It’s not often I sit down to write a positive review of an ad and end up in negative territory. But it happened today. Kraft is running a promotion for Mother’s Day that is creative, clever and meaningful to moms. They are inviting moms to hire a babysitter on Mother’s Day and then reimbursing them for the babysitter expense up to $100 per household. Great idea. But the more I learned about it, the more it unraveled. Worse, I find the mechanics of its implementation disingenuous and likely to lead to a backlash. Let’s begin with the TV spot supporting the promotion:
And here’s a link to the web site supporting the campaign: Kraft’s Mother’s Day Away.
It’s a great hook.
What this promotion does well is communicate that Kraft “gets” moms. They understand that being a mom is hard work. Being needed 24/7 takes a toll. And moms need a break. Hard to argue with that insight and it’s a smart one coming from Kraft.
The promotional hook that comes out of that insight is the reason I sat down to write this then-positive post: free babysitting on Mother’s Day. What a great idea. Anyone who sees this incredibly generous offer to moms, even if they don’t participate, will think highly of Kraft. Or should I say, especially if they don’t participate.
The invisible catch: offer good until $50,000 spent.
According to the Census Bureau there are 43.5 million mothers in the United States. So if every mom partook in this promotion at the $100 level this promotion could mean a $4.4 billion expense. No company can afford that, and turns out Kraft will not have to.
The catch is that there’s a cap on the babysitter handouts of $50,000 from Kraft. That means if each mom’s receipt was $100 then only 500 people who will get to enjoy a free babysitter, not 43.5 million. On the web site the legal copy for the promotion says:
Offers end at 11:59PM ET on 5/19/19 or while funds remain available, whichever sooner.
Note that date is a full week after Mother’s Day, which is on 5/12/19, and also note the “funds” total of $50,000 is not included. Kraft knows full-well that the 500-mom-cap will be reached five seconds after Mother’s Day is over. But that legal copy above creates an illusion of plenty (of time). That you’ll have all week long to post your receipt and get reimbursed.
If we assume a 1% activation rate against the “moms universe” of 43.5 million that leaves us with 435,000 moms who decide to hire a babysitter with the expectation of getting reimbursed by Kraft. That means exactly 434,500 of those moms will be disappointed as only 500 will get reimbursed.
Disappointed to the tune of $43,450,000 if each disappointed mom spends $100 on an un-reimbursed babysitter. Great for the babysitter market, bad for lots of moms.
Now, maybe it won’t matter to these moms. They just had a presumably wonderful day off regardless. Maybe if their expense report is rejected they will still thank Kraft for the inspiration to hire a babysitter at all. But I’m not so sure. The actor in the TV spot does set quite a broad expectation:
So go ahead, hire a babysitter and Kraft will cover the bill.
Yes, there is legal copy in a tiny font shown across the bottom of the screen but it’s posted for only :03 seconds of the :60 second spot and notably without the $50,000 cap, just the deadline date. In fact, I learned about the $50,000 cap from the press release about the campaign. It’s not in the TV spot and I couldn’t find it on the web site other than in small print on the “Terms Of Service” link.
Why is the demotion of the $50,000 cap to the “Terms” document significant? Because it’s such a small amount. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out how poor the odds are once you know this number and the $100 max-payout number. I also think it’s an embarrassingly small collective “prize” for such a large, national brand. The TV spot alone probably cost 3-5 times that amount to produce.
But it gets worse.
The “Terms” document serves as instructions to participate in the promotion. Interestingly, the following line appears in that document:
Before hiring your babysitter, check the website to make sure the $50,000 limit has not yet been reached.
Hmm, this creates an impossible situation for moms. Consider Kraft’s logic:
- You need to hire your babysitter in advance of Mother’s Day, of course.
- You should check the site to make sure the $50,000 limit hasn’t been reached before you hire one.
- But no one can submit their claim against that $50,000 until they get an invoice, which is issued after the services have been rendered.
So unless a mom can miraculously book the babysitter after the babysitter is needed, that’s not going to work. This “Before hiring your babysitter…” line was likely quickly written as CYA against the disappointed moms. Kraft can say, “See, we warned you to check first.”
Is there any substance to this idea?
In straddling the fine line between the truth (only roughly 500 moms will get reimbursed) and the message being communicated (“So go ahead, hire a babysitter and Kraft will cover the bill.”), I fear Kraft has set themselves up for a backlash from the very people they claim to “get.” And, sadly, it was easily avoidable.
This promotion could have been a contest where Kraft makes the identical appeal to moms to hire babysitters on Mother’s Day, invites them to submit their receipts to Kraft and then says 500 receipts chosen at random will be reimbursed. But the promotion as currently constituted is just another classic, “too good to be true” gimmicky promotion that feeds the fire of consumer skepticism about promotions and about advertising itself.
So I started off loving this idea, but by the time I was finished researching it I wondered, does Kraft really want to give moms a break or do they just want to be perceived to be giving moms a break?