The Surprise Twist In The Robinsons “Pals” Ad

2 years, 5 months.

Dear Jack,

I hope you just watched that 60 second ad before reading this.

(Here’s a chance to, if you haven’t. Go ahead, please. I’ll wait.)

As you just watched, the boy in the green shirt puts his arm around the boy in the striped shirt while he was holding the ball, dusts him off when they fall down, compliments him on his throw, lifts him up to the bar he can’t reach, pretends like he’s about to push him into the water, patiently looks over his shoulder as he plays his video game, recognizes the boy’s crush and encourages him to talk to her and insists she likes him too, takes the “fatal hit” while using sticks to play sword fight, serves him juice, stays awake after he falls asleep watching T.V, takes his shoes off for him, carries him upstairs and lays a blanket over him.

They’re clearly friends, right?

The ad closes with the boy in the striped shirt saying, “Good night, Dad.” Then the dad tells his son good night too.


In those 60 seconds, through play, encouragement, and affection, the dad serves the son.

Just a few weeks ago I wrote, “To Love And To Lead Is To Serve: No Thank You’s Required.” Though it’s a simple concept, I felt it was important enough to write to you about:

“It probably comes down to this anyway: The most important things I do in life, and that I am best at doing, are the things for which I’m not regularly thanked. Serving is loving and leading. I get that now… no thank you’s required.”

In a history of commercials making the dad out to be an idiot, finally, somebody really (!) gets it right.

Only a week ago I wrote “How To Market To An ‘Unmarketable’ Generation Y Dad.” I explained what it would take for an ad to reach me, because I’m so good at ignoring ads:

“So, in review, a stubborn, penny pinching, Dave Ramsey following, Generation Y dad like me will magically buy a product for his son if he believes that… the product will reinforce the traditional ideas and principles that remind him of his own 1987 version of childhood and/or… the company makes it clear that dads are helpful and important, not idiots.”

A+, Robinsons “Pals.” You are the official dad ad to beat.

Here’s a secret, Son. A dad can never hear enough, from anyone, that he is a good dad.

To outsiders it may appear to be a sensitive male ego thing, but as a dad, I can confirm that routine, positive affirmation is one of the most effective ways to reach and connect with a dad.

So now, I need to go wipe my nose. I could blame it on the Maple trees blooming here in Nashville, triggering my allergies.

Instead, I’ll just admit it. After watching this ad a few times, I’m pretty tore up, in a good way.

I just love you so much.





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  1. by Amy

    On May 4, 2013 at 9:28 am

    Good ad, sweet message, but how do you justify the ending line: “It’s better to be a friend.” Really? That’s not subtle implications and which role trumps which. A lot of problems stem directly from parents who put friendship with their child over their parenting role, wouldn’t you say?

  2. by Amy

    On May 4, 2013 at 9:32 am

    Sweet ad, but what about the last line of it? There are no subtle implications here when it states “a friend is better.” Which role should trump which? A lot of problems are inevitable when parents value themselves as friends to their child more so than parents.

  3. by Amy

    On May 4, 2013 at 9:33 am

    Sorry I submitted that twice; I thought there was an error the first time.

  4. by Nick Shell

    On May 4, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Hi Amy, thanks for the good point. I’m working on a sequel that will address this. -Nick

  5. [...] Yesterday I bragged on how much I loved the “Pals” ad by Robinsons. Since then, I’ve read some comments online pointing out that the commercial closes with the tagline, “It’s good to be a dad, it’s better to be a friend.” [...]

  6. [...] examples of dads being positively portrayed in the media. Not too long ago, I mentioned the Robinsons “Pals” commercial. This week, I promoted the Sears “Not A Superhero” ad, as [...]