Tag Archives: advertising

From Bumbling Dad to Human Being: How advertisers are finally giving dads their due

This post originally appeared on the Sklar Wilton & Associates blog.

As a kid, my dad played catch with me every day after work in the summer, took me to swimming lessons every weekend in the winter, made me wiener soup for lunch when my mom spent a day doing her own thing, and spent hours with me picking elective classes in highschool (history, because I was going to be the next Indiana Jones). I personally can’t relate to the bumbling dads portrayed in ads I watched growing up.

To a far greater extent five and ten years ago, men have been portrayed as incompetent fathers who couldn’t properly feed a child or do simple cleaning tasks around the home. That historical model in the marketing space used to match some segments in real life such that it made no sense to extend parental leave to dads – it was presumed that dads couldn’t take care of the kids and the home anyways. It made no sense to strive for equality in the workplace when there seemed to be none in the home. As the saying going, you cannot do what you cannot see.

However, a study released by Statistics Canada shows that men’s roles in the family have changed starkly over the last forty years, particularly in terms of how many dads are stay-at-home dads. Compared to 1976 when stay-at-home-dads were 1 in 70 of all stay-at-home parent families, today that number is 1 in 10. If you consider households where the mom is employed, nearly 11% of dads today are the caregivers compared to only 1.4% forty years ago (see chart). It’s a consistent trend across all of Canada. If they ever truly were bumbling dads, dads today are regular human beings doing regular child-rearing and home case activities. Dads are changing diapers, buying groceries, cooking meals, cleaning toilets, and are viable audiences and target groups for pretty much every product category. These are all real spaces for companies to grow their business simply by reaching out to their current audience, not just their historical audience.

Advertising leaders in the United Kingdom also have a hard time relating to the stereotype of the bumbling dad and they have decided to do something about it. The Advertising Standards Authority released a report exploring harm arising from media gender stereotypes that “relate to body image, objectification, sexualisation, gender characteristics and roles, and mocking people for not conforming to gender stereotypes.” The organization intends to create new standards for ads that incorporate stereotypical behaviours. For instance, ads that might not meet the new standards include those that:

  • Depict family members creating a mess while a woman has the sole responsibility for cleaning it up.
  • Suggest that an activity is inappropriate for a girl because it is stereotypically associated with boys or vice versa.
  • Feature a man trying and failing to undertake simple parental or household tasks

In another initiative, Unilever, UN Women, Mars, and Alibaba have bound together in the ‘Unstereotype Alliance’ to do their part to stop stereotypical portrayals of gender in advertising. In their research , Unilever’s chief marketing and communications Officer Keith Weed notes that progressive ads are 25% more effective and deliver “better branded impact.”

It’s been truly heartwarming to see brands plan for this change and make huge strides in response to the evolution of gender roles. Over the last couple of years, brands have begun to make great efforts to ensure their ads are more representative of the current population, They are focusing more on the way things really are today as opposed to taking the easy way out by using the stereotypes that have existed for innumerable decades.

When it comes to gender, and dads in particular, newer ads have begun to focus on men and dads not as lazy, ignorant bystanders or handsome supermodels with ripped abs, but rather as equal partners taking on their share of responsibilities in the home, and as human beings who genuinely care about the other people in their lives. Newer ads present dads in a manner that reflect today’s reality. Dads who don’t have time to go to the gym every day because they’re taking kids to hockey practices, piano lessons, and library sessions. Dads who turn on the oven and feed the kids while mom puts her feet up after a long day behind the welding visor.

Tide has fully embraced this trend with its television commercials. For instance, in this commercial, though mom and dad are packing suitcases together, it’s the dad who is first to speak up and take action when his daughter, and then his son, needs some last minute laundry done.

This Motts Fruitsations commercial shows a dad taking on the grocery shopping duties. Not only is he caring for his baby at the same time as every mom has always does, he is fully aware of what his other children are up over the rest of the week including their karate and gymnastics classes, and sleepovers.

This Dove commercial shows many dads including their young children, both boys and girls, in a huge range of non-stereotypical activities. From dancing with them in front of the TV, gleefully terrifying them in a plane or race car, pushing their wheelchair through a skateboard park, or saving them from crashing after a fall, these dads share joy and passion with their young ones regardless of whether ‘girls do that’ or ‘boys do that.’

And, if you need something to wipe away the tears and put some fun into your soul, enjoy this last commercial from Ikea. The young boy is clearly disappointed when he tells his dad that mom cooked macaroni all week. And of course, dad saves the day with a beautifully prepared meal. You’ll just have to watch the rest of the ad to see the conclusion!

