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The Father Factor


PBS Parents Engages in More “Dads and Clueless” Stereotyping

pbsparentsOne of the reasons NFI gives out the Fatherhood Award™ to worthy individuals and corporations is because we believe that “lighting a candle” is often more effective than “cursing the darkness.” However, from time to time, we feel it is necessary to curse some darkness, as we did about a Huggies advertising campaign in March.

Now is another time. On June 15, just in time for Father’s Day, the Facebook page for PBS Parents posted this picture of dads in the baby food aisle, presumably on the phone with their wives, with the caption, “Ha!”

Sure, the photo is kind of funny. But, as we have pointed out numerous times before, would it fly if they posted a picture of clueless-looking women at an auto parts store? First, they would never post such a picture. Second, if they did, they would take it down the moment a negative comment came in.

After all, shouldn’t we be getting past stereotypes? PBS Parents apparently thinks so, as they posted this article called “7 Ways to Fight Stereotypes.”

Except, of course, when it comes to dads. Again, as we have often repeated here at NFI, despite the fact that there is a child-damaging trend of crisis-level father absence in America, our culture continues to think it is ok to make fun of dads, and thus, in our view, discourage them from getting involved.

Despite numerous complaints in the comments next to this photo, PBS Parents did not take down the photo, and basically shrugged off the complaints saying that they meant no offense and that it was meant as a “tribute” to dads.

I don’t believe them. They found the photo on a “humor” website that shares vulgar, even profane, photos, and captioned it with “Ha!” In other words, “laugh at these dads with us!” 

I don’t know enough about PBS Parents to say whether or not the rest of what they do reflects this immature attitude towards fathers. A quick glance at their website suggests that they are mom-centered but offer resources for dads, too.

So, why the dad bashing? First and foremost, they are not afraid. They have no fear that they will lose money or business as a result of posting such content. When moms or women are offended in the public eye, they make a big deal out of it and force change. Men and dads don’t do this, and no one does it for them.

However, this could be changing. I mentioned Huggies earlier. After they received criticism from the community of dads (and moms, too), they pulled the offensive ads and have since been in dialogue with NFI and daddy bloggers in a genuine effort to include dads in a positive way in their branding and messaging.

We indicated then that Huggies’ actions may have marked a turning point in brands actually responding to criticism from fathers. So far, PBS Parents has bucked the trend.

And it may be to their detriment. Research is starting to show that fathers are an important market force. If PBS Parents and their ilk do not change with the times, the last “Ha!” could be on them.

The Huggies Conversation Continues...

As regular readers of The Father Factor know, NFI recently played a key part in a firestorm of social media commentary that led Huggies to respond to the complaints of dads and modify an ad campaign to portray dads more positively.  (If you missed it, check out our blog post rebuking Huggies for their original campaign and the second blog post applauding them for listening to the feedback of dads.)

The conversation about how brands and organizations can effectively reach out to dads - and why it's important for them to do so - continues.  Vince DiCaro, NFI's Vice President of Development and Communication, was NFI's voice in the Huggies "debacle."  The National Diaper Bank Network invited Vince to share NFI's thoughts on the important role that dads play.  As we've frequently noted, calling on men specifically as fathers, and not just parents (which is often interpreted as a code word for "mothers") is key to welcoming them into the conversation.  Vince elaborates on that and other ways and reasons to engage dads.

Read what he shared with The National Diaper Bank Network in his guest blog post "Today's Dads Can Help Close The 'Diaper Gap'"


Huggies Working to Clean Up a Diaper Mess

In The Godfather: Part II, Michael Corleone says, "I hope they will have the decency to clear my name with the same publicity with which they now have besmirched it."

In the spirit of those wise words, I am blogging today to follow up on a recent post I did about a Huggies ad campaign.

On March 1, I blogged about a dad-unfriendly ad campaign from the diaper giant. In that post, I accused Huggies of playing into stereotypes about fathers being less competent parents than moms, especially when it comes to changing diapers and caring for babies. We asked you, our readers, to let Huggies know what you thought about their ad, and you did, voicing your concerns on Huggies' Facebook page.

At the time, I had no idea my blog post was part of a "movement" of daddy bloggers all over the country saying similar things, and inspiring many others to speak out, too.

