P&G Raises the Stakes in Its Latest, Darkly Brilliant ‘Thank You, Mom’ Masterpiece

W+K salutes moms for their strength ahead of Rio

We're exactly 100 days out from the opening of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, and less than two weeks away from Mother's Day. To mark both occasions, Procter & Gamble has brought back its "Thank you, mom" campaign for another round. And this time, the marketer has both broadened the scope of why it's celebrating moms and zeroed in on a particular attribute—their strength.

The spot was created by Wieden + Kennedy in Portland, Ore., and directed by Jeff Nichols of Rattling Stick. And while previous installations of "Thank you, mom" have mostly focused on the effort and sacrifice mothers make specifically in helping their sons and daughters train for sports, this new spot goes further—showing vignettes of them being rocks for their kids beyond athletics and into their everyday lives.

Many of the vignettes are quite dark. The young athletes aren't just facing the physical and emotional challenges of preparation and competition. They're facing oncoming tornadoes, frightening airplane turbulence, car crashes. In each case, the terrified youngster is soothed by his or her unflappable mother. And only later do we connect this sense of grounding to the athlete's ability to perform under pressure at the highest level of sport.

The final frames are quite familiar, showing—as the past ads did—the athletes and moms embracing after Olympic victory. Those images, connecting public glory to personal love and dedication, have become a visual shorthand for P&G's Olympic marketing and continue to nicely position the packaged-goods company, in its behind-the-scenes role, as the champion and enabler of mothers everywhere (who are themselves, in a nice parallel dynamic, champions and enablers of their offspring).

If the vignettes here seem particularly dramatic, that's because P&G has to keep the campaign evolving even after it perfected the form back in 2012 with "Best Job." And the darker, cinematic visions here feel like a great way of raising the stakes in a way that still connects emotionally. (Also, the idea of celebrating female strength is a very relevant one today, and already a popular one this Mother's Day, as we saw with the Teleflora spot surprisingly set to a Vince Lombardi speech.)

The final onscreen lines of the new spot are perfect, too: "It takes someone strong to make someone strong." That's an even better exclamation point than the "Best Job" coda ("The hardest job in the world is the best job in the world").

As follow-ups to famous campaigns go, it doesn't get much stronger than this.

CREDITS
Client: Procter & Gamble
Project: "Strong"

Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Ore.
Creative Directors: Karl Lieberman/Eric Baldwin
Copywriter: Matt Mulvey
Art Director: Lawrence Melilli
Integrated Executive Producer: Erika Madison
Account Team: Jordan Cappadocia/Ebony Francis/Eric Gabrielson

Production Company: Rattling Stick
Director: Jeff Nichols
Executive Producer: Joe Biggins
Line Producer: Sally Humphries
Director of Photography: Adam Stone

Editorial Company: Joint
Editor : Peter Wiedensmith
Assistant Editor: Dylan Sylwester
Post Producer: Jen Milano
Post Executive Producer: Leslie Carthy

VFX Company: The Mill
Executive Creative Director: Phil Crowe
2D Lead Artist: Glyn Tebbutt
3D Lead Artist: Nick Lines
Executive Producer: Enca Kaul
Senior Producer: Chris Harlowe
Production Coordinator: Mary Hayden

Company: Company 3
Colorist: Tom Poole
Producer: Rochelle Brown

Music Supervision: Walker
President/Founder: Sara Matarazzo
Music Track: "Experience" by Ludovico Einaudi
Sound Design: Brian Emrich
Additional Sound Design/Mix: Noah Woodburn @ Joint

Mix Company: Eleven
Mixer: Jeff Payne
Producer: Suzanne Hollingshead