Holidays

Mother’s Day marketing is getting weirdly sexual

Is sappy and sentimental really so bad?

Holidays

Holidays

Mother’s Day marketing is getting weirdly sexual

Is sappy and sentimental really so bad?

Mother’s Day ad campaign season is here, and there’s no shortage of sappy commercials and “short films” encouraging the celebration of moms with some conspicuous consumerism. This year’s standouts include American Greetings’ commercial urging millennials to care about greeting cards, Carhartt’s short film using #feminism to celebrate mothers who work in trades, and Lysol’s ad featuring wild animals as stand-ins for fierce, protective moms. These ads take the traditional, saccharine route, and though they might be corny and condescendingly gendered, they still managed to make me wonder just how much I could afford to spend on a Mother’s Day gift. In the advertising world, this represents a mission accomplished.

What is motherhood? An umbilical cord!

The National Retail Federation reports that participating consumers will spend an average of $186.39 on gifts this year, with Americans as a whole spending $23.6 billion — the most since NRF started tracking such figures 14 years ago. Though traditional Mother’s Day advertising seems effective enough, some companies have chosen this year to try to innovate. The problem is that they’re doing it by adding weirdly sexual undertones to the holiday.

KFC, the world’s second-largest restaurant chain, released a romance novella targeted at mothers in order promote its $20 Fill Up, a cornucopia of fried chicken, cole slaw, biscuits, and mashed potatoes that, honestly, promotes itself. The 96-page book, titled Tender Wings of Desire, follows Lady Madeline Parker as she decides between marrying some boring duke and a snowy-haired, muscly-armed Colonel Harland Sanders. One choice comes with financial security and life as a duchess. The other, quite possibly a lifetime of complimentary fried chicken. The book, available for free on Amazon, isn’t a bad or offensive concept in itself. And, judging from the pun-filled reviews, so far some people kind of like it. It’s the pairing with Mother’s Day seems to be an odd choice.

PornHub, which is increasingly known for its bizarre marketing choices, released Mother’s Day cards that double as VR glasses to be used with its VR porn app. Sure, moms aren’t just moms. They’re human beings with sexualities of their own. But marketing these cards (found at mommysspecialglasses.com) for Mother’s Day seems a step too far. One reads: “Dear Mom, May your favorite day of the year…/...become the best night of your life.” Another: “Dear Mom, I hope this gift warms your heart…/… as well as some other parts.” And finally: “Dear Mom, After all these years of letting you down.../...it’s about time you got something BIG and satisfying for once.” KFC hinted at masturbating moms, but PornHub fully went for it. Another lighthearted marketing device made weird and gross by the implication that it is a gift to mother from child.

But even a pornogrophy campaign isn’t as disturbing as Skittles’ Mother’s Day commercial, in which an older mother eats the candy one by one while her adult son, connected to her via a large, veiny umbilical cord, guesses what flavor Skittle she has just passed from her body to his. And if the umbilical cord coming from under the mother’s skirt into her son’s exposed belly weren’t gross enough, the cord wriggles with every Skittle that passes through it. What is motherhood? An umbilical cord! Skittles is already known for its weird ads, but this one crosses the line into egregious. I advise you not to watch.

The obvious question here is “Why? Dear, God, why?!” But on reflection, why are KFC, PornHub, and Skittles making Mother’s Day ads at all? KFC says it sees a 40 percent jump in sales on Mother’s Day, so no ads needed there. Skittles was America’s top non-chocolate candy when it came to market share last year. And we all know Pornhub isn’t hurting for business. Mother's Day is perhaps a convenient vehicle for chatter and the old adage that any publicity is good publicity.

Companies with a more direct connection to the holiday, no matter how sexist or stereotypical those connections may be, take fewer risks when it comes to the holiday. For example, jewelry will make up 35.5 percent of Mother’s Day purchases this year. So, perhaps wisely, Swarovski went with a commercial featuring supermodel Karlie Kloss twirling to a new cut of Rihanna’s “Diamonds.” Sure, it’s mind-numbingly boring and predictable. But it also doesn’t make you want to never look at your mother again.

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