Another Weepy, Manipulative Social Experiment for Mother’s Day? Nope, Not Even Close

Brandhouse flips the script for Interflora

For “The Great Mom Experiment,” flower delivery network Interflora assembled a diverse group of people and asked them to write letters to their mothers expressing their feelings of love and appreciation.

Next, these folks read the letters aloud—as their moms, unbeknownst to them, watched and listened from another room.

So, what we have here is another sappy branded gratitude commercial, along the lines of Hallmark’s “Put Your Heart to Paper” mega-tear-jerker from a few years back. Right?

Wrong! In fact, nothing in the set-up is quite what it seems. (This is not your mother’s Mother’s Day ad!)

Interflora’s payoff packs a punch, but you might not see the comic meta-twist coming until you watch most of the nearly three-minute film below:

The push was devised by Danish agency Brandhouse, which often crafts offbeat and surprising efforts for Interflora. The participants were all models and actors who knew in advance that things wouldn’t go as expected.

“It really doesn’t make an experiment more real if it’s created with real people or trained actors,” agency creative director Mikkel Elung tells us. “It’s a manipulation no matter how you look at it. From the casting, to the directing, selection of reactions, editing, music and so on—it’s fictional. Every experiment knows what story it wants to tell in advance, so the outcome is a given. The only question is how authentic a story you can create.”

Spoofing campaigns in the category “gave us a golden opportunity to illustrate that Interflora is about honesty and true emotions, not fake and constructed emotions,” he says. “You don’t need a manipulated emotional experiment to express your feelings. You should just tell her how you feel.”

For its parody, Brandhouse “tried to make it a blend of lots of different experiments to get as many of the clichés as possible in there.”

Such hallmarks include an assignment for the subjects (writing letters), along with a scientific/authoritative presence (the psychologist, suggested by Momondo’s viral initiative), and a trick ending, along the lines of “Put Your Heart to Paper” or, according to Elung, Jimmy Fallon’s farewells for Michelle Obama.

If there’s any weakness, it’s that the big reveal—though amusing and even poignant in context—feels a tad long in coming.

“The length is simply to mimic the genre and because it takes time to build up emotions in the beginning,” says Elung. “It actually makes people experience an emotional reaction just before we reveal that it’s all fake—making the emotional roller coaster ride even more powerful and the laugh in the end stronger.”

The closing images of the camera crew and performers captured, of course, by another camera crew adds a pleasantly surreal flourish.

“The end shot is there to nail the point of every experiment being a construction,” says Elung. “It’s like a bucket of cold water in the face.”

Brand: Interflora
Agency: Brandhouse
Creative Director: Mikkel Elung
AD: Sigurd Bjerre
AD: Eva Kildegaard
Director: Anders Bundgaard
Producers: Tobias Møllenbach, Camilla Agerskov
Production company: The Woerks

@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.