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Hang On, Did Olive Garden Just Make a Really Good Commercial?


Olive Garden's advertising has long been distinguished by its unlimited blandness, which some might argue is a decent representation of the food there. But during NBC's Red Nose Day telethon Thursday night, viewers will get a very different look at the Olive Garden brand promise, via this 60-second spot from Grey New York.

It's about as far from your typical Olive Garden spot as you could get. Instead of the overly produced, food-shot-heavy clip, we get a montage of home-movie footage all based around the idea of family.

The restaurant chain has used the line "We're all family here" since 2013, but its communication of the concept has been far from inspired. Here, though, there's real life and real emotion. And it's hard to imagine a brand that could use a jolt like that more urgently.

Focusing on real moments is quite a leap for Olive Garden. And whether or not people buy into it—an emotionally rich ad isn't going to change the food, after all—it does suggest the marketer is willing to go outside its comfort zone and loosen its grip on the kind of safe but forgettable messaging for which it's known.

Even the in-restaurant footage at the end is remarkably low-fi and unadorned. That's impressive for such a manicured brand, and suggests that Olive Garden knows something about real families and real moments, not just TV ones—and hosts them daily.

The amateur version of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros track "Home" pulls it all together—a song full of emotion, rendered simply. That's the vibe of the whole ad. Whether it signals a real change for Olive Garden remains to be seen. (Grey New York has been churning out the more genetic stuff—like this, just a couple of weeks ago—for Olive Garden since 1984.) But this could be a pleasantly surprising first step.

Client: Olive Garden
Spot: "Home"
Agency: Grey NY
Worldwide Chief Creative Officer: Tor Myhren
Chief Creative Officer: Andreas Dahlqvist
Chief Marketing Officer: Jane Reiss
President, Grey Activation/PR: Amy Tunick
Executive Creative Director: Ari Halper
Executive Creative Director: Stephen Krauss
Executive Creative Director: Jan Egan
Executive Creative Director: Ron Castillo
Creative Director: Brad Mancuso
Creative Director: Susan LaScala Wood
Art Director: Jonathan Hsu
Copywriter: Gail Barlow & Paul Elicker
VP Executive Producers (Agency): Seth Gorenstein & Adam Seely
SVP Account Director: Nadine Falco
VP Account Directors: Christina Pantina & Jamie Shiembob
Strategy: Dominic Hanley
Editor (person & company): Cindy Nielsen & Charlie Cusumano, Vision Post
Assistant Casting Director: Brian Safuto
EVP Director of Music (Agency): Josh Rabinowitz
VP Director of Music Licensing (Agency): Amy Rosen
Project Manager: Jasmine Mangana

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