A new campaign from Tylenol brings an iconic Norman Rockwell painting to life with more diverse depictions of family — including an Asian family, an African American family, and a family with lesbian mothers.
Few would associate the word “modern” with Norman Rockwell. Many of his most recognized paintings are full of sentiment and nostalgia, rendered in an ultra realistic style — none of which earned him the respect of art critics. Yet as a young artist, I was fascinated not only by the detail of Rockwell’s work, but also how he portrayed America in the 40s and 50s. This was the world of my parents and grandparents, so I always felt a connection – as if I was looking through an old family photo album.
“Freedom From Want” is arguably Rockwell’s most well-known work. Part of a series for The Saturday Evening Post originally intended to promote patriotism, it has since become synonymous with the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays; epitomizing The American Family. Yet, like most of Rockwell’s early work, it focuses only on white (and straight) America — something that causes a decided disconnection for many today.
A new campaign from Tylenol, entitled “For What Matters Most,” has taken Rockwell’s quintessential family and evolved them into something new and vibrant, while remaining warmly familiar. Working with Abigail Rockwell, the painter’s granddaughter, Tylenol created a mini documentary profiling three families gathering around their dinner tables — talking about what matters to them, what struggles they have, what makes them a family.
For What Matters Most
The initial video debuted the day before Thanksgiving, and includes bits of each family intermixed with narration from Ms. Rockwell. Subsequent videos focusing on the individual families debuted December 2 (Yee Hoshida Family) and December 12 (Beser Carr Schneider Musich Family), with the remaining family slated to appear before Christmas.
But what do Norman Rockwell and holiday dinners have to do with pain relief? “If you look at what we’ve stood for as a brand, it’s always been so much more than pain relief,” explains Manoj Raghunandanan, senior director of the Tylenol account at JWT. “Caring for people and going beyond their pain is what makes Tylenol Tylenol.” 1
The brand becomes a part of everyday life to many families early on through Infant Tylenol. “Tylenol has been linked to family — for 60 years.”
Like Chevrolet, Coca-Cola and Honey Maid before them, Johnson & Johnson (parent company of Tylenol) joins an ever-growing number of corporations including LGBT couples and parents in their national advertising. The cynic in me wants to focus on the fact that the spots have yet to air on TV — in my mind a truer indication of acceptance on a larger scale, and something the ads for the other companies listed have done.
Is there even still a need for such intentional inclusion? You merely have to browse the YouTube comments on any of these videos to be reminded hatred still exists, albeit cowering behind Internet anonymity. Indeed, advocacy, awareness, and acceptance are still very much needed.
Perhaps this isn’t groundbreaking news, or even news, period. And while these families are undoubtedly being shown in their most ideal light, that does nothing to diminish the significance of the continued trend of more diverse representations of family. It’s still progress. It’s still another portrayal of LGBT parents to a global audience, presented by a well-known and largely trusted brand.
In their simple, elegant way, the films bring to life a more expanded view of The American Family, painting an even richer, more interesting picture than Rockwell’s original.
Originally seen on Designer Daddy.