Dadvertising: When are brands going to realise that dads parent too?

From breakfast cereals to nappies and laundry detergent, when are brands going to wake up to the fact that blokes are more hands-on now? Ben Pobjie has had enough.


It’s always good to see people power achieving positive change in society. This is what happened recently when a 10-year-old girl called out Kellogg’s for sexism in its advertising. But with a twist.

Rather than identifying an ad as anti-woman, as is so often the case in the advertising world, Hannah-Marie Clayton noticed that Kellogg’s slogan “loved by kids, approved by mums” excluded parents such as her own dad.

She wrote: “I feel that quote is sexist, men are also able to make breakfast. My dad does it a lot for me because my mum works away a lot and is not always there for breakfast. I would recommend instead of putting ‘mums’, put parents or carers. It would just mean a small change. In this world today we shouldn’t just rely on women.”

Hannah-Marie was striking a blow for dads AND mums, to tell the truth: the idea that mothers should assume the entire burden of parenting is damaging for all parents, but it’s one that persists to this day, and nowhere more perniciously than in the advertising world.

The question is, when will advertisers catch up to the fact that dads are here, we do stuff, and we’re not all bumbling idiots?

Now, of course it’s always good to strive to not let advertising get to you too much. Ads are attempts to trick us into spending money by bypassing the parts of our brains that deal with commonsense, and as such we can’t really expect a great deal of intelligent depiction from them.

But is it too much to ask that just occasionally, something approximating reality filters through to the commercial world?

We all know how mothers are portrayed in ads: either as an all-loving embodiment of the nurturing instinct, or preternaturally competent multi-taskers.

There is nothing an ad mum can’t do: if she’s not wrapping her infant in a newly fabric-softened towel while breathing in the fragrance of fresh talcum powder in front of a Vaseline-smeared lens, she’s doling out nutritionally-balanced school lunches while smiling knowingly at the camera while the rugrats stuff their faces, blissfully unaware that Mum has given them something good-tasting AND good for you. All this and tough stains too.

On the other hand, how are fathers portrayed in ads? If we’re lucky, we might get shown as the “mucker-around”, the parent whose job is to have fun with the kids, but not to do any actual, you know, parenting.

Pregnancy Banner 12 months 300x250

If we’re unlucky, we’ll be shown as a complete moron who doesn’t understand how ovens work. To be honest, the most common portrayal of dads is the non-portrayal: if you want to show a touching parent-child bond on screen, dad is most likely to not even be there.

It’s not that dads aren’t a valued demographic for advertisers: they’ll flog us lawnmowers, power drills and sporting biographies for all they’re worth.

But when it comes to dads’ relationships with their kids, most take the same attitude as Kellogg’s: it’s mums who do the work, mums who make the decision, and mums who provide the love.

Dads can provide comic relief, but if you need someone to dispense Vaporub or wash the footy jumpers, don’t even think about turning to Dad: he wouldn’t have a clue.

This has been a source of frustration for many years. The stereotypes of advertising are a mild irritant up until the point you feel that they’re directed at you, and suddenly every second commercial seems to be a personal insult.

It’s not, of course: they weren’t thinking about me when they decided that only mothers were worthy of a montage set to “It Must Be Love”. But as a father trying his best to be there for his kids, where’s my cutesy cover of an ’80s classic?

The attitude of the advertising world to fatherhood mirrors that of society as a whole: mums are there to care, dads are there to provide. Which means, in effect, most of the time dads aren’t there at all.

We all know that life is better for a kid when dad is around, but somehow the stereotype persists that his presence isn’t particularly important. A father who is engaged with his kids is seen as a bonus, rather than what should be expected.

Well maybe it’s time that advertisers started taking young Hannah-Marie’s words to heart. Maybe it’s time we acknowledged that if you need someone to approve your Coco Pops, both mum and dad can get that job done.

Maybe it’s time for a few ads where kids are getting what they need from both their parents.

Get the best dad tips in your inbox