There was so much noise being made about this that Headline News contacted me on Saturday to do a live interview on their network about my blog post and about the response from the community of dads. You can watch the HLN interview here.

To add to the providential timing of all of this, I happened to be in Austin, TX over the weekend for a brand new conference called the Dad 2.0 Summit, where the very community that called Huggies out had gathered to talk about strengthening the online community of dads and strategizing on how dads and brands can work together for mutual benefit.

This was a "perfect storm" that may indeed be a watershed moment in the "fatherhood movement" (for lack of a better term). For years, various other communities have coalesced to the point that if a brand "messes with them," they will make a big stink and force that brand to change its tune. Moms, for example, have done a great job of this, and are rightly recognized as a market force to be reckoned with. But this Huggies incident could mark the first time that the community of dads forced a major brand to change its course.

Huggies, to their great credit, did a couple of positive things. First, they pulled one ad in the series off the air immediately. Second, they are working to change the voice overs in the other ads to make them less condescending. Third, they changed the copy on their Facebook page from "put our diapers to the ultimate test... dad" to "Have dad put Huggies to the test." Fourth, Huggies sent several staff, including executives, to the above mentioned Dad 2.0 Summit to sit down with dads one-on-one (myself included) to hear our concerns and explain what they are doing to make amends.

This Huffington Post article summarizes how this whole thing played out.

So, what's next?

Huggies has a great opportunity to really separate itself from the pack by capitalizing on the mistake it made and the subsequent steps they have taken to fix it. Huggies is smack in the middle of the radar screen of the dad community right now, so if they do things right, they can really establish themselves as a brand that cares about and responds to fathers.

We at National Fatherhood Initiative stand ready to afford brands the opportunity to do this in a big, national way.

For you, take a moment to head over to Huggies' Facebook page and thank them for responding to dads' concerns and changing course. Continue to hold them accountable. But don't tell them Michael Corleone told you to do this...

Let's not forget what happened here. We dads were able to accomplish something that every significant social movement has been able to accomplish. Let's keep it up!

So Easy, Even a Dad Can Do It

I have to take a deep breath when I write blog posts like this.

While more and more advertisers are starting to realize that dads are competent parents that make or share in family purchasing decisions, there are still far too many stragglers that continue to play the “dads are dumb” line over and over again.

Huggies, the huge diaper brand, is one of the worst offenders. Their most recent ad campaign may take the cake for advertising that is condescending to dads and out of touch with reality. Watch the ad here.

The imagery in the ad is great – dads taking care of their babies. We need to see more of that. But it’s the voice over and premise of the ad where the problem is: “To prove Huggies diapers can handle anything, we put them to the ultimate test: dads… alone with their babies….”

What this reminds me of are the Geico commercials with the caveman. Remember those: “So easy a caveman can do it.” These Huggies ads send the same message: our diapers are so easy to use that even a dad can’t mess this up.

Congrats, dads! You are in the same camp as cavemen! The problem of course is that cavemen don’t exist anymore, but dads do!

Compare the Huggies ads to ones where products have to pass the “mom test” and you will find that those are handled in the opposite way. To pass the mom test, a product has to prove that it lives up to the high standards that moms demand. Like the old Kix cereal commerial, whose tagline was, “Kid tested, mom approved.” But the Huggies ads take the opposite tack; the product has to be tested by dads so that it survives the low standards that dads set.

If you are not yet convinced that these ads send a terrible message about fatherhood, or that these ads are harmless and mean to be “funny,” think of it another way. There is a stereotype out there that women are worse drivers than men. So imagine a car commercial that says, “We are putting our new car to the ultimate test – giving it to a woman for 5 days to see if it survives!” The outcry would be justifiably enormous…

I have to wonder who in the heck Huggies is testing these messages on or what research they are looking at that shows that these sorts of insulting messages to dads are still acceptable. The reality is that dads are changing diapers, caring for babies, and being involved dads. And where they are not, we need to be encouraging them to do so because it is what kids and families need.

Huggies’ ad plays to old stereotypes and ultimately discourages involved fatherhood by playing up the idea that dads just aren’t as good at parenting as moms are. At a minimum, I imagine this ad is discouraging dads from buying Huggies – there appears to be quite an uproar about it online.

What do you think of the commercial? Click here to view it and make a statement. If Huggies is in fact committing a “violation” here, they need to hear from you so that things can change for the better.

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