There was never an official government order dictating moms around the country must suddenly wear a certain unflattering style of denim pants. For whatever reason, many just made that fashion choice independently. And, as they always do, Saturday Night Live noticed.
The writers at SNL don’t have to travel too far out of their way to mine comedy gold from this premise. Simple product descriptions get the idea across without need for exaggeration: “She’ll love the nine-inch zipper and casual front pleats.” Everyone watching at home knows exactly what they mean, and even if they don’t, the commercial offers plenty of visual representation.
You’d never see an ad like this in the wild because, ultimately, humor demands we view the product in a negative light: “Give her something that says, ‘I’m not a woman anymore, I’m a mom!’” Yet the humor wouldn’t function if SNL’s audience didn’t automatically recognize the popularity of these pants in the real world. Maybe a mom or two looked over at their closet and thought, “Uh-oh.”
Lesson One: Know Your Audience
The ad contains a lot of parody, but it knows who it’s talking to. The message is geared toward Mother’s Day and utilizes bright colors and soft, bouncy music to draw the attention of middle-class, suburban moms. Even the Mom Jeans logo matches the aesthetic with the addition of a little rose.
Lesson Two: Illustrate Product Usefulness and Versatility
The product description is rich, combined with imagery illustrating the versatility of these pants. You can garden in them! You can wear them out to dinner! The ad also introduces not just pants but a whole product line, touting that they come in “angle length, capris length, and shorts.”
Lesson Three: Call to Action
Though the ad also features plenty of mom hair and mom shirts to complete the setting, it doesn’t draw attention to those jokes, though it does highlight a weekend promotion where moms can get a free Mom Jeans vest with the purchase of some pants (but only at JCPenney).
Paradoxically, Mom Jeans is not a product anyone wants, yet it is a product many people had (we’ve been informed young people wear these now but refuse to believe it). And save for the “I’m not a woman anymore, I’m a mom” line, much of this functions like a real ad, which is why it’s so funny. The spot describes the product, shows its functionality in the real world, explores the product line’s variety, and pushes a limited-time promotion geared toward a holiday specifically celebrating the product’s niche audience - all in just under one minute. You won’t run out of your house to buy a pair of these jeans (or shorts), but it would only take a small nudge to push this into legitimacy.
After all, if Mom keeps buying these things she must like them, right?