While the mind can still conjure up the news reel glory days of American Veterans returning home from World War Two it was never quite the warm welcome we imagine.
Veterans have it hard. We ask them to defend our country, intervene in far off places, and then mostly write them off when they return. It's sometimes the most thankless necessary patriotic duty one can imagine. And yet.
There are moments when we do remember. And do care. And do think the world of the men and women brave enough to risk their lives for ours. And so as we celebrate Veterans Day in North America it's nice to take a moment to talk about the ads that saluted our soldiers. Some are sappy. Some are downright awful and pandering. Others try to capitalize on the moment by hammering home their own brand name so much it makes you puke. But there are some that get it right. Of course, these ads can never repay or live up to the valor. Few things could.
Again, this is most likely not going to play in the majority of other countries in the world, as this sentiment is uniquely American. But when seen in the context of an American holiday, and American Culture, they can work. They can also fall very flat. Let's start with the good one.
The first is Anheuser Busch's "Heroes Salute." This ad gets it right on nearly every count. They have enough good sense to not include a "from all of us at Anheuser Busch, big sappy branding statement," VO. The music is moving without resorting to Band Of Brothers hokum. They just let the moment play out. And it becomes all the more profound as it progresses. Because we see the people young, old, rich businessmen and short order cooks, paying respect to the people who would (and sadly do) lay down their lives for us.
And my favorite part is how in the last twenty seconds or so, the camera shifts away from the clapping civilians to only focus on the soldiers who pass, one after the other. Men. Women. Black. White. Hispanic. And yet it never feels contrived, like the people were from diversity central casting.
And then a simple thank you. How much better can you get?
And before anyone says "this kind of stuff doesn't happen," yes it does. I have seen it happen. I've seen travelers give up their airplane tickets for soldiers because they've wanted to get that person home sooner. I've seen business men in airports try to by a "round for a soldier," and all were unsuccessful. And just last week I was in a grocery store, and a soldier was in front of me in the checkout line. An older woman came over to him and said "I just wanted to thank you for all you do to keep us safe."
Sometimes sentiment is stranger than fiction. And it just goes to show you, in these shareable meme-generating times, when it seems nine times out of ten fluff wins out over substance, occasionally an ad comes along that gets it right, and continues to do so.
That's problem number one in my opinion. It makes for a nice if not completely expected visual, but that's it. No one will read that. They don't have to. We already know the freedom for which it stands.
The actual non-borrowed interest body copy at the bottom reads:
While we mournfully observe the tenth anniversary of September 11, we give thanks for our military and rescue workers who heroically uphold our freedom.
This is better, minus the clunky "mournfully." How else would one observe the tenth anniversary of September 11? And "heroically?" Two adverbs is two too many.
U.S.A. discounters is a business that serves the military and government employees so they had a great tie in. But to put the U.S.A. Discounters logo on TOP of the ad, ABOVE the World Trade Center, and ABOVE the Declaration of Independence is conceptually all kinds of wrong.
So there you go. One got it right, one didn't.
Veteran image from ftmeade's flickr photo stream