The Sentiment Behind Sentimentality

Checking the comments section of Bob Garfield’s column, it appears he ignited a shitstorm over his review of CVS’s new TV commercial (also available at
Garfield doesn’t mince words:

You see a lot of bad ads if you watch long enough, but, really, how often it is that you see a TV commercial that makes you want to puke?

And the comments run the gamut, like this one:

It’s obvious Bob’s never been in the position of being a primary caregiver. If he had, he’d understand that it’s a lonely place to be and the CVS ad basically says “You’re not alone. We understand you better than the others.” Who knows? Maybe they do. It’s apparent that Bob doesn’t understand caregivers or women. Otherwise he wouldn’t have made such a blanket and ill-informed statement.

Okay. Some men like it, some don’t. Some women like it, some don’t. The issue here appears to be bigger than Bob or CVS. I raise several questions for all of you:
Is it possible to do an ad that’s sentimental yet not sappy? Is it a matter of men not understanding what resonates with women, and vice versa? Can CVS properly claim to be a “caring” company? What does a company have to do or say to show it cares and make it believable?
Tangerine Toad is fond of saying Not Everyone is an Upscale, Urban, 30something White Male Hipster. Is that the case here? Is it good advertising even if you personally don’t warm to it? Do men and women view ads differently, and can we as an industry appreciate such a difference even when awards shows don’t? Have you ever tried to write a sentimental ad only to have it killed by a CD or client who wanted something funny?
Personally, I think the spot’s OK. And I know my 67 year-old mother is very dependent on a smart, caring pharmacist. Me, I just want the CVS dude to hand over my Xanax refill and STFU about it.

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for Dan published the best of his columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. caring woman about to puke, too says:

    Let’s see…a rainbow turns into a scarf, which is then used to wrap around a lonely, cold, old person (sitting on a park bench, no less) by the character on her way to CVS? Ahhh, wait just a moment…this rainbow skipping being of joy and caring is…THE PHARMACIST, TOO? No wonder they had to animate the spot. Using real people would have greatly up’ed the puke quotient.
    Puhlease. This is some sappy ass, contrived crap meant to connect with the, sadly, millions of people so far removed from the sincerity in a feeling that a hallmark way of saying things resonates deeply.
    Only in America. For now.

  2. I’m all for real emotionality and empathy in ads. In fact, I would agree that many creatives are too cynical for their own good.
    Personally, I think you could do some wonderful advertising on what it takes to be a caregiver. This ad is just bland. It’s a greeting card, and not even a decent one at that.

  3. Ah. The old “Isn’t is nice to have a (insert product/company here) that cares as much as you”-routine …
    I’m not keen on the tangible, caring-like behavior CVS has exhibited over the years so I can’t say whether this rings hallow with reason or not. I do know that just saying something doesn’t make it so.
    Message aside, the execution makes it a disclaimer away from being a pharmaceutical spot. And that’s never good.

  4. Funny, I was reading this, thinking “Not Everyone Is An Upscale…” and there it was.
    Thanks for the shout-out.
    But this is a great example of what I’ve been saying.
    Yes, in my eyes, it’s a sappy 30 second version of one of those online greeting cards you send when you realize you’ve forgotten someone’s birthday. (Blue Mountain?)
    But I bet the seniors who the ad is probably aimed at love it. As, obviously, do a number of people who read Ad Age.
    Not everyone rolls their eyes at Hallmark cards. Lifetime TV is huge for a reason. So is “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and all those other shows you can’t believe people actually watch.

  5. I asked my parents about this, both of whom are definitely in the target. They like it. Which says a hell of a lot more about the work than a self-centered egotist like Garfield.