American Greetings Takes on Infertility In Its Latest Card Campaign for Millennials

When a gesture fills in the blanks

Headshot of Angela Natividad

American Greetings has, at its best, been in the business of expressing our emotions in ways more eloquent than we can.

But like Hallmark, the greeting card business—especially in the digital age—has taken on the stodgy reputation of being a dispenser of platitudes. With this in mind, the brand drew upon some Resolve statistics that found that one in eight couples struggle with infertility, even in the coveted millennial demographic.

Alongside MullenLowe, today it releases “Not Alone.” Timed to National Parents Day, American Greetings hopes to demonstrate it understands not only how hard it is to be a parent, but how trying it can be to become one.

The video, helmed by directors The Mercadantes of Park Pictures, builds on the brand’s wider “Give Meaning” campaign. In addition to this offering, the release included an ad called “Tattoo,” released in May.

“’Give Meaning’ is a campaign that sets out to remind us to give meaning to the real people and moments in our lives that matter,” explains CMO Alex Ho of American Greetings. “Real life presents a range of experiences that don’t always fall on a calendar holiday or fit in a perfect box, but they are totally deserving—sometimes even more so than set occasions—of acknowledgement. Infertility is one such experience.”

This subject hits close to home. My husband and I haven’t so much struggled with as dealt with infertility for the last three years. Given that, as late millennials, we’ve arrived at the point where literally everyone seems to be having kids, it feels horribly easy to fall into tragic roles. People rub our backs and give us haunted looks while cradling newborns that don’t belong to them.

Even if you don’t want your life, and your relationship, to be reduced to a potentially fruitless quest to reproduce, cultural expectations make this difficult—not just because eager would-be grandparents are waiting for their just due, but because people expect you to be sad. So they treat you like you’re sad, and as a result, well, you get sad.

“Upon learning that one in eight couples struggle with infertility, we knew this topic was not only one that many people could relate to, whether personally or through friends and family members,” Ho continues. “It is also an emotional and oftentimes isolating topic that is especially deserving of support and acknowledgment.”

Both videos from the series are inspired by real-life events. “This particular spot was concepted from an associate’s real-life experience with infertility, shot by a married filmmaking team who understand the emotional implications … and features a real-life couple currently struggling with infertility,” says Ho.

In the ad, the female protagonist, who appears to be suffering the most, is given a card. It doesn’t say much, but there just isn’t all that much to say. Sometimes it’s enough to know that someone sees you.

“Our purpose is to make the world a more thoughtful and caring place, every single day,” Ho goes on. “If we can make just one person or couple struggling with infertility feel less alone in what they are going through, we will have achieved our goal in bringing this worthy, human topic forward.”

American Greetings is privately held by its founding family. In 2013, it made the strategic decision to focus on the future generation of card-holders and the largest current consumer category: millennials. Per Ho, “We don’t manufacture moments for our advertising; we reflect what we see in real life.”

Two years ago, the brand released “World’s Toughest Job,” a four-minute Mothers Day video that kicked off as a Skype interview for a job with hopeless hours and no pay. It’s later revealed that the role in question is motherhood. Customers were driven to American Greetings’ Cardstore, where they could create their own cards. Orders rose by 20 percent, and the campaign took a Grand Effie, outdoing entries like Always’ “Like a Girl” and Old Spice’s “Smellcome to Manhood.”

“Not Alone” concludes by telling us a card isn’t just a card; “in the right moment, it can mean everything.” It joins a number of brands that, in an effort to relate better to a skeptical, social media-driven market, are taking on sensitive topics like divorce, adoption and gay rights.

American Greetings makes no unrealistic promises, and takes no liberties with a story that is both difficult and emotionally murky. It also doesn’t allow itself to get high on its massive insight, potentially doing something misguided—like creating a special line of “infertility” cards.

Instead, it sticks to what it knows: Sometimes a card is best used not to say everything we’re thinking, or as a stand-in for human warmth, but to accompany one or the other. Offered on paper, the gesture alone can convey far more than a well-chosen emoji ever could.


Brand: American Greetings
American Greetings:
President and Chief Operating Officer: John Beeder
Group Vice President, Marketing, Innovation and Business Development and President Papyrus-Recycled Greetings, Inc.: Christy Kaprosky
Chief Marketing Officer: Alex Ho
Director, Consumer Marketing Communications: Janet Dye
Director, Engagement Marketing: Christine Rich
Director, Corporate Communications: Patrice Sadd
Senior Manager, Engagement Strategy: Meghan Olmsted
Manager, Engagement Marketing: Danielle Krouse
Assistant Manager, Engagement Marketing: Leah Lange
Associate Manager, Marketing Communications: Megan Baucco

Creative Credits:
Agency: MullenLowe
Managing Partner Chief Creative Officer: Mark Wenneker
Executive Creative Directors: Tim Vaccarino, Dave Weist
Creative Director: Andrea Mileskiewicz
Creative Director: Blake Winfree
Copywriter: Macie Soler-Sala
Senior Art Director: Pier Madonia
Executive Director of Integrated Production: Lisa Setten
Director of Broadcast Production: Zeke Bowman
Senior Broadcast Producer: Vera Everson
Assistant Broadcast Producer: Kimberly Reid
Business Affairs Manager: Felicia Simmons
Group Account Director: Rebekah Pagis
Account Director: Jessica Zdenek
Production Company: Park Pictures
Director: The Mercadantes
Executive Producer: Scott Howard
Line Producer: Timory King
DP: Daniel Mercadante
Editorial: PS260 West
Editor: JJ Lask
Assistant Editor: Colin Reilly
Junior Producer: Marlinda Walcott
Executive Producer: Carol Dunn
Lead VFX Artist: Cynthia Lee
Producer: Sarah Laborde
Executive Producer: Elexis Stern
Music: Asche & Spencer
Audio Post: Eleven Sound
Sound Design/Mixer: Jeff Payne
Assistant Mixer: Jordan Meltzer
Executive Producer: Melissa Elston

@luckthelady Angela Natividad is a frequent contributor to Adweek's creativity blog, AdFreak. She is also the author of Generation Creation and co-founder of Hurrah, an esports agency. She lives in Paris and when she isn't writing, she can be found picking food off your plate.