Acceptance is More than Cosmetic in Moving J&B Ad




This week’s Ad Of The Week is from Spain, and it’s a Christmas ad for J&B Whiskey which has enjoyed plenty of worldwide viral success for its deft handling of a sensitive topic – the acceptance of transgender people by their families.

“She” is a long ad, one that takes its time letting the viewer guess where the story is going. We’re introduced to an old man, who seems at first to have a secret hobby – he’s learning to put on make-up, something he’s at pains to hide from friends and acquaintances. His initial goes are dreadful but by the time his family’s Christmas get-together comes around he’s got the hang of it.

Then we learn why he’s doing it. One of his grandchildren is trans, and her grandfather is able to help her put on make-up so she can be with her family as who she really is: Ana, his granddaughter. The ad isn’t a fairytale – there are looks of concern and puzzlement on the faces of some family members as they ‘meet’ Ana, but there’s also joy and acceptance and the grandfather’s own pride.

J&B’s ad takes risks – not just because of the content, but also because the story has a slow build-up and asks a lot of its viewer. Its viral success shows that the brand’s confidence in making a slow burn narrative ad has paid off – for millions, the story has been worth the effort. The ad scored an exceptional Brand Fluency score in Test Your Ad, meaning people know who it’s for (often a problem with big emotional stories).

But on Test Your Ad, it’s emotional impact that contributes most to effectiveness – and “She” is a winner here too. Its score of 4.4-Stars is very strong, and the emotional intensity of the ad contributes to an exceptional short-term Spike Rating as well.

We know from our Feeling Seen studies that work which resonates with a particular community doesn’t always catch on with the wider public, and that work which gets strong public results won’t always land with specific communities. But when a brand hits the target they can get a “diversity dividend” – an ad that performs well with the general public and exceptionally well with the specific community whose lives and stories it reflects. It’s effective to everyone, but particularly effective to that audience.

“She” is that kind of ad. We tested it among a sample of LGBT+ people, and its Star Rating score jumped from an already strong 4.4-Stars into exceptional 5.0-Star territory. The general public and LGBT+ viewers both drew the same meaning from the ad – “acceptance” was a top association for both groups. But for the LGBT+ audience the ad was more personal and more intense.

It’s not just the subject matter that makes “She” a great ad, though. It gets a lot of emotional mileage from its classic soundtrack – Charles Aznavour’s version of “She”. It’s skillfully executed, with a strong central character and a narrative that keeps you guessing. And while most of the ad is a solo piece, the story is always heading towards that moment of human betweenness between grandfather and granddaughter. All these elements help get that right-brained, broad-beam effectiveness which helps make really effective ads. Congratulations to J&B for a bold idea executed with a make-up artist’s precision.

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