Add Hyatt to the list of brands taking a stand against bigotry.
The hotel chain is out with a new ad from MullenLowe, which aired on the Oscars, that simply but effectively juxtaposes fear with compassion. And while the message might seem subtle, it’s hard to mistake in the current political climate.
A white woman on a commuter train skeptically eyes another passenger in a hijab, until the Muslim woman picks up and returns a scarf the white woman has dropped on the floor—and an icy stare melts into a smile. The spot, titled “For a World of Understanding,” also features other vignettes in which chaos and suspicion resolve into a relaxed state of happiness, despite the cultural differences of the participants.
Now, Hyatt’s business depends in part on the free movement of people around the world. It’s a global hospitality company, and, for example, a nonsensical travel ban could have a concrete negative impact on its bottom line, not to mention the broader, softer atmosphere of fear perpetuated by xenophobic rhetoric, and murders that are difficult to interpret as anything other racist.
The themes of the ad were also in motion before the U.S. election, according to an interview the company’s chief marketing officer Maryam Banikaram gave to Variety.
Hyatt joins brands like Budweiser and 84 Lumber in producing politically colored ads clearly meant to spur conversation, if nonetheless making its argument in less explicit a fashion than a hospitality competitor, Airbnb.
In other words, the marketer can only get so much credit for what is essentially a self-interested tack. And while the storytelling itself isn’t mind-blowing, and the Kumbaya overtones might under different circumstances seem worthy of an eye roll for naiveté, the fact is an advertiser’s message doesn’t live in a vacuum, and anyone using their dollars—especially during an expensive, high-profile broadcast like the Academy Awards—deserves a nod for contributing to the dialogue in a positive way.
The ad’s soundtrack—”What the World Needs Now Is Love”—uses a modern version of a classic 1960s vehicle to carry a sentiment that largely rings true. If the spirit of the civil rights movement is any lesson for today, the world really does need more love right now.
It also needs a healthy dose of realism, and activism. But restoring sanity will probably take all kinds—even a corporation whose interests might include some questionable labor politics.