HP Sends Us Back to School With Its Own Soul-Stirring Father/Daughter Ad

Take a picture. It'll last longer

Headshot of Angela Natividad

It’s back-to-school season! Why not start it off right—with a reminder of your kids’ growing indifference to you, proffered by your hardware brand of choice?

Just kidding. Well, maybe.

Continuing its “Reinvent Memories” campaign, HP gives us “Little Moments.” Created by agency Giant Spoon (and Humble director Rudi Schwab), this three-minute tale walks you down familiar territory, no less powerful because you know what’s coming.

It opens with a nondescript suburban house, sprinklers switching on as if to benchmark normality. Then we’re inside, eyes traveling up the staircase with its stock wall montage of photos. Alarms are ringing, setting off Pavlov triggers from both our future and past—the buzzing of a phone coupled with the terse, nightmare-inducing beep-beep from a bedside digital clock.

It’s a normal family, prepping for the return to school, but the camera zeroes in on a father and his tween daughter. She’s starting sixth grade, and the rules are changing. Dad, you have ceased to be relevant. You are damn near loathsome. 

See for yourself.

What is it about the father-daughter trope that so grips the soul?

I’ve seen so many this year that I’m beginning to suspect I am in a father-daughter trope, traveling unwittingly toward the one ad that finally breaks an emotional dam and sends me running back to Dad, face stained with tears and suddenly all too aware of how my busy adulthood—and refusal to respond, or even open, his chain letters—have covered him in thousands of tiny cuts.

Because “Little Moments” is a study in tiny cuts, the subtle ways a daughter demarcates her separation from the man she is closest to. And it explores this theme with a lot more leisure than, say, Ikea’s “A Good Listener,” which worked to pack all the pathos it could into a single minute.

And while you won’t get the satisfaction of seeing the 12-year-old grow up, have kids and understand dad’s pain, à la Windex, this is nonetheless a day fraught with social stakes and complex feelings—the first day of sixth grade.

The misery is just beginning. So Dad’s just going to have to slave on, bravely loving her as she mounts her adolescent defenses.

To kick the school year off right, the family takes a photo—during which our tween pulls out of reach, thus immortalizing her rejection. Our aching patriarch bucks up after the blow, printing that photo out with a message of encouragement and tucking it into her lunchbag.

Oh, yeah. This is also an ad for the HP Sprocket, a phone-sized printer that prints 2-by-3-inch photos from your smartphone, converting your most intimate device into a superior-quality Polaroid. The product plug is light, but when Dad’s contorted face isn’t pulling your heartstrings, we still find time to marvel at how nicely the Sprocket does its job.

You never see the product again. But like Chekhov’s gun, it plays a role in bringing us home. Dad returns from work to find his family hanging out in the living room, his daughter’s shields still at 100 percent. He wanders into his kids’ bedroom, where he picks up a snow globe and collapses on the lower half of a bunkbed, where his daughter sleeps, ready for a few minutes of mournful reminiscing.

He switches on the lights she’s used to decorate her space. That’s when he sees it—a magnificent collage, hidden in the roof of the bunk, entirely dedicated to him. In addition to shots of her birth, and cutouts bearing words like “Best Friends,” the pictures he’s faithfully taken at the start of each school year play a starring role.

There they are, the défilé of a lifelong relationship—fourth grade, fifth grade, sixth. (Clearly, though, the last photo is the only one that’s been taken by the Sprocket—not just because it hasn’t been around that long, but also because it’s the most neatly cut and the brightest colored. LOL.)

“Hold on to the ones you love,” HP urges. “Reinvent memories.”

We may well have argued for more subtle copy, but there is nothing subtle about this time in a life. So instead we’ll ask ourselves whether the advertising serves the Sprocket.

One of the biggest challenges in punting a portable photo printer is that they exist in the shadow of vintage devices like the Polaroid. The result is that they’re most often used (and promoted) as vehicles for hipster selfies on some niche occasion. (Indeed, the Sprocket’s website is profoundly selfie-oriented.)

But what we get here, embedded in a classic back-to-school narrative, is a practical use case.

Parents like to photograph benchmarks. A smartphone is now the most convenient way to do it. But instead of losing that memory in the annals of food Instagrams and accidental shots of your foot, you can instantly print that moment out on an object not much bigger than the phone itself, sitting in wait on the kitchen counter (or wherever you need it).

It takes more than a cute printer to hold onto the ones we love. The subtext is that there are tools to facilitate those efforts, and the Sprocket slides unobtrusively in where needed—demanding no additional effort on our part, no interruption from our human condition. Maybe it can even soften the impact.

Not bad for the story of a single day.

Title: “Little Moments”
Client: HP
CMO: Antonio Lucio
Global Head of Marketing, Imaging & Printing: Vikrant Batra
Director of AMS Consumer Print Marketing: Dan Henry
Agency: Giant Spoon
Co-Founder: Jon Haber
VP, Brand Management: Pierre Parisot
Creative Director/Art Director: Joe Fotheringham
Director of Strategy: Adam Wiese
Strategist: Mariel Strauch
Jr. Strategist: Madeleine Reeves
Producer: Christina Villaflor
Senior Brand Manager: Jamie Yang
Business Affairs: Catherine Huang
Production Company: Humble
Director: Rudi Schwab
Executive Producer: Mark Kovacs
Head of Production: Natalie Warkenthien
Producer: Stephanie Haberman
Editorial: Postal
Editor: Ricardo Lopez
Producer: Jody Peters
Finishing/VFX: Postal
Music Supervision: Good Ear Music Supervision
Music by The Teenage Diplomat
Artist: Matt Popieluch
Engineer: Jason Quever
Cinematographer : Hunter Robert Baker
Music EP/CD: Buzzy Cohen
Coordinator: Quinn Donnell
Sound Mixing: Lime Studios
Executive Producer: Susie Boyajan
Mixer: Dave Wagg
Audio Assistant: Stephen Fredericks

@luckthelady angela.natividad@gmail.com 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.