This short, 60-second advertisement was created by the Oslo-based Norwegian advertising firm, Kitchen. I served as a missionary in Norway, and shortly after returning home to the United States this advertisement circulated quickly via Facebook and on Norway’s main television station, NRK. Adweek reported that the video was viewed 120 times during the first seven days after its release, and Norway’s Barne-, ungdoms-, og familiedirektoratet (Child, Youth, and Family Bureau) that sponsored the video reported 270 million views of the touching video in just two weeks. This is quite incredible when compared to Norway’s population of only five million.
This video, entitled “The Lunchbox” in English, was used to promote the creation of foster homes and adoption of foster children in local areas. As one of many consumers of this particular advertisement, I was very touched (as were many others that I knew). As a media literate, it is clear to see that this advertisement attempted to draw out emotion from the audience, specifically sympathetic emotions.
There were many details in “The Lunchbox” that led to sympathy. First of all, the advertisement was framed in such a way that it seemed innocent and positive. The actors were all young children, who can be considered kind and thoughtful, having natural desires to do good. There were no adults except for the teacher at the start who began the commercial by saying, “Now it is time to eat!” This suggests, perhaps, that adults are not the “victims,” neither are they currently the “helpers” or “givers.” Children have a certain innocence about them. They are more inclined to share — it’s that simple. The young boy who opened an empty lunchbox, coupled with slow, quiet, sad music, left a powerful impression on my mind, helping me to recognize that there are young children who truly have nothing to eat. Not only did he have nothing to eat, but he asked to leave the room so he could be alone. Alone and with nothing, this young boy was truly poor. This is particularly powerful for viewers who have what they need, who have “lunch in their lunchboxes.”
Then, coming back to put his lunchbox away, he is gratefully surprised to find that the lunchbox was heavier than he remembered — and this time, full of food. In correlation with the idea that “it takes a village to raise a child,” each of the other children seemed to contribute a little. One gave some grapes, another part of his open-faced sandwich, another some crackers, and yet another gave carrots.
The touching, 60-second narrative ends with the text, “Solutions are often closer than you think;” then appears on the screen, “We need more foster homes, preferably in the children’s local areas.” This ties back to the idea that it really does take a village — a local village — to help those around us, especially children. The advertisers tugged at emotions and played on Aristotle’s idea of pathos in this short video. They encouraged locals in any area of Norway to get involved in foster care in some way, and to help to be a part of the solution close to home.
Because this advertisement spread so rapidly online as part of the mass communication of the current century, Norwegian especially saw this video frequently and from various locations. Its powerful play on emotions caused this video to be shared, retweeted, and sent, allowing it to go viral. Most views were on Facebook, but others watched on YouTube, television, or from links on Twitter, in emails, or via text messages. The frequency of its appearance plays into the agenda-setting theory in which the media determines what should be at the forefront of a population’s mind, and since the release of this video, there has been an increase of talk about foster homes, foster children, and how to help them among Norwegians.
After seeing how rapidly this video spread and how widely viewed it was, it was clear to see that its simple yet powerful message was one that penetrated the hearts of many. It was a very effective tool in communicating the advertisers’ desires.