I quite love these new portrayals of dads in the media. It’s a great reminder that stereotypes don’t always reflect current trends. Sometimes you need to really push beyond tradition to reach the broader set of your consumers. If you’d like cast aside stereotypes and find out who your consumers of today are, we’d love to help you. Please get in touch!

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This post was written in my role as a consultant for Sklar Wilton & Associates. SW&A has worked for more than 30 years with some of Canada’s most iconic brands to help them grow their brand, shape corporate culture, build successful innovation, define portfolio strategies, and maximize research ROI. They offer strategic advice, business facilitation, research management, qualitative/quantitative research, and analytics. SW&A was recognized as a Great Workplace for Women in 2018, and the Best Workplace in Canada for Small Companies in 2017 by the Great Place To Work® Institute. Inquire about their services here.


If you think ads don’t influence you, you’re only fooling yourself

Babies, brains and relationships 075

Image by Baha'i Views / Flitzy Phoebie via Flickr

Implicit memory is a fascinating aspects of human psychology. Even when you think you aren’t paying attention to something, your brain is still taking it all in. All those ads on TV that you talk over, all the billboards along the highway that you ignore, all the signs in store windows that you gloss over, all of them are still being registered by your brain even if you actively try to ignore them.

Implicit memory is the memory you have for things that you have experienced before but don’t actively remember. It essentially causes you to do something, think of something,  buy something, recommend something, try something that you’ve already heard about before even if you can’t remember hearing about it before.

It’s the favorite colour you have for buying clothes because your mom used to dress you in that colour when you were a baby. It’s your favourite food because Grandma gave it to you once as a reward even though you don’t remember the event at all. It’s all th95% of events that pass you by every day that you don’t pay the slightest attention to.

What this means is your opinion of statistics will be just a little bit more positive after leaving this website. Of course, it may just mean that your hate score of 1.1 on a five point score will only improve to 1.2.

Slotwiner: Advertising Research in Media Environment, Facebook #MRA_AC #MRX

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Image via Wikipedia

Session summary of the Marketing Research Association 2011 annual conference. These are my interpretations of the session. They were written during the session and posted immediately afterwards. Any inaccuracies and silliness are my own.

Keynote: Advertising Research in an Integrated Media Environment
Daniel Slotwiner, Facebook

  • Remember 1999? Austin Powers and the Matrix. Online data collection was supposed to solve a lot of problems due to declining response rates and eroding sample frames, decrease costs, increase turn-around time. We spend a lot of time validating the medium and replicating the offline world. 50% of data collection is done online now. Adoption happened.
  • There is value in scale.  Internet penetration is now relative flat. But the amount of time, pervasiveness, content on internet is now completely different. The internet USED to be anonymous.
  • The web is organizing around people. Businesses are reorganizing around people, not websites. Reorganizing around people delivers results. Gaming is reorganizing – Farmville, zinga, Xbox. News is organizing around people, NY times, Twitter, Huffington Post, 43% of news sharing occurs through social media. Music is organizing around people – Pandora, Spotify. Institutions are organizing around people – Red Cross text donations, British monarchy.
  • Facebook – 600+ million worldwide, 1.56 billion pieces of content shared every day, 110 million status updates every day, real name, real culture, attitude chatter and interest data. Mission – give people the power to share and be connected.
  • Research Polls – “novelty polling unit” built on ads infrastructure for targeting, no more than 100 characters in question, single select radio button à very powerful, don’t need bells and whistles, make do with simple, have pushed much farther than they thought, you can do a lot with very little. RR 100% higher than click rate on links to offsite surveys. Dramatically increases speed of surveys. You hear from consumers you might not otherwise hear from.
  • Facebook tracking of Obama results was extremely similar to Gallup and Rasmussen measures. They use a unique algorithm to do so. (Not surprised! People are people no matter where you go.) Bin Laden boost was also seen in Facebook data. Validation is important. Can predict consumer confidence index very well – Facebook collects data more often so they get more granular trends. Also good with intent, attendance, and weekend gross of movies.
  • Facebook ads increased awareness of movies by up to 8% points. Ads increase intent by up to about 2% points. Nice scatterplot with very few outliers though quite the tail.
  • Have evaluated effectiveness of “100 people like this” vs. “these five of your friends like this.” People who have friends see the friend version. Friend version has 1.6X lift in brand recall, 2X lift in brand awareness, 4X lift in purchase intent. (holy cow!) Word of mouth at unprecedented scale. Fanbase are your high value consumers. Friends of fans bring in 527 million people for the Starbucks brand.
  • Value is not at the “like” click. Fans are already high value consumers of the brand they like.
  • Standards for online?  So much data, all this money, which one works? Where should they spend their money? Standards that are comparable across media do this. Reach, reception, Resonance, Reaction – These are the four areas that can be measured on TV and online.
  • A lot can be done with a very simple tool. SHORTEN YOUR SURVEYS. (did you hear that? J ) Reduce the burden, reverse the trend.

