The Absence of Dads in Marketing: Why Fathers Deserve Equal Exposure

With so much attention devoted to mothers, why aren’t dads given the same amount of respect?

You have to give credit to marketers, and the world they’ve built for themselves. They have established credible brands in the minds of American consumers for decades, and in most cases, they reinforce this market position year after year.

Want to take a test to see if this is an accurate assumption? The next time you have a migraine headache, a horrific one, go to a pharmacy. As you stumble around in agony, you’ll likely find yourself in the pain-relief aisle.

As you trembling hand reaches out to find the cure to your ailment, you’re going to buy the store brand that’s selling for half price, right?

That’s what I thought.

Marketing matters in the world of consumer branding, however, there’s a legacy that exists within ad creative that is almost innate. When our eyes glaze over the 3,000 ads we see every day, it associates products and specific shopping categories with gender. Many times, the circumstance is obvious. Case in point: no man in human history has ever turned to his dad and asked, “Dad, do you douche?”

When it comes to parenting-related products and CPG brands, moms are the predominant target audience. Choosy dads don’t choose peanut butter, ‘Choosy moms choose Jif.’ There’s a litany of creative examples that go back to the ’50s that are still in use today despite the fact that modern dads play a bigger role in the shopping process.

In response to this, an organization is working to provide greater equality when it comes to media advertising. Dad Marketing, an organization that promotes equality in advertising, makes a point to highlight how their advertising doesn’t always reflect modern-day family responsibilities.

Some examples of their influence have already transpired out in the market. Here are a few examples from their hashtag, #DadsCountToo:

Kudos to the marketers at General Mills for making the change.
The old website, and the new one. They go one step further by providing a visual of a father and son.

This represents solid progress, but there’s another side to media and entertainment that we’ve become grown accustomed to. It is the presumption in the broader entertainment world that men are not equals with their better halves when it comes to parenting. There are many examples where fathers are portrayed as self-indulgent idiots.

It may have started in the ’80s with Chevy Chase’s character in the movie, Vacation (Clark Griswold), and likely reinforced by Homer Simpson. I’m referring to the beer guzzling, lazy, gadget tinkering couch-potato characters portrayed on our screens. Look no further than the actor, Tim Allen or Kevin James perhaps. Most of the TV characters they play seems to highlight how dads, in general, are buffoons not worthy of the same respect we give to mothers.

Speaking as a parent, all dads mess up once in a while. It’s fine to laugh at yourself. Those who do not probably take themselves too seriously. But when it comes to fathers in media, isn’t it time for our society to treat dads with the same level of respect we associate with moms?

After three generations, men are finally beginning to find their footing, opting for a better work/life balance and playing a more active role in the lives of their children. Anything that discourages or taints this impetus should be shunned by each gender alike. It’s time to give dads equal treatment and respect across the media landscape.

Finally, if you come across an advertisement that portrays dads as idiots, be sure to give the company an earful on social media. If there’s one thing that’s certain, marketers are feverishly defensive of their image on Facebook, Twitter, etc. If they want our business, they have to respect us. Tag them if possible or hashtag if need be to ensure they understand the error of their ways.

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