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The Golden Age of Marketing: Our Favorite Ads for Grandparents

In case you didn’t notice while you were watching the Super Bowl this year or scrolling through all of the videos that your friends love to share on their Facebook walls, advertising has taken a different tone, especially when it comes to marketing to families.

When society changes, advertisers eventually follow suit and design their ads to match, showing a picture that comes closer to matching reality for more of a company’s customers. From ads that show Dad as a young girl’s primary caregiver to commercials that show adoptive, multiracial, or same-sex parenting couples, we’re seeing more images that capture just how diverse the word “family” can be.

One of our favorite focuses of the new family advertising is the grandparent generation. A number of people who have a Nana or a Papa of their very own have been lucky enough to learn just how good at spoiling a kid grandparents can be. However, grandparents often also play an influential role in raising their grandchildren, especially in certain cultures and in economically unstable times, like the recession that shrouded the U.S. at the end of the last decade.

For all that they do as caretakers, grandparents have earned the attention of some of the biggest corporate advertisers in the U.S. The ads they produce aren’t just simple money grabs, either; some of the best present stories that earn a few giggles and draw a few tears—pretty much what you’d hope for when someone features Gram-Gram in a commercial.

Here are our favorite advertisements that both target and feature the golden generation, the ads we think are doing it right.

Humana’s “Grandparents” Commercial

Why We Like It:

Anyone who’s read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or who’s seen the movies based on it (sorry, guys, but the Gene Wilder version trumps all) has been exposed to the idea that kids can have a relationship with their grandparents that they just can’t with their parents. Often, a grandparent is the first adult a kid hangs out with who isn’t primarily responsible for discipline and diaper changes but who instead brings toys and hugs. In short, as one writer suggests, a grandparent can be a kid’s first best friend.

In fact, do a search for “grandparents as friends,” and notice how many results come up for schools holding “Grandparents and Special Friends Day.” Notice how they categorize grandparents as friends. This ad from Humana hits that exact note.

Johnson’s Baby’s “The Grandparents Frame” Campaign

Why We Like It:

We found this campaign successful for two reasons. One is that it take the idea of technology, a subject which older people are stereotypically iffy about, and makes it very human by suggesting that it can help bring families closer. The product ultimately being sold is the Johnson’s Baby line of care items, but with this easy-to-use Grandparents Frame app and the limited edition corresponding picture frame from Johnson’s, look how easy it is to care for Baby! And look at how heartwarming it is to watch grandparents see their grandkids for the first time in years. Nicely played, ad wizards.

The other reason this particular campaign made our list is because it suggests how important grandparents are culturally. Although this campaign was created for a Middle Eastern audience, the parents and children featured are presumed to live in the U.S., where cultures and traditions blend and mix regularly. A number of non-European American traditions involve grandparents centrally in the lives of children, which only makes this ad more poignant.

Amazon’s “Kindle for the Holidays” Advertisement

Why We Like It:

What isn’t to like? First of all, the kid’s a voracious reader with a healthy collection of nerdy sci-fi interests, so half of us here at QLP would be like, “This is the best kid ever.” Second of all, while we’re talking about cultural and ethnic diversity, this ad puts a face on readership that authors like the famously outspoken Sherman Alexie have long noted was missing.

And then, on top of all that, throw Grandma into the mix. She’s technologically literate, browsing the Web for her grandson’s Christmas gift. She also appears to be the person primarily raising him, given that they spend a bunch of time together in the home and are opening presents together on Christmas Day.

According to a 2013 study undertaken by Brown University and the Russell Sage Foundation, one in ten grandchildren was living in the same house with a grandparent. Additionally, one out of three grandmothers living with a grandchild were primarily responsible for raising that child, and black and Hispanic grandmothers were especially likely to be primary caregivers.

This is the modern family, and Amazon wants to get it reading.

Oscar Mayer’s “Grandpa and Transparency” Commercial

Why We Like It:

The ads featured above are all rather heartwarming and sentimental. But grandparents, if nothing else, are a diverse lot, and this ad presents a representation of the senior spirit that we’ve loved ever since Betty White came back into national attention making bawdy jokes on Saturday Night Live: that of the plain-spoken elder.

There are plenty of commercials out there that feature older folk doing the things that respectable family members and upstanding citizens typically don’t do, including a 2013 Taco Bell commercial that shows retirement home residents having way more fun at a rave that I ever have, mostly because I’ve never actually been to a rave. This Oscar Mayer ad, however, puts some family love into the mix: Grandpa says a bunch of things that people don’t often say in polite society, and he still comes off as caring.

* * *

There’s a practical reason for companies to turn their focus to grandparents; it isn’t just because we love storytelling and all of the warm fuzzies that we get from a good tale. As caretakers, whether on a daily or an occasional basis, grandparents spend money on their kids. That’s money that companies would like grandparents to be spending with them. And research predicts that as the Baby Boomer generation continues to age, the amount that seniors have to spend, whether on themselves or their younger loved ones, will only grow larger and more influential.

In short, we expect to see more advertising targeting Nana and Papa. However, if it means that we also get more stories that celebrate the nontraditional roles that grandparents play in our lives, we don’t mind.

What has the new wave of advertising for families meant for your business? Which ads featuring grandparents are your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!

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  1. Jen

    I had way too much fun reading this and watching all of these commercials! What’s better than a crotchety, straight-shooting grandpa?

    As someone who was raised by a single mom with the help of grandma and grandpa, I appreciate this growing trend in advertising. I think a lot of times ad companies spend all of their time and efforts on the newer generations, knowing this is where the future lies (understandably so). However, they then leave the baby boomers in the dust, forgetting that these very people were their foundation. By targeting this age group while trying to (gently) integrate technology and newer ideas, companies are acknowledging their buying power and importance.

    Awesome article as always. I love my granny! (She made me write that).

  2. Rondell Caraos

    It is funny to hear that the BabyBoomers like to spend thier money onb grandchildren. My dad is the perfect example! Nothing makes him happier than spending quality time with his kids and grandkids! He is VERY generous with his monitary support and spoils the “kids & grandkids” to a point where it’s almost like he is a millionaire?!? Who doesn’t love watching a commercial with elders? They do make people feel warm and fuzzy! What a better way to promote your company and target some of the BabyBoomers! Thank you for the article and commercials! Since I do not have any grandparents left… I am going to call my dad and plan us to get together so I could go hug him! 🙂

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