The typical American family is anything but typical these days and advertising is finally reflecting that. Brands are being lauded, and rightfully so, for their inclusion of more diverse family dynamics in their ads. While more drastic changes to the two white heterosexual parent households stereotype are grabbing attention, one family role is benefiting from these changes.
The capable dad.
Dads have long been the foil of mighty mom – the household managing, career-oriented and nurturing superwoman. Whether bumbling around the house, being gross or just plain lazy, dads just made life miserable for moms. But, thank goodness for product XYZ that made it easier for her to deal with this disaster.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the portrayal of super moms, because they are super without having a bumbling or disinterested dad. However, advertisers have mere seconds to connect emotional with their audience and deliver their message, so gross exaggeration and stereotypes are a necessary evil at times. Household products were the worst offenders, but dads are now being wooed by those very brands that once ridiculed them.
For too long advertisers relied on the ideal nuclear family of generations’ past – mom the homemaker, dad the breadwinner and the 2.5 kids. With more awareness of other family structures – single parents, breadwinning moms, stay at home dads, gay parents, interracial couples, advertisers are catching up with the changes in the family dynamic.
With an economy that demands both parents work and more women careers and motherhood, this generation of moms and dads are teaming up more on household chores and parenting. The idea of the bumbling male of the house doesn’t resonate with moms anymore. They wouldn’t trust that bumbling guy with grocery shopping, cleaning the house and watching the kids.
As a result, dads are also more involved in household shopping, which used to be dominated by the mom, hence the unflattering portrayals. Take a look at the numbers from a 2011 Yahoo! study on dad’s responsibilities in the house:
- 51% are responsible for grocery shopping
- 41% are responsible for the laundry
- 40% are responsible for the house cleaning
- 39% are responsible for the cooking
- 60% for CPG products
- 55% for personal care products
- 54% for home goods
- 43% for child and baby products
I was unable to find numbers from years past to compare, but it’s a safe bet that they would be smaller.
Speaking of numbers, one daddy blogger tracked what he called Dad-Bias in 140 commercials from 2013 that featured dads. He gave 60% of those commercials a good or mostly good rating compared to 20% bad and mostly bad with the remain 20% receiving a neutral rating. Not bad.
This may not the biggest stereotyping sin that advertising has perpetrated. The more favorable view of fathers may not the most heralded change in the portrayal of today’s families. But for this dad and son of a very capable dad, it is a welcome change.
To close, here a few of the better portrayals of fatherhood in advertising.
This Tide ad epitomizes this shift with dad doing a “mom” job well –
Transition into fatherhood
Dad the protector
Dad teaching important life lessons
One of the most accurate portrayals of mom and dad –
(Full disclosure: I have been a dad for 7 awesome months and after doing my share of diapers, bottles, baths and sleepless nights, I may be a little more sensitive to the portrayal of dads. Case in point: some of those ads above now make me man-cry. A little.)