlying theme is to make it mean something. It shouldn’t just be clever. It should be effective. And if it means something to our target audience, as our friends across the pond would say, then Bob’s your uncle.