It’s okay to celebrate moms with P&G

P&G’s latest ad has insulted some dads. As part of their 2012 Olympic campaign, the global marketer has a tear-inducing ad that watches as a baby girl grows into an Olympic athlete, and recognizes mom for all her support. It’s a pretty typical ad supporting a significant campaign. And a good one, too. There’s plenty of pro-mom buzz.

Now a group at Care2 is angry about the omission of dad, and has launched a petition against P&G to address the issue. (Here’s the link if you want to read the petition and support it. I haven’t supported it, yet.)

I’ll admit, when I first saw the ad I my pro-dad pride kicked in. “What about her father?”, was one of my reactions. “Isn’t dad worthy of thanks?” But then I saw it again. Nowhere does the ad imply that mom is the only parent who could have done this, or that if dad were involved the child would be lucky enough to show up on time, let alone win Olympic gold.

Just because it’s pro-mom doesn’t make it anti-dad, and I think a petition takes it too far. As much as the petition wants us (and P&G) to know the stats behind dads and kids and athletic success, the ad doesn’t diminish the role of fathers. Pushing this ad into the agenda—appearing jealous of the attention mom gets—misses the more important point. Don’t reduce parenting to a gender war.

Unlike the recent Huggies controversy that used bumbling dads as the focus of the campaign, the only thing P&G does is not mention dad at all. Hardly “offensive”. Unfortunate, perhaps. The ad is not actually making fun of dad or belittling our contribution; the viewer is free to think whatever they want about dad (but I’d bet they don’t think about him at all). The ad is clearly for mom, about mom.

P&G figures that women (moms) purchase a large number of its products—I’m pretty sure they’d have some stats on it. This ad targets to them, and it makes its point without cheap “we’re better than dad” humour or “mom is so overworked” piousness. It doesn’t feed any story other than the value of a mom’s love and support, and that is okay.

I am all for standing up for the importance of dads, and challenging the stereotypes that perpetuate silly assumptions about our ability to parent; just read my Manifesto. But as parents, we also want to join in the celebration of great moms, as long as doing so doesn’t demean dad.

If this campaign evolves, and P&G uses old cliches and poor stereotypes, I will change my mind. But for now, we’re still good.

UPDATE: July 5, 2012
Take a look at the petition. Currently at 11% of it’s goal, some of the comments that support it are border on radical. Some people are seriously misguided about the difference between being marginalized vs not being the centre of attention, and what this means to society.

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8 Responses to It’s okay to celebrate moms with P&G

  1. Jeanette says:

    Touche! I am so glad you wrote this post because frankly, I am tired of hearing the whining and complaining that dads are being left out when a company or organisation chooses to target one particular consumer segment – moms. Just because they are communicating to moms in one campaign does not mean they are ignoring their other consumer base. They are simply narrowing their focus for this one campaign to allow them to communicate more effectively.

    Demeaning anyone – be it mom, dad, single women or whomever, is not a good technique to use to appeal or endear yourself to your target audience. So I completely agree – if the ad was offensive in some way then by all means take a stand. But that’s not what this campaign is about.

    Please guys, lose the “me too” attitude and move on.

    • Stephen Abbott says:

      Thanks Jeanette. I really hesitated to rain on this effort; the people involved are motivated by a good cause. I just think the enthusiasm has blinded their sense of reason. Targeted advertising isn’t the real problem, and grasping at every mention of ‘mom without dad’ diminishes the offense we should all feel when dad is the punchline of the joke.

      Being in the world of communications, I wonder if the idea of “target audience” softens the issue me. For people who don’t live with this language, I can imagine the impact is different.

  2. Jodi Murphy says:

    I think you make a great point. This ad campaign celebrates sports moms, but that doesn’t mean there is no love for sports dads! That’s just who the subject of this ad happens to be.

    • Stephen Abbott says:

      Thanks for the comment. There’s a quote (though I don’t know who said it) that says something to the effect of, “You can’t reach the top by holding other people down.” It think it applies with this one.

  3. Kate says:

    When I saw this ad about mothers- being a mother of 5 (3 boys- all involved in athletics) and @ girls (ages 5 & 6 months)- I loved it and when father’s day rolled around- I was excited to see what they had in store for the dads. Needless to say, I was disappointed. My husband is an amazing support and force behind my kids in their accomplishments. He holds a full time job and with that is often coaching one (if not more) of their teams. If he is not coaching- he is driving to practice, practicing with them, and sitting in the stands. I wish they would focus on the role of the father as well as the mother. When I watch the P&G commercial for moms- I think of my husband- yes, I support my kids and am there for their games – but it is really their dad who puts the most time and energy into their sports accomplishments. They are so blessed!!

    • Stephen Abbott says:

      Thanks for the comment, Kate. I don’t have the stats, but I think it’s fair to say that dads spends a huge amount of time with kids in sports. Every dad I know is actively involved with their own kids and the community when it comes to sports and activities.

      The problem is that there isn’t a company in a position put together such a massive campaign and acknowledge dads. P&G, one of the largest consumer product companies in the world, isn’t thanking mom because they appreciate their effort in sports—P&G appreciates that moms buy products. Moms buy the bulk of their products; to appreciate dads would be a nice gesture, but wasted advertising.

      Since this post, I’ve been trying to think of a company that could do the same for dads. I even wrote a post about why companies don’t advertise to dads. Any ideas?

  4. I wrote my own take on this “controversy” today:

    Seems a waste of time and energy to get upset about this. I understand battling stereotypes but taking on advertising is not the best way to do it. When we change the culture, the ads will change with it; until then, companies will do what it takes to sell their product, and that usually means sticking with the status quo and playing off the lowest common denominator. Oh well.

    In the meantime, we dads should just continue to do what it takes to be good parents, regardless of whether the company that sells us toothpaste and razor blades recognizes us for it or not. Eventually they’ll catch up to the shift in parenting culture. But it will take time.

    Frankly I don’t understand why all these dads are being so sensitive about this whole thing. What are they, women? 😉

    • Stephen Abbott says:

      Thanks for the comment. From all the buzz on Twitter these days, this seems to be an issue that just won’t go away. I think all the noise diminishes the more important efforts of dads to be taken seriously as parents. This issue feels petty.

      Take a look at my other post, Dad’vertising, and let me know your thoughts.

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