Frame this Gorgeous Mercedes Benz ad on your living room wall #MRX

Every television show has a bazillion commercials. Every magazine is 50% ads. The internet is one giant ad. Ask me what brand I just saw advertised and I might be able to tell you if I saw a man or a woman but certainly not the brand name.

Shift to this ad. This is truly one of the most beautiful ads I’ve ever seen. You can fight to get get my attention with celebrities touting your brand or stunning coupons or facebook only ads. This ad had me taken a second and third look and appreciate the beauty. And. I know the brand name. Mercedes. I’ll probably even tell my friends about the ad. I may not buy the car but I’ve engaged and shared.


Advertising to Real People – Including Researchers #MRX

We take our work very seriously. We are desperate to see the fourth decimal place, we need to know the exact date and exact sample size. We design questions that are so specific, the entire question takes up half of the page and no one really understands it.

But let’s leave our ivory tower of non-reality for just a few minutes and sit on the other side of the table. Instead of being the marketer, the researcher, or the client, let’s remember what it’s like to be the person who actually uses our product, watches our advertisement, and searches our website. Let’s remember what we are actually like as soon as we leave the office. We see all the silly things that other people are doing regarding marketing and advertising, often forgetting that we are doing the exact same things ourselves.

In an effort to remind ourselves that even marketers are real people, here are just a few of my favorites from a website called Things Real People Don’t Say About Advertising. Laugh, learn, and think about them when we’re at work, not just when we’re at home. There’s many more where these came from!

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  • Advertising Campaigns I Love

    First, I love the Dove Campaign for Beauty. I love that it promotes self-esteem and that it exposes the often misleading ‘beauty’ of people. You can watch as a perfectly normal looking lady is transformed by make-up artists, hair stylists, and graphic designers into an impossible estimation of beauty. For me, beauty has nothing to do with physical appearance but rather with one’s own personal choice to do what is right and be a good person. Based on the image of this lady, I have no idea if she is beautiful. All I see is that she feels it is extremely important to present herself with stylish make-up and hairdos. Thank you Dove.


    This is a Pepsi commercial that opens eyes about other cultures, not culture in the way you’re used to, but one that is equally unique. You probably don’t realize that the world is made up of many people forced to fit into your world. Well, here’s an example of how YOU fit into someone else’s world. Make sure you’ve got your volume up.




    This Dove commercial also focuses on self-esteem. It shows a bunch of young ladies with a variety of self-esteem issues. Too fat, too ugly, too this or that, none of which matter. Have you every unconsciously contributed to the myth? Over zealously complimented a young lady on her pretty appearance rather than her hard work or kind nature? I know I have. It’s hard not to do. You really have to make a conscious effort.

    There’s another Dove commercial that shows a number of naked mature women, posing in discrete natural positions. None are super models, just normal real women. Some folks have had trouble with the nudity and so it is banned in some areas. But, I think it helps to promote the reality that all women are important and beautiful even if they are ‘fat’ or ‘wrinkly’ or not 18 years old. Everyone is beautiful, in their own way.

    I also love the Discovery Channel commercial. Sure, it’s an ad for TV but if Steven Hawking contributed, it must be good! The ad actually makes me feel like crying because it reminds me about all the amazingly wonderful things in this world. Mushy enough for you?

    We all know companies exist to make money, to pay their employees, to feed those families. Why not do it in a way that makes you go home and feel good about what you’re contributing to. Just like these. 😀

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  • 2009 ARF Great Mind Awards


    Congratulations to some friends at Ipsos!

    The ARF congratulates the esteemed recipients of the ARF 2009 Great Mind Awards! The Awards were presented on Wednesday, April 1 at a special luncheon during Re:think 2009: The ARF Annual Convention + Expo. Sponsored by Harris Interactive, The ARF Great Mind Awards recognize individuals who bring excellence to advertising research in the categories of research innovation, rising research stars, important member contributions to the field and lifetime contributors to the industry and ARF.


    For individuals who made an outstanding contribution to the ARF in the prior year. From above-and-beyond duty to providing pro-bono services, these are members who have made significant contributions to the success of the ARF and the industry.

    Efrain Ribeiro – Ipsos
    Renee Smith – Ipsos

    [copied from the ARF website]

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