Franklin D. Roosevelt will deliver a response to Donald Trump’s State of the Union, sort of, thanks to Unilever’s Seventh Generation, who tapped a speech by the four-term president to narrate its 60-second ad immediately following Trump’s address on ABC, CBS and NBC.
Against a backdrop of scenes from September’s Climate Strike and a shot from a 1945 VJ-Day celebration, FDR can be heard, in a clip from his 1943 State of the Union address, saying: “People have now gathered their strength. They’re moving forward in their might and power. And no force, no combination of forces, no trickery or violence can stop them now. They see before them the hopes of the world—a decent, secure, peaceful life for men everywhere.”
Seventh Generation then adds: “What if we were meant to be the next greatest generation? Climate change is our problem to solve. The solution will be our legacy.”
The “Believe in a Seventh Generation” spot is meant to frame the battle against climate change as similar to World War II, taking a serious turn for a brand that in recent years mostly aired funny ads starring Maya Rudolph about its plant-based household and personal care products.
It’s like an introductory ad for a brand that’s been around since 1988, and acquired by Unilever in 2016.
“It feels like we’re going out with a story we should have been telling maybe a long time ago,” says Seventh Generation Chief Marketing Officer Hanneke Willenborg. But while folks inside the Burlington, Vermont headquarters know about the founding commitment to make every decision for the sake of seven generations down the road, many consumers don’t, she says.
When Opinionated, named the brand’s new agency of record last spring, came with the idea, agency people assumed Seventh Generation had heard similar pitches for years, she says. They were wrong.
“It’s sometimes difficult to see the label of the tent when you’re inside the tent, and it’s like that somewhat for us,” Willenborg says.
Linking to FDR and the “Greatest Generation” sprang from “looking back just two or three generations to see what our grandparents had to overcome to preserve the life that we’re living now,” says Opinionated copywriter Emma Siolka. “That sort of spirit of collective bravery and sacrifice is attainable for this generation too.”
“I don’t know that it was so much about a conscientious shift in tone as much as better reflecting the advocacy side of the brand,” says Opinionated Founder and Executive Creative Director Mark Fitzloff.
Opinionated began collecting shots from Climate Strike events, and releases from those photographed, in the fall—at a time when Seventh Generation donated its media budget for a week to the Youth Climate Movement. Account Director Nick Larkin became a sort of virtual member of the Roosevelt family, Fitzloff says, as he sought the right archival footage.
A speech from the 1936 Democratic Convention—"This generation has a rendezvous with destiny"—also is incorporated into a 30-second version of the ad, which will run for two weeks, mostly during morning shows, Willenborg says, with half-page ads also set to run Feb. 5 in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.
Via WPP’s Mindshare, the brand bought the time slot between the end of Trump’s speech and before the Democratic response on the three networks. With the buy, Seventh Generation was going for maximum social media and talk value behind the new spot.