In a world of dense media saturation, companies have had to devise various strategies of persuading their audiences to choose their product or service over others. Comedy, celebrity endorsement, and romanticizing are some of the most applied strategies we are exposed to every time we scroll through Facebook or turn on our televisions. What do we do, however, when an American soldier comes on your screen? Your first reaction might be to take this advertisement more seriously than you otherwise would have, and that is absolutely the goal. In some instances, the relation of the soldier to the product being promoted should potentially be considered when selecting between that product and a competitor. In other instances, it would be a stretch to claim that a product or service has any direct correlation or benefit to a soldier as they would have us believe. Both American Airlines and Duracell have utilized America’s love for its brave soldiers in their advertisements, but where one simply highlights a way in which they directly benefit and show appreciation to soldiers, the other seems borderline manipulative.
Opening with a series of short scenes showing various people throughout an airport, an American Airlines commercial titled “Putting Them First” eventually shows a female soldier waiting to board a plane. A flight attendant approaches the soldier, informing her “we are now pre-boarding military personnel at the gate.” The soldier, after gathering her belongings, starts walking towards the gate as all the people previously shown take notice of her walking by and watch her with expressions that seem to range from mild confusion, to brief smiles. The airport staff continue to guide the soldier to the front of the line as more people begin taking notice of her. They step aside to let her through, some with slight nods or smiles in her direction. As she continues to work her way toward front of the line, she catches a glimpse of an old man, sitting and looking very stoic, simply starring at her. A look of slight embarrassment or shame crosses the solder’s face as she lowers her head and continues toward the front of the line. Once again, she glances at the old man, only this time he is standing up and saluting her. Her previous look of embarrassment instantly turns to pride as she nods at him and walks through the doors with her head held high and smiling. The advertisement ends by showing the soldier walking towards her plane while a narrator says, “to those who put our country first, we’re honored to do the same for you” (Cause Marketing). While this advertisement is certainly moving and uplifting, it simply highlights a program that American Airlines has created to personally benefit American soldiers during their travels, and if other people decide to choose that airline over a competitor based on their portrayed values and priorities, well that is just a cherry on top of a patriotic sundae.
A soldier sitting on his bed in his barracks can be seen placing Duracell batteries into a teddy bear. He can be seen mouthing something to the bear, and then we see a little girl opening a box receiving that same teddy bear. Her face is gleaming with excitement as her mom tells her, “it’s from daddy.” She takes the bear out of the box and we see it is dressed in the same military uniform as her dad. With a smile still on her face, she squeezes the bear and her dad’s voice comes from it saying, “I love you, baby girl.” The mother is shown holding back tears as the little girl runs off screen. Various happy scenes follow showing the girl: playing with the bear, sleeping with the bear, taking the bear to school and, in each one, the dad’s voice is heard saying again, “I love you, baby girl.” The next scene shows that little girl coloring when, suddenly, she hears a man’s voice coming from the other room. Thinking it is her dad, she picks up the bear and runs to the other room with excitement to see her dad, only to find he is on a video chat. The mom says “look, it’s daddy!”, and the dad says, “how are you? How’s your bear?”, the little girl responds with a disappointed “good” as she holds her bear up. The dad finishes, “I love you, baby girl” as the little heartbroken girl turns and start to walk away, saying “K. Bye.” The dad asks, “wait, where are you going?” only to be ignore by the girl, and with a sad voice says “bye” and waves. The mom turns the screen towards her and says “I’m sorry, babe. She’ll come back” to her husband. Next, we see the little girl putting the bear in bin and plopping on her bed. The next scene shows her mother laying in bed, hearing the bear repeat “I love you, baby girl” and her daughter responding, “I miss you, too.” The final scene is the little girl sitting at the table playing checkers with the bear when she hears “I love you, baby girl,” only this time she looks up confused at the bear on the opposite side of the table from her. She didn’t squeeze it. She hears the floor creek behind her, she turns around and her face lights up when she sees her dad standing there, she yells “daddy!” and runs into his arms as a message comes across the screen: “the ones you trust are always there” and the Duracell battery is shown (Every AdEver).
As sweet and emotion-provoking as this advertisement is, the soldier and the emotional situation of his family had very little to do with the product itself. Rather than showing a way in which Duracell intentionally partners with soldiers to benefit them and their loved ones, it shows a very specific mini-movie about it could potentially help them. It is just as likely that their batteries would just happen to benefit any number of people in infinite ways, or that the batteries could fail any number of people, including soldiers, in situations they could really use them. This advertisement does nothing in the way of advertising the superior dependability or quality of the product and simply plays on our emotions, specifically towards soldiers, to try and persuade us to choose their product over their competitors. However, unless you are the soldier shown in the advertisement, his daughter, or his wife, it does nothing to convince us that they are in fact superior.
A company’s active support for our soldiers could be enough for a consumer to choose their product over others on a moral basis, such as American Airlines, but just using a story of a soldier and placing their product somewhere in it, without highlighting real-world benefits and usage for soldiers or average consumers, like Duracell, seems slightly manipulative. It is well-known that Americans have a soft spot for our soldiers, especially when it comes to their families, and where American Airlines decided to do something to personally benefit the soldiers and advertise that, Duracell made the choice to simply utilize that soft spot in a way that is not only amounts to nothing more than a fictional (as far as we can tell) , mini-movie, and does nothing to advertise the product being promoted. If their goal is to make us cry, they might succeed, but tears don’t necessarily form battery-buying decisions.
Every AdEver. “Duracell – The Teddy Bear (2015)”. YouTube.com. May 24th, 2016.
Cause Marketing. “American Airlines ‘Military Pre-Boarding’ Campaign” “Putting Them
First'”Ad”. YouTube.com. January 10th, 2017.