June 13, 2013
Goodbye, ‘doofus dad’; hello, ‘co-parent’
This Father’s Day, let’s celebrate the decline of the “doofus dad,” that clueless stock character who has populated advertising for years. He’s on the way out thanks to disgruntled fathers, who have started making clear to marketers they’re not amused by these portrayals. The Huggies case is well-known: Last year the brand agreed to revise a reality-style spot in which Huggies were “put … to the toughest test imaginable: dads, alone with their babies.” Earlier this year a Huggies exec told The New York Times a valuable lesson was learned: “Dads do not want to be treated differently and they do not want to be treated foolishly.” (See the revised, “pro-dad” spot here.)
More marketers will need to adjust their messaging now that dads devote more time than ever to domestic chores. American fathers spend an average of 7.3 hours a week on child care, triple the amount of time they spent in 1965, according to the Pew Research Center. And today it’s cool for dads to be engaged in this way. Men are no longer likely to feel emasculated by tasks once primarily the domain of women. Two years ago Tide showed a stay-at-home, self-described “dad mom” overcompensating as he talks about using “the brute strength of dad” for laundry duty; this year, Tide depicts a self-described “expert dad” who’s nonchalant about handling the laundry.
Dad is increasingly popping up in place of Mom in commercials around the world, whether it’s tackling laundry, making a family meal or driving a kid to school. But too much of the time, advertising’s domestic sphere is still a female-only domain—a vision that’s increasingly out of step with the times. Take the longtime tagline “Choosy moms choose Jif,” for instance. The J.M. Smucker brand has started showing fathers in commercials, adding “and dads” to the voiced-over tagline—but dads still feel like an afterthought. As men take on more household work, brands will need to start speaking to them and to women more equally.