As predicted by the entire world and any possible life forms living on Earth’s moon, Huggies finally started pulling their “Ultimate Test: Dad” ads after a huge backlash in the sub-universe of social media last week. Today I read a blog article on HuffingtonPost.com by Lisa Belkin, who interviewed Aric Melzl; the brand director for Huggies.
The post ends with this Shark Tank type of warm wisdom from Melzl:
“Huggies is reponding to unhappy men, because those men have the ear of women. All of this, the initial campaign, the full-on response, is targeted at moms… I don’t want there to be any question about who we we’re going after.’”
Even though dads now make up 1/3 of stay at home parents, that doesn’t necessarily equate to men buying at least 33% of the diapers. According to the article, we’re worth about 5% in terms of actually buying them.
As in my case, I don’t buy the diapers because I’m waiting in the car with our son, who is taking his Sunday afternoon nap, while my wife is inside Publix or Harris Teeter doing the shopping.
Okay, I get it; I am commercially worth 5% as a parent.
To be fair, though, Huggies is simply the untimely scapegoat at the crossroads of “Surprise! Dads are more active now than ever in their kids’ lives” and “social media will not let you get away with that kind of stuff anymore…”. Plenty (!) of other companies have been recently dissing husbands and dads in their ads; they just might have been a bit more subtle.
In fact, in my post last week about this whole fiasco, I featured a video clip montage of several recent ads making dads out to be the classic idiot father; including brands such as Lysol, Hasbro, Cheerios, Benadryl, Febreeze, Naturemade, Stanley Steamer, Glade Sense and Spray, Uno Attack, Walmart, Orville Rendenbacher’s, Ortho, and Yellowbook.
Here’s my prophecy on this: Huggies’ faux pas will serve as a bookmark and a warning to any other advertising companies who dare to reach the mom market by poking fun at the dads, even if in the slightest and most innocent of ways.
This event has marked the beginning of the end of “dad jabs” in advertising.
Let’s face it: There’s now officially an army of daddy bloggers ready to out the next unsuspecting dad-basher. But on the flip side, we’re also always on the look-out for paternal praise from advertisers.
I wonder if the blessing of the salvation of positive dad ads is equal to the damnation of the curse of dad-jab ads?
Even if we dads never end up buying the proper percentage of a product to be marketable, we still have the power (via daddy blogging, Twitter, etc.) to take away from a company’s “cool factor.”
Considering how eager businesses are to get people to “like” them on Facebook, it’s pretty clear in this economy, and in this age of social media relevance, that being cool matters more than ever before.
At this point in American society, it is basically becoming taboo to stereotype dads and husbands as half-witted goons, as was accepted in recent decades. It used to be that advertisers could target stay-at-home moms by making a caricature of their husbands. But now that dads make up 33% of stay-at-home parents, that model is essentially invalid.
The video clip above very humorously shows several examples of commercials where this sexist approach has still been recently used by Lysol, Hasbro, Cheerios, Benadryl, Febreeze, Naturemade, Stanley Steamer, Glade Sense and Spray, Uno Attack, Walmart, Orville Rendenbacher’s, Ortho, and Yellowbook.
“Doofy Husbands: Target Women” by Sarah Haskins also cleverly points out examples of commercials targeted to men; featuring cool, good-looking guys: Infiniti, Nivea, Heineken, and Miller Lite. Of course, in these advertisements the men are assumed to be single; whereas in the ones where men are goof balls, they are clearly married.
Basically, once you marry the man, it’s like watching the opposite of the evolution of man.
At the time, I subconsciously thought for a half-second: “Wait, it almost sounds like they are making fun of dads; implying that dads are bumbling idiots who barely know how to change a diaper- one of the very ideas that I passionately denounce here on The Dadabase.”
But then I stopped myself with this rebuttal: “No, by putting dads to the ultimate test they mean that dads are tough on messes, like Mr. Clean. Yeah, that’s it… sure.”
So I moved forward with promoting it as a legitimate dad ad; because ultimately, a sponsor was making a point to acknowledge the involvement of dads regarding their product and I recognized (and still recognize) the importance of that.
Now here we are, living two weeks into the future, and a full-time stay-at-home Superdad named Chris Routly has gotten over 1,000 people (as of this minute) to sign a petition against the ad:
“Please, join me in asking them to drop the ‘Ultimate Test: Dad’ element entirely, and instead focus on actually celebrating the wonderfully active dads who use HUGGIES every day with the same competence and care as moms.”
I say this Chris Routly fellow is a smart guy and he makes a valid point.
He’s not being dramatic and asking dads, who currently make up 1/3 of stay-at-home parents, to ban Huggies. Instead, he’s asking Huggies to recognize their mistake and redirect their energy on a different ad that undoubtedly celebrates dads instead of questions their parenting abilities based on gender.
Chris Routly puts it this way, in his petition:
“How are dads a test? As a dad, am I simply too dumb to use them properly?
Why is a dad on diaper duty an appropriate or meaningful test of the product in any way a mom using them is not?
Why reduce dads to being little more than test dummy parents, putting diapers and wipes through a ‘worst-case scenario’ crash course of misuse and abuse?”
I think however this all pans out, it will be a valuable (and expensive) lesson to all advertisers from now on:
Don’t insult dads and husbands. We’re 33% of your buying power as stay-at-home parents.
I often forget just how many references can be made to the name “Jack”. When I refer to my wife and son in conversation and say “Jack and Jill…”, it’s simply me talking about my family. But I have to remind myself that the first thing most people will think of when they hear “Jack and Jill” is the nursery rhyme. So this week when I posted two videos of Jack’s first car, a Huggies box, and titled them “Baby Box” and “Baby Box 2″, I suppose it was a bit ironic. Because the obvious phrase to include in the name of the videos should have been “Jack in the Box”. I overlooked the most obvious reference.
Everyone is familiar with the idea of a young child being more excited about the box that a gift came in than the gift itself. Jack’s diaper box is no different. If it were up to him, he would just go around naked all the time. And if it weren’t for that whole “not potty trained yet” thing, I’d be okay with it. Earlier this week I saw him eyeing the empty Huggies box, ready for garbage take-out. So I dropped him it, turned on the engine, and as expected, he loved his new ride.
When it comes to an actual Jack in the Box, though, he’s not excited in any way. Because when the clown (in our case, it’s a sock monkey) pops out of the box, it doesn’t scare or surprise him. Instead, the look on Jack’s face is more like “What, am I supposed to be impressed”? He’d rather have a Huggies box.