Singled Out - Why 7-11's new campaign is so sad / by Chris Hubbard

Yesterday 7-11 launched a new ad campaign entitled “Single friendly.” As someone who’s been happily single for over two years, I was pleased and excited to see a brand launching a campaign in support of Taiwan's single population. You might find it hard to believe, but single people can face an enormous amount of prejudice from cultural stigma and the media, so it’s always refreshing to see support from brands we know and love; and who can't say they don't love 7-11 on some level.

The first video I watched from the series ( below ) was hard for me to wrap my head around. Titled “Lesson 6" the story revolves around a sucker of a guy who apparently lacks any sense of self-worth.  His horrible girlfriend takes advantage of this by endlessly commanding him to rush to 7-11 to purchase whatever her nasty heart desires. The story culminates with us realizing that, although they've since broken up, he continues to serve as her personal shopping stooge, even as she requests two tickets to a show he's not even invited to; they're for her and a new boyfriend who's waiting impatiently in the car. In the end, our sucker shrugs it off. He's content with the satisfaction and pleasure he receives from buying things at 7-11; it's apparently the best thing going on in his life. Our 7-11 clerk observes all this, unbiasedly, and simply continues to do his job.

At first, I thought there must be something I was missing. Some kind of Taiwanese cultural humor I was losing in translation. After a discussion with some of my Taiwanese coworkers, I was assured that no, I wasn't missing anything, the story was as I had perceived it, and yes, it was super weird.

The rest of the videos in the series aren't much better. Each story delivers a somewhat dismal portrayal of a single person who's only bright spot in life appears to be his or her frequent trips to 7-11, where a caring yet disconnected clerk takes care of ringing them up. Cigarettes? Beer? Whatever makes you feel better about your sad life buddy. We're always open, so come back when you need more.

I just couldn't help feeling, after watching all these videos, that the main message is that 7-11 is a place for lonely losers, aka Single people. 

I like being single, I’m always there when I need me.
— Art Leo

What an enormous missed opportunity for 7-11. The campaign name itself "Single Friendly" is actually brilliant in my opinion. I immediately liked the sound of it when I saw the words, so whoever came up with it was definitely on to something. I'm not sure what happened from there, but it's clear the execution took a more sinister direction. Perhaps they should have attended our Greativities workshop on brand personality first.

It's a well-known fact that more Taiwanese young people are staying single for longer. ( this is actually true for most of the world as well. ) There's rumor that the government sees this as a national security threat, which may have some influence, but the truth is that most singles are single because they choose to be that way. This was shown to be true even back in 2006 when the Bureau of Health Promotion conducted a survey showing that one-third of Taiwanese preferred to remain single. In fact, new research shows that single people don't feel lonely at all, and they might even be far less lonely than those who are married or in a couple. So presenting singles as sad and lonely not only appears ignorant but is ultimately a poor way to win them over as loyal customers. 

Imagine, instead of attempting to demonstrate how miserable and lonely the single life is, a series of stories focused on the positive side of being single; staying out all night with friends while making frequent 7-11 runs, the freedom to enjoy some quality alone time with a coffee or a snack, or even the opportunity 7-11 provides to meet other happy single people, which who knows, could result in a happy new relationship. 

I'm single, and I love shopping at 7-11. I have fond memories of using 7-11's excellent free wifi to skype with friends and family on Saturday mornings. I've even had a few great conversations with strangers I met there. That's what single friendly to me is all about, and what 7-11 could be all about.