Hang On, Did Olive Garden Just Make a Really Good Commercial?

So long, food shots. Hello, family

Olive Garden's advertising has long been distinguished by its unlimited blandness, which some might argue is a decent representation of the food there. But during NBC's Red Nose Day telethon Thursday night, viewers will get a very different look at the Olive Garden brand promise, via this 60-second spot from Grey New York.

It's about as far from your typical Olive Garden spot as you could get. Instead of the overly produced, food-shot-heavy clip, we get a montage of home-movie footage all based around the idea of family.

The restaurant chain has used the line "We're all family here" since 2013, but its communication of the concept has been far from inspired. Here, though, there's real life and real emotion. And it's hard to imagine a brand that could use a jolt like that more urgently.

Focusing on real moments is quite a leap for Olive Garden. And whether or not people buy into it—an emotionally rich ad isn't going to change the food, after all—it does suggest the marketer is willing to go outside its comfort zone and loosen its grip on the kind of safe but forgettable messaging for which it's known.

Even the in-restaurant footage at the end is remarkably low-fi and unadorned. That's impressive for such a manicured brand, and suggests that Olive Garden knows something about real families and real moments, not just TV ones—and hosts them daily.

The amateur version of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros track "Home" pulls it all together—a song full of emotion, rendered simply. That's the vibe of the whole ad. Whether it signals a real change for Olive Garden remains to be seen. (Grey New York has been churning out the more genetic stuff—like this, just a couple of weeks ago—for Olive Garden since 1984.) But this could be a pleasantly surprising first step.

CREDITS

Client: Olive Garden

Spot: "Home"

Agency: Grey NY

Worldwide Chief Creative Officer: Tor Myhren

Chief Creative Officer: Andreas Dahlqvist

Chief Marketing Officer: Jane Reiss

President, Grey Activation/PR: Amy Tunick

Executive Creative Director: Ari Halper

Executive Creative Director: Stephen Krauss

Executive Creative Director: Jan Egan

Executive Creative Director: Ron Castillo

Creative Director: Brad Mancuso

Creative Director: Susan LaScala Wood

Art Director: Jonathan Hsu

Copywriter: Gail Barlow & Paul Elicker

VP Executive Producers (Agency): Seth Gorenstein & Adam Seely

SVP Account Director: Nadine Falco

VP Account Directors: Christina Pantina & Jamie Shiembob

Strategy: Dominic Hanley

Editor (person & company): Cindy Nielsen & Charlie Cusumano, Vision Post

Assistant Casting Director: Brian Safuto

EVP Director of Music (Agency): Josh Rabinowitz

VP Director of Music Licensing (Agency): Amy Rosen

Project Manager: Jasmine Mangana

Color & Finishing: Nice Shoes

Colorist: Sal Malfitano

VFX Artist: Russ Bigsby