Here’s a tale of two brands that bashed dads and caused big uproars—but only one company came out ahead in the end.
In one corner, Huggies ran a commercial that depicted dads so engrossed in sports on TV that they weren’t paying attention to their babies—the “ultimate test” for the diaper’s performance. Many viewers were offended by the portrayal of neglectful dads and made it known across Facebook, blogs and even a petition on change.org. Huggies responded with an apology on Facebook and by revamping the whole ad. In the new spot, the voiceover says: “to prove Huggies diapers can handle anything, we asked real dads to put them to the test,” a completely different viewpoint that empowers parents.
In the other corner, Clorox ran what they thought was a humorous blog post this summer titled “6 mistakes new dads make,” such as letting baby eat off the floor or putting her clothing on backwards. “Like dogs or other house pets, new Dads are filled with good intentions but lacking the judgment and fine motor skills to execute well,” the post reads. Again there was an uproar. Within 24 hours, the blog post was down, but Clorox was initially mum. The company eventually apologized on Facebook, explaining their blogger was trying to be funny, but it was too little too late.
It seems there are a few lessons here for brands. First, men (and women) are beyond tired of portrayals of doofus dads—even ones that attempt to be silly. The Homer Simpson image of an inept father doesn’t sell products, it just offends people. A good test: how would the ad go over if you replace the word “dad” with “mom?”
Second, brands need to take care how they poke fun at dads. Men respond to humor in advertising, but it should be coupled with a dose of empathy. “Whether with humor or a more straightforward approach, marketers should acknowledge that life feels harder for men and show how their brand can help,” JWT Intelligence writes in The State of Men.
And finally, advertisements that portray real, capable fathers hit the mark not only with men but with all audiences. For their part, Huggies ended up with an even better commercial in the end.