Tylenol recreates Norman Rockwell’s iconic painting “Freedom from Want.” (Photo by Adm Golub/Invision for TYLENOL/AP Images)

There’s a new picture of American idealism inspired by one of the classic images of the 20th century — Norman Rockwell’s 1943 painting “Freedom from Want.”

In new advertisements entitled “What Matters Most,” Tylenol joins the ranks of Cheerios and Honeymaid, providing progressive social commentary through its ads.

In “What Matters Most,” Tylenol profiles three different families in a quest to update the Rockwell images from the Saturday Evening Post and bring them into an era in which “Modern Family,” now in its sixth season, consistently wins Emmys.

One spot focuses on a Jewish blended family that includes a lesbian couple with children, a Chinese-Japanese-American family and an African American family headed by a matriarch with an eyebrow piercing. Rockwell’s turkey is replaced by challah, a hotpot and cornish hens.

The “What Matters Most” spots from Tylenol follow a trend of companies such as Cheerios and Honeymaid looking to elicit warm, fuzzy responses with socially progressive messaging while seeking to minimize elements of their corporate practices that some criticize as … less warm and fuzzy. In Tylenol’s case, it’s been studies that show how easy it is to overdose on the drug and cause liver damage, and the shadow cast by recalls for its products, especially Infants’ Tylenol, one of its most-trusted brands. This piece from the Atlantic explains how Tylenol may numb your ennui, not just your headache, whether you want it to or not.


“Freedom From Want,” by Norman Rockwell, 1943. (Courtesy of the Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge, Mass. Printed by permission of the Norman Rockwell Family Trust.)

Wal-Mart is a good example of this sort of corporate dichotomy: It’s a member of the Campaign for Fair Food, which advocates for higher wages and decent working conditions for tomato pickers; on the other hand, it’s been under fire for paying wages so low many of its workers rely on public assistance. Cheerios and Honeymaid have faceds concerns about genetically modified organisms and the health quotient of packaged food in general.

With “What Matters Most,” Tylenol is not only normalizing and making universal rituals among underrepresented groups. It’s tapping into consumers’ desire to align themselves with particular companies in order to make statements about themselves or their values. We might have witnessed the most extreme example earlier this year when the electronic vehicle spat between Ford and General Motors played out in rival commercials.

It appears there was great care given to Rockwell’s legacy. His granddaughter, Abigail Rockwell, appears in each spot and says that she believes her grandfather would have approved, treating the spots as a continuation of his work. Rockwell’s painting of a school-age Ruby Bridges, “The Problem We All Live With,” was loaned from the Rockwell Museum’s permanent collection to the White House this year, through Oct. 31.

“Our definition of family now expanding and blossoming, so it’s not this rigid, fixed picture of what the family is,” Rockwell intones via voiceover.

The series “reflects our credo,” Manoj Raghunandanan, a senior director of Tylenol business at JWT, told Ad Age. “It reflects serving our consumers and how unique and diverse they are.”

h/t Bilerico

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The problem we still live with, by Ruby Bridges