The portrayal of dads in advertising and marketing campaigns is changing, with many brands starting to contradict the usual stereotypes.
Disney recently committed to doing away with common stereotypes of Dads in its content, with research by the entertainment giant finding, ‘media depictions of fathers are frequently outdated and fail to take account of the key aspirations of modern dads’.”
The company’s UK chief marketing officer, Anna Hill, told The Drum Disney had “got to a position where we have realised the role of dads is really important and probably something that we needed to do a deeper dive into”.
Disney’s research into the way fathers are portrayed found that the market was sick of dads being shown as “hapless jokers who are overworked or absent”. Rather, it found, dads are driven by four key aspirations: the desire to bond with, protect and equip their children, as well as to entertain.
Regardless of age, nationality, geographical location, education levels or affluence, these four drivers were the constants that presented in all dads surveyed across the EMEA markets, it said.
Hill said their findings were a call to action for other advertisers to rethink they way they depict dads. “I think lots of brands are starting to do it,” she told The Drum. “There are some brands who still use the dad as the haphazard, court jester, but there are examples where dad is seen as the tender, loving, homemaker.”
So which brands and ads are pushing out old stereotypes and ushering in modern dads?
Interestingly, South Africa was way ahead of the curve when back in 2015, single dad and well-known actor Hlomla Dandala and his children starred in an ad for Kelloggs. In real life, Dandala is the father of five, and Kelloggs tapped into his story for their ad. Vuyokazi Xapa, Kellogg’s communications manager, said at the time, “Dandala is an active dad with five children, who balances a thriving career with his family life. He grew up eating Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and it still features at his breakfast table”.
P&G’s Pantene is another success story. It illustrated the new thinking perfectly, very recently, with its Dad-Do commercial, which saw NFL players doing their daughters hair.
South Africa’s OMO also heeded the call for change regarding the image of dads in ads, with its television commercial putting fathers at the centre of household chores.
Steven Talbot, assistant brand manager for the group, spoke to The Media Online about why this approach was taken by the well-known household brand.
Q: Why did OMO choose to go the route of placing dads at the centre of their new television campaign?
A: The role males play in the household and in society has been topical over the years, with a large emphasis in 2017. We take pride and are inspired by the progressive nature of the familial landscape we operate in. We are richly cognisant that the notion of a nuclear family is fluid and evolving and we wanted to show that evolution. The former, coupled with Unilever research revealed that men were already sharing laundry duties and have no problem doing so. Thanks to this insight, it made sense to run a TV ad that shows men handling the laundry for the family, reflecting changes already happening in society. Parliament recently passed the Paternity bill which has further substantiated our research and brand intuition.
Q: Why choose television as the medium to carry this advertising campaign? How does it effectively convey the Dad narrative?
A: We wanted to reach a wider audience, transcend barriers and avoid the message getting lost in translation on any other platform. Therefore the decision to visually communicate through television was the obvious and deliberate choice. The use of TV cut across a lot of barriers including: reach, language, gender and age. The 30sec visual effectively depicted a progressive family narrative and helped combat media stereotypes about gender roles. Families and people watching were able to relate because they live a similar life.
Q: Is this a trend in the advertising industry to subvert the ‘mom is taking care of the household narrative’? How many examples have there been of this?
A: Advertising as an industry is transforming and is becoming conscious and responsive to people’s daily life. If you look at the Burger King bully burger campaign, you see how the industry responds to social ills and provides audiences with tangible examples of how they would behave, should have behaved, and behaved, depending on how it affects them. Similarly for us, we responded to changes that are and have taken place in or daily lives. The campaign is in line with Unilever’s global commitment to changing the portrayal of gender in advertising and to shifting perceptions away from stereotypical roles. Moms aren’t the only ones is taking care of the chores. Dads are increasingly aware of the pressures on the modern family unit and are making a concerted effort to step up. The paternity bill is an example of legislative response, civil society groups Cool dads and Kids, Father A nation, The Fatherhood project are but few examples of the active roles men are taking in chores and raising kids.
Q: What other methods have you used in this campaign?
A: We have embarked on a social media drive and affiliated ourselves with individuals and groups we feel help us land this narrative. Placing fathers at the core of our campaign has provided a new layer of engagement and conversation. We have seen both fathers and moms take more pleasure in getting dirty. Showing that the message resonates with women as much as men. The resounding reception to #DirtIsGood was better than expected and we look forward to driving rich conversations on topical issues that promote family values. More importantly, we have learnt that while parents raise kids, kids raise families and this insight alone inspires us to do more and get involved in the family homes.
Michael Bratt is a multimedia journalist at Wag the Dog Publishers, publishers of The Media Online and The Media. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelBratt8