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.
When I think of a feminist, I think of stereotypes like Jessie Spano from Saved By the Bell or the bookstore owners on Portlandia. I don’t really know what else to go on.
To make matters worse, no one can or is willing to define feminism for me. The answers I got when I asked people on Facebook were either A) “there is no one definition” or B) “you should read [so-and-so] book.”
So not only can no one tell me what it is, but I’m still left with stereotypes that no one seems to necessarily defend. I am a dad who simply wants to understand feminism. Why, though?
Because there is no denying the trading of so many traditional gender roles in the world of current American parenting. Like I’ve said before, changing diapers is no big deal at all for me. I can do that. I can learn to do a lot of things, but not all things are natural to my gender. In my book, changing diapers is neutral.
From what I understand, a feminist would say that when we assign gender roles to either parent, we are promoting sexism. Yet I was never able to breast feed. But I was the one able to get our son to sleep through the night by letting him cry it out. A lot of women would have a hard time with that.
I think it’s ridiculous to ignore gender roles. Why not work to the advantages of our natural abilities which our genders have graced us? Sure, some things are neutral; but others aren’t.
Are men and women truly equal?
Can a woman do anything a man can do?
Can a man do anything a woman can do?
My answer is: in theory. But in reality, I think if we are honest with ourselves, we know the real answers.
I celebrate the truth and find no shame in it. Celebrate women. Celebrate men. Celebrate both.
To me, if we can do that, we are truly not being sexists.
You should be receiving your January 2012 issue of Parents magazine any day now. In fact, it may already be lying there on your coffee table. If you happen to turn to page 79, you will find something that really shocked me. I mean, seriously, I wasn’t expecting this.
It’s what I call a “dad ad,” promoting Baby Orajel. The subtle advertisement features a dad awake at 2:27 AM with his infant, who is obviously suffering from teething issues.
I don’t know, maybe it takes being a dad to really appreciate what a monumental move this was on Orajel’s part to take a chance on an ad like this. We dads are used to being portrayed in advertisements as the goofy idiot having to be corrected and tolerated by his wife.
Not this time.
The text of the Orajel ad doesn’t even reach out specifically to dads; that’s actually one of my favorite things about it. Simply by featuring a picture of a man involving himself in a sacrificial late night parenting activity, the message is sent:
“We at Baby Orajel recognize that dads play a big part in this thing too. So we’re not leaving you out of this. Here’s your pat on the back. Good job, fellas.”
I love the whole behind-the-scenes aspect of marketing. My wife and I both are huge fans of Mad Men; so I can’t help but picture the ad agency for Church & Dwight Co., Inc. (the company that evidently owns Orajel) sitting down in a board room and talking about the risk of featuring a dad ad in Parents magazine.
Will it be worth it? I think so.
For one, I’m taking the time to further feature this ad on Parents.com and the link to this post will ultimately be tossed around on Twitter and Facebook as well.
But second, for what it’s worth, I think it’s important to note the demographics of the people who “liked” The Dadabase Facebook fan page. As the sole administrator, I’m able to see the details: 75% of Dadabase fans are female and 25% are male.
If we assume that information translates to the demographics of who reads The Dadabase, it means that one out of every four readers is a dude. A dude who is ignoring ads directed towards to women. (I know I do.)
Thirdly, Baby Orajel’s dad ad has inspired me to start “Dad Ad Alert.” For the remaining 11 issues of Parents magazine in the year 2012, I will gladly further feature any dad ads here on The Dadabase. I’ll be specifically looking for them now.
The same goes for if I happen to notice a dad ad here on here on Parents.com. Game on.
Dad ad: An advertisement that is directed specifically to fathers, as opposed to mothers; which is expected in a parenting magazine or website.
A few days ago at a tour of the GM (Chevy) headquarters in Detroit, I met a fellow “daddy blogger” who runs a website on fatherhood called 8BitDad. I told him how last week I interviewed myself for the first of my new series, Interviews with Non-Famous People, and was currently looking for more dads to feature in it. (In order to be considered the least bit famous, you have to have a Wikipedia entry written about you.)
Zach Rosenberg, the Co-Creator and Editor-in-Chief of 8BitDad, was game for being the 2nd person to be interviewed for my series. (I’m in bold italics, he’s not.) Here’s what went down:
How is your daddy blog, 8 Bit Dad, different from mine?
I think the main difference is that you run an actual blog – that is, a “web-log” – a journal of events. 8BitDad is closer to a culture-site. So, where yours is deeply personal about your own family, ours isn’t – but is deeply personal matter. In a sense – and this is of course not an insult – if someone wasn’t interested in hearing about you, particularly, you lose them as a reader. Generally, I just lose readers for making bad jokes and ruffling feathers around moms and dads.
Does the term “daddy blog” annoy you?
It does – I don’t like “blog” in general. But there’s a distinction – not all fatherhood (and motherhood) sites are blogs. 8BitDad, not a blog. Parents.com, not a blog. But Parents.com has bloggers who blog on their particular wing of the site. I don’t necessarily like being “lumped in” as a daddy-blogger because I’d like to think of myself as more of a journalist, but let’s be honest – I’m not really beating the street the same way I used to when I worked for a newspaper, and as far as being lumped-in, what a great set of guys to have as company. All of the “dad-bloggers” I’ve talked to have been awesome.
Though I have my assumptions, tell me exactly how you came up with the name of your blog. (I will need you to use the word “stellar” in your answer.)
Well, my friend Bryan Ferguson and I were talking about starting some kind of fatherhood site one night while talking smack about a couple baby products. We thought “man, we’ve got to get this attitude up on the internet.” So we had our goal – a stellar, fatherly attitude. But what to call it? We both liked that nostalgic idea of the Nintendo as being the icon of “our generation”, but knew we couldn’t be something like NESDad or Nintendad. We had maybe three names we liked at the end of the night and when I woke up the next morning, Bryan texted me “I took the plunge and registered 8BitDad.com” so we ran with it.
In an effort to mock the trend of using 3 one word sentences (Just. Like. This.), please describe your blog accordingly. Just. Three. Words.
Paternity. In. Pixels.
Recently you published a post criticizing Parents.com. For those who didn’t instantly click the hyperlink in the sentence above just now, explain what your beef is with the website that is ironically hosting this interview.
I know, right? Talk about some form of irony, or coincidence, if you’ve got a degree in English and know that it’s not really irony. Well, I’ve got a beef with most “parenthood” sites. In a nutshell, parenting websites are typically very mom-oriented, even if they use the words “and dads” from time to time. They’ve got largely female staffs, primarily female bloggers, and, if you’re into chicken-or-egg debates, primarily female readers.
Fathers do still visit parenting sites like Parents.com but it’s tough to feel like part of the community when it’s all mom-this, mom-that. I love moms and I respect all the things they do – but Parenting sites need to also consider fathers – and that’s where my specific beef came in: I get Parents.com e-mails, and they use banners like the one I showed on 8BitDad – emblazoned with things like “Free Stuff for Mom & Baby.” Well, I’m neither mom nor baby. I’m a parent, which is why I was on Parents.com.
I’m a father – a proud one, and I don’t want to sift through mom-stuff to find something that applies to me. I mean, hey, you don’t need to really answer this, but as a father, doesn’t it irk you that right above your bio is a link to “Mom Tools” and “Win”? Where’s “Dad Tools”? You know why it’s not there? Because ask anyone else on your editorial staff why “Dad Tools” is missing and I guarantee they’ll ask “what tools do dads need? They’re not carrying a baby.”
The perception is that dads don’t need anything, and if it were offered, they wouldn’t take it. I’m not trying to knock moms down, I just want equal representation in a place that’s named after the genderless reference to kid-having folk.
What has been your biggest challenge so far as a dad?
My biggest challenges have been walking-the-walk, so to speak. I do a lot of talk on my site about patience, but patience with a baby, toddler and youngin’ is tough. Sometimes, you just don’t know what to do. And I’ve always had a rule – whatever I want to do/say right after my kid makes me hit the roof is exactly what I don’t do. I take time to think, relax and be consistent. Any fight you have with a 2 year old is a losing one. If you’re fighting with a kid that has no sense of reality and logic, you lose. That’s a tough nut to crack. So staying patient and being the adult, when all you want to do is yell back, that’s the toughest.
What is the weirdest thing about your parenting style?
Probably my commitment to my kid’s health. You look at me and think “alright, he’s a 300-pounder, his kid’s got to have bacon grease for blood.” But it’s not like that at all. We make all our kid’s food fresh and healthy. He gets peas and carrots on his pizza, made with thin, homemade dough and homemade sauce.
He doesn’t drink juice – I’m one of those weirdos. So he gets milk in the morning and night, and water all day. Kid loves water. He’s on the right track. And shhh, don’t tell him, but when my wife and I indulge in fast food, we make him that at-home-healthier-equivalent and wrap it in one of the fast food wrappers so he thinks he’s getting a treat too.
Poor kid will think Taco Bell burritos have peas, corn, carrots and broccoli in them until he’s old enough to drive there himself and buy one. I mean, really. I may have hit the hamburger buffet a little too much in life myself, but my kid doesn’t know good from bad – so I need to teach him good eating so by the time he’s a teenager, he’ll have the foundation for healthy living.
What is your favorite quirk about your child’s personality so far?
He’s picked up my wife’s and my speech patterns and phrases. So if we go out to dinner, he will ask a waitress for a glass of water, and use “please” and “thank you.” You don’t expect it from a 2 year old. And I know being polite isn’t a quirk, but it just sounds so funny. You don’t expect toddlers to be polite. They’re pretty unsavory people, so when they say “thank you” or “I love you” unsolicited, they sound quirky.
Is your dad a rabbi or does he just play one on TV?
Both. He played one on Diagnosis Murder, that old TV show with Dick Van Dyke. Sometime later, he finished his rabbinical school and was a real one. He usually played judges, jerk doctors and sweater-wearing fathers, but never decided to become one of those. I mean, we live in Los Angeles – no need for sweaters there.
What is your favorite (8 bit) regular Nintendo game? Your answer must serve as a metaphor for fatherhood, in some way.
I always go with the underdog, Metroid. Large, free-roaming world, ominous music, deep weapons system for the time, multiple endings, secret codes (including one that wasn’t unveiled until recently!), and a surprise female lead. Hmmm…not sure I can come up with a fatherhood metaphor for that one since it was “Mother” Brain and a woman protagonist. Maybe…uhhh, that’s what happens when there’s no fathers around? *snicker*
I could, for the record, be persuaded to say MegaMan 2 solely for the music.
I’m sorry; you’re wrong. The correct answer was Super Mario Bros. 2. It serves as a metaphor for fatherhood because it teaches kids to eat vegetables. Actually, it teaches kids to pick up vegetables and kill their enemies with them. I guess you’re right, Zach Rosenburg.
See bro? Also, I’m sticking with my answer, even thought my metaphor is weak.
You have the last word, 8 Bit Dad.
I may sound like I’m militantly pro-dad and anti-mom. I’m not. I’m against the splitting up of moms and dads. From time to time I enjoy a good joke but not at the others’ expense. The Father’s Movement was born out of the Women’s Movement; when women started going to work, someone had to stay home with the baby. So – that became fathers. But there’s still a lot of leftover law and not-on-the-internet legislation and perception changes that need to happen for fathers to get their fair dues.
We’re slowly being regarded as legitimate parents – but the laws are far behind. So, although us fatherhood writers have a lot of fun pissing and moaning about simple stuff on the internet, there’s more important work to be done out in the world. Check out the National Fatherhood Initiative or Fathers & Families to see what kind of laws are being made (and which ones need help) if you really want to give father’s a boost! Also, thanks man – always good talking to another father. Power to the Paternal!
Zach Rosenberg’s Bio:
Zach grew up under a nearby orange tree in California’s San Fernando Valley. He has worked at publications such as Filter Magazine, Geek Monthly Magazine, UNleashed Magazine, WYWS Magazine,The Los Angeles Sentinel (“the largest Black-owned newspaper on the West Coast”), and also worked on His Side with Glenn Sacks (“The largest mens’ and fathers’ issues radio show in America” in 2001).