Six Years Later, P&G and Wieden + Kennedy Are Still Saying, “Thank You, Mom”

Defining Olympic advertising in recent years

“To their moms, they’ll always be kids.”
“The hardest job in the world is the best job in the world.”
“For teaching us that falling only makes us stronger.”
“It takes someone strong to make someone strong.”

These taglines turned Olympic advertising on its head when P&G and agency Wieden + Kennedy Portland decided to recognize the commitment, strength and sacrifice made not by the athletes, but by their moms.

Born six years ago when the brand scored an Olympic sponsorship to begin during 2010’s Vancouver Winter Games, “Thank You, Mom” has since developed into an iconic Olympic campaign.

Clios.com spoke with Lawrence Melilli and Matt Mulvey of Wieden + Kennedy Portland’s creative team about how the campaign has continued to deliver and define Olympics advertising in recent years.

Six years after its initial launch, the “Thank You, Mom” campaign is still going strong. How have you kept its power and creativity alive?

We have a great team, clients included. Everybody wants the same thing in the end: to make something great that people will really relate to.

Since the campaign began in 2010, we’ve seen different iterations with each Olympics. How do you decide on the themes for each year’s campaign? 

Well, the brief has actually remained the same since day one: to pay tribute to the moms behind the athletes, so nothing is decided on in advance. As we worked on this year’s campaign, we just started to talk, and every so often we’d hit on an insight about moms that felt powerful enough to explore and turn into what would hopefully be a compelling piece of film. This [year’s theme] one was one of maybe four that were presented, and in the end we were really happy that P&G took the leap with us and went for it.

How do you think Olympics advertising has changed over the years? What’s different now vs. when the campaign first launched?

Before the “Thank You, Mom” campaign launched, for the most part, Olympics advertising didn't go much deeper than talking about the athlete or national pride. Since then, I think you're seeing more and more companies take the chances P&G has taken. 

Several of our Clio Sports jurors pointed to “Thank You, Mom” as a favorite Olympic campaign. How does this kind of feedback contribute to a campaign’s development? What kind of pressure does it apply? 

Immense pressure. As creatives, we were new to the account this time around and obviously had huge shoes to fill after all the amazing work that had been done in the past. From a creative standpoint, we knew if it wasn’t as compelling as what came before, it was generally going to be looked on as a failure. But at the same time, that's what makes it so exciting to work on. We definitely didn't take the responsibility lightly.

This year’s “Strong” spot is darker than previous installments. What inspired this shift?

It was really important to us that we kept evolving the campaign. Rather than trying to follow what those guys had set up a few times before — focusing on the day-to day-sacrifices a mom makes for her children — we thought it would be interesting to talk about the moments that really stay with you into adulthood that don’t really get talked about much in advertising: the moments where mom really stepped up in the face of adversity, which inherently tend to err on the darker side.

Watch the previous “Thank You, Mom” installments below.

The 2016 Clio Awards Shortlist will be announced August 22nd. For more information on this celebration of creativity, visit clioawards.com.