"We are family", created by Adam & Eve/DDB, follows research conducted by the brand that identified a shocking gulf between how families are represented in popular culture – including advertising, as well as TV programmes and other media – and the actual experiences of real families.
The ad debuts during Emmerdale on ITV on Monday evening, and will run for ten weeks, with a £6m spend on the campaign across TV, digital, social and PR.
It was created by Chloe Pope and Jessica Morris at Adam & Eve/DDB, and directed by Finn McGough through Knucklehead. The media agency is PHD.
The research, which was carried out for McCain by OnePoll, found that 49% of Brits thought popular culture did not reflect the reality of modern families, while a huge 84% of families said they hadn’t seen anything in popular culture in the last six months that related to them.
McCain marketing director Mark Hodge told Campaign that, despite having a sense that representations were not as good as they should be, he had been "quite staggered" by the findings.
The underlying problem, Hodge said, was "a reluctance to celebrate what’s great about families today." Our culture, he said, was "quite nostalgic – in this instance, sometimes we’re perhaps too nostalgic.
"Families have changed quite dramatically, and quite often you hear that families today should be doing more of what previous generations did. But families, and their makeup, have evolved and changed."
But the problem was also "a function of the industry", he added – "who works on a brand and who develops the work.
"I often encourage our agencies to really put themselves in the shoes of the consumers that buy them [our products]. Only when you see and hear them can you really understand the audience you’re trying to reach."
Hodge named Channel 4 show Gogglebox as an example of a piece of popular culture that had broken the patterns identified in the research.
"It was a very refreshing reality TV program," he said. "You think, my god this is going to be dull and boring, but I think we all know as a nation how we’ve engaged with it. Within the nooks and crannies of Great Britain and these families, there really is some magic."
Alongside the TV run, McCain is conducting a social, live and out-of-home component of the campaign involving a partnership with the National Portrait Gallery.
Photographer Sian Davey is travelling the UK, photographing a diverse selection of real families, with 15-20 portraits set to feature in a pop-up exhibit at the gallery in September, as well as in OOH ads.
Consumers are also being invited to share their family photos online using the hashtag #WeAreFamily for a chance to be included in the exhibition.
"I’m a big believer in action and that brands need to take action to prove they mean what they say," Hodge said.
"If we’re shining a light on the good that exists in the diversity of the nation, there’s nothing better than partnering with the National Portrait Gallery and going out and actually capturing some of those real families."
The objective for the brand, he said, was to increase relevance with a broader range of consumers, especially in less traditional households, such as single-person and two-person households.
He said: "I want to make McCain a brand that is as relevant to as many households in the country as possible. I see this as another step in really connecting with the great British public, and show that here is a brand that understands modern British families better than any other brand."