Using Divorce to Sell

by | Jun 13, 2016 | Off Topic

View these three films, a succession of ads for Ford in Denmark, before you read this blog.

This series of films are incredible, creative and powerful – no question. It is storytelling more than selling, and the major message is, as the article states, “a lot of life happens in cars, so buy a good one.”

But I wonder whether it’s appropriate to use divorce to sell. Good advertising uses music, nature, aspirations, dreams, hopes, tapping into our hearts and our yearnings as a means of selling stuff.

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The daughter in the Ford series of ads featuring a divorced family.

I asked my PR specialist, Lynne Golodner, what she thought about using divorce to sell cars – or any item. It’s a novel idea, innovative, never-been-done, Lynne said.

The best ads, she went on to say, incorporate poignant storytelling that pulls at the heartstrings. Stories that evoke an emotional response.

The best ads, she went on to say, incorporate poignant storytelling that pulls at the heartstrings. Stories that evoke an emotional response.

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We see a graduate on a sunny day tossing her mortar-board into the air, and tears come to our eyes as we think of all the celebrations and moments in our own lives and those of the people we love. We know it’s the work of creative ad folks trying to evoke a response, and so we can appreciate the response that comes.

We call it artful. Expert. Talent.

But divorce has such a negative connotation in our society. In this ad, the car becomes the salvation, the refuge, the retreat for the child being transported back and forth between parents and the child’s ability to attempt to assert some control over a situation where he has none.

In a way, the car becomes the home, the constant, the place where the divorce does not exist and there is no choice to make between one parent or another.

In the car, conflict ceases. It can be shut out. It can be ignored.

So, is this a story that should be used to sell? Is it commentary on the breakdown of our society? Is it appropriate?

And better yet, does it work?

Denmark’s divorce rate has been steady at around 40 percent, which is comparable to the U.S. rate of divorce. However, the details are far easier. In Denmark, there is a presumption of 50/50 custody and child support is figured out by a table – and it’s not high. Plus, the income of the custodial parent does not factor into the calculations. (Check out more here.)

In America, divorce has a really bad rep and I think an ad like this would be received negatively, no matter how gently it is approached. Americans only see divorce as being sad, initially. You hear someone say, “Unfortunately, they’re now divorced…”

And when people think about getting divorced, they think about all the conflict.

In Denmark, that isn’t so. As the Harvard article above states, divorced Danes seem to have suffered much less trauma than their American counterparts. As we know, Denmark is considered one of the happiest places on the planet.

So maybe an ad like this is appropriate, fair and instructive there where there is a different focus. Maybe we could learn a little something from it.

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At the end of the third commercial, the entire family sits together on a bench and says in Danish, “Everything will be ok.”

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