Current events are the inspiration behind many brands’ ads. Holidays like Mother’s Day, New Year’s Eve, and the Fourth of July are easy themes to work with when planning commercials. However, brands have to be cautious when dealing with other, more controversial newsworthy topics, as outlined in previous blog posts about fashion trends, campaigns, and Twitter hashtags. If this is the type of ad you’re looking to create, you just have to hope that the positive conversations make the negative ones worth dealing with.
A few months ago, the negative conversation came before the positive for Wells Fargo. Their latest advertisement shows two women independently practicing sign language. The commercial depicts each woman taking breaks – at work, home, and even on the subway – to perfect the language. We then see them side by side in a car, nervously reassuring each other. The next scene tells why: they’re adopting a deaf child. One woman signs, “Hello beautiful. We are your new mommies.” At the close, we see the Wells Fargo logo and a plug for preparing financially for “when two becomes three.”
It’s an ad to promote financial family planning, but it also makes a statement about Wells Fargo’s stance on non-traditional families. The story-line itself doesn’t seem particularly scathing, yet it received backlash that transcended the confines of the Internet. Franklin Graham, son of the famous Christian evangelist Billy Graham, actually transferred his accounts to another bank in protest, urging other families to do the same. But after Graham preached his views about Wells Fargo’s actions, countless other individuals stood up for the company, happy to accept the bank’s stand on the subject.
When brands take a political stance, criticism is unavoidable. People have different beliefs, so when a company chooses to take a side, it’s choosing to take a risk. In Wells Fargo’s case, they took a chance and did their best to show support without rebuking the reverse. How will we know if this was the right choice? An easy way to tell is whether other banks choose to follow the leader and become as politically vocal.