BY HASALYN MODINE
I’ll be honest, I don’t love most “social experiment” commercials. I don’t love them because I often feel like they’re pandering. I don’t love them because, coming from a production background, I know that even “real” people have been cast, directed, edited, etc., and they make my authenticity bells and whistles LIGHT UP. (I’m looking at YOU, Dove “Real Beauty” campaign). And most of all, I don’t love them because besides pushing product, they don’t seem to have a point.
Remember that Heineken commercial, “Open Your World,” where they brought together two people with opposing ideologies for a chat to see if they could find common ground? I didn’t love that because it felt like this beer company was simplifying a social movement of inclusion and acceptance TO SELL BEER.
Maybe it’s my mom-brain talking, but for me, social experiments work when the participants are authentic and viewers LEARN from them. We should come out of a social experiment enlightened — like when Always asked kids what it meant to them to #throwlikeagirl.
And it’s for this reason that I actually really LIKED Hasbro’s My Little Pony “Friendship is Magic” social experiment spot. The crux is that parents (both dads AND moms) went to their kids’ elementary school for parent-teacher conferences, but instead of talking to their kids’ teachers, they talk to their kids’ best friends.
A lot of the time, success as a parent is determined by our kids’ achievements, e.g., the number of languages they speak by the age of five, how early they learned to walk and talk — and you get extra parental points if your kid can pee in the toilet BEFORE he or she can walk or talk. Is that gross? My kid is three and we just finished potty training. It’s tragically top of mind.
We live in an age where grades are more important than kindness to most parents, and it’s wildly refreshing to see a toy brand (that used to only target girls, extra points for gender equality!) turn that paradigm inside out by not only removing test scores from the conversation, but replacing them with achievements in empathy and kindness — from the mouths of our babes.
This commercial resonated with me. It made me feel good, and even better, it made me feel like a good PARENT — because kindness and respect are BIG deals in my house. I loved that both dads and moms were represented in the conferences. I loved that the spot cast pairs of boys and girls, girls and girls, and boys and boys all as best friends. I loved the subtle messages of girls telling their parents that they were running for school president (shatter that glass ceiling, girlfriend!) mixed in with the larger message of being a good sport. I loved that a boy was talking about his friend’s empathy. I loved that this was a My Little Pony commercial that included boys at all (my son is pretty obsessed with My Little Ponies and told us he wants a blue-haired unicorn for his birthday and NOT a plastic one, mind you, a REAL ONE).
And I loved that Hasbro didn’t fill the social experiment spot with branding. There’s just an end card featuring the ponies with the caption “Friendship is Magic.” It’s a simple correlation that aligns really well with the message of the spot (friendship IS magic!). And besides making me feel like I just might be doing something right as a parent, it made a great point about what we should be learning in school — and from good advertising.