I was watching an ad on telly last night for a double album of songs, and I just knew it was going to end with the words ‘The Perfect Gift for Mothers Day!’ The reason I knew that was because the album was called ‘Bland Undemanding Songs for Generic People’ – oh alright then, that was a lie. It was actually called ‘Relaxing Classics’ or something, but it contained only bland undemanding songs – and songs that I love, I have to say – but unrelentingly over two discs? I’m old and experienced in life enough to know that that’s a mistake.
It was insulting to mothers on two levels then. Firstly, there is no acknowledgement that we are grown-ups. We have been through the teenage years of making endless mix-tapes (in my day) of slushy, classic, mournful, deep and meaningful songs, and we have experienced playing them endlessly until losing the will to live. As we matured, we learned that one beautiful song stands out, but back-to-back beautiful songs over the 45 minutes of a TDK cassette tape just cancel each other out. We grew up, we learned stuff, so that we can now say with confidence to our kids as they upload their favourite tracks onto their ipods: ‘It’s better to listen to the whole album.’
And the second insult is, of course, the assumption that all mothers are the same, and all mothers are bland. All Mothers Day ads reflect this stereotype; you can just imagine the ad agency brainstorming meetings: ‘Slightly subversive humour? Cut. Driving classics? Nope, but file for Fathers’ Day. Outdoor adventury theme? Er..no. Real life? Too risky. A serious literature theme? You’re kidding. Scientific stuff? No, that’s for hair products. Come on guys, too much personality, cut it back, we’re dealing with mothers remember? Think inoffensive, bland, nice, unthreatening… ‘Relaxing Classics’? It’s a wrap!’
It’s a bit like the run-up to Christmas when me and the kids play our game of ‘Spot the Perfume Ad.’ Anything with moody music, film-noir, sulky faces and lashings of pretension – we can spot these ads in two seconds now, we’re good at this game. The first to say ‘It’s a Mothers Day ad!’ wins points in my family right now.
I remember years ago when I was relatively new to this mothering game and noticed for the first time that all the record shops and supermarkets were suddenly displaying albums by crooners like Matt Munroe, and wondering why. It gradually dawned on me with growing horror that this is what I had become in the eyes of the world. Luckily not in the eyes of my eldest son who bought me the first album by Bloc Party.
This year, though, the ad that I think is the most inadvised is the M&S one for a ‘Mothers Day Roast Dinner for only £20.’ The breath-taking assumption that if Mum’s not cooking you would obviously have to buy in a whole meal, plus the fact that every cash-strapped mother in the country will be unable to watch that ad without the grim calculations going on in her head: ‘ £20? I could do that for £4.75,’ and I think we have the ad that manages to be the most insulting to everyone at the same time as massively misunderstanding the target demographic.
Well done M&S! And Happy Mothers Day!