You’ve come a long way, dads. But has advertising noticed?

doritos princess addThis is a story about a dad who plays princess with his daughter, on that bastion of narrowly-defined manly moments known as the Super Bowl commercials.

It would be such a great story if it weren’t for the fact that he’s only okay playing dress-up with his daughter–thereby humiliating himself–if there’s artificially flavored snack chips in it for him.

I asked my 7 year old (who pretty much called every commercial “weird” last night) what she thought the Doritos ad was about.

“It was about a girl who wanted to play princess with her dad.”

Why do you think she wanted to do that?

“Because they never get to play together because he’d rather play football.”

And then what?

“She offered him Doritos. And he liked Doritos so much that he would play with her.”

So what would you say the lesson of the commercial is?

“You should always do something nice for somebody else and not have to give them something to do it.”

See why I like her so much?

Now clearly these are not the rantings of some humorless feminist (love when those two words are put together) or even a mom who had to turn off the TV and switch to Harry Potter–the book–when a spot came on featuring 2 Broke Girls pole dancing and sucking whipped cream off their fingers “because it’s for the Super Bowl.” (Expectations met and exceeded!)

It’s simply what my daughter witnessed and understood. Which sucks. She doesn’t know a world in which dads won’t play with their kid and it’s too bad that she saw one last night. Because I’m going to go on a limb and say that dads playing dollhouse or dress-up or LEGO Friends or American Girl Doll with their daughters are a pretty common occurrence in 2013. Even dads who watch football. Even dads who watch football drunk while scarfing down snack chips.

The ironic part, for me at least, is that the Super Bowl spots aired only hours after I returned home from speaking at the quite excellent Dad 2.0 Summit in Houston.

Let’s just say, that was one big group of dads who are going to change things for the better.

Future Changers: Charlie Capen, Jon Armstrong, Dad 2 Summit founder Doug French

Luckily, there was only one oddly insecure dude who seemed somehow freaked out that “mommy bloggers” were there (oh noes!) then spent way too long trying to convince me that dad brands online are stronger than mom brands online because dads won’t read anything with “mom” in the title because it is always about “shoes, shopping and coupons.”

(Oh crap, I just mentioned shoes, shopping and coupons! He’s right!)

The rest of the weekend, in contrast, was filled with moments that encouraged me for the future of humanity in general and parenthood specifically:

-Men who were as captivated by Brené Brown talking about vulnerability as they were about Jeff Pulver discussing all his entrepreneurial ventures, and David Eagleman passionately describing the neuroscience of fatherhood.

Jim Higley kicking ass in a cooking competition.

-Men who could throw down at the blackjack table, while sharing iPhone photos of the kids at home they were starting to miss.

Black Hockey Jesus describing the lengths he goes to protect his children’s privacy.

-Guys like Andy Hines and Jason Sperber and Jason Avant discussing the need for more resources for at-home dads outside of  the big cities.

-Men who could belly laugh with the familiarity of Whit Honea‘s blog post about his son mistaking the words dumbfuck and dumptruck–while also being moved to tears at Ted Rubin‘s story of fighting to see his children post-divorce.

CC Chapman, Jason Avant, and Asha Dornfest who really doesn’t write about shoes. She lives in Portland. They only know from clogs.

And then finally, there was one moment that encapsulated the conference perfectly: In the closing remarks, a blogger entered to win an iPad Mini from a sponsor was not present when his name was called, meaning per the rules, the prize went to the next name drawn. Moments later, it was announced he was out of the room  at that time for a pretty good reason.

He was changing his baby.

The conference chipped in to give him his own iPad Mini anyway, and the room broke into rousing applause.

I’m wondering when the marketers are going to catch up with the reality of the parenting world. We’re making progress, but we’re still not quite there. In fact, one of the brand managers at the conference described (I’m super vaguely paraphrasing here) the choice not to portray dads in ads much because moms still do the majority of the purchasing of their product.

Don’t they understand that a mother seeing a dedicated co-parent taking responsibility for their collective offspring on the teevee is not alienating? It triggers something in our brains or hearts or ovaries that makes us feel warm and fuzzy. It makes us want to like that brand.

I don’t need to see “me” in an ad for paper towels, or diapers, or shortbread cookies or hybrid cars to know that I may still make the purchase decision about these products. I just need to know if they are good products, and whether the company’s values line up with mine. A sense of humor helps. But one rooted in Mad Men-era values doesn’t quite move the needle for me.

The notion of committed, engaged fatherhood is here to stay, and I was so privileged to have a front seat to witness so much of it this week. It might not be everywhere just yet, but in enough places that I think the ad industry should take note.

I have faith that marketers can keep their sense of humor, while still figuring out how to portray dads playing princess simply because dads love their daughters.

Maybe even more than they love Doritos.


106 thoughts on “You’ve come a long way, dads. But has advertising noticed?”

  1. Absolutely!!!

    Applauding this post, and you, and those wonderful Dads.

    I’m married to one of those men who plays with his children because he loves them, who allows his daughter to tattoo him with purple glitter and rhinestones because it makes her happy.

    Just YES. Thank you for writing this.

  2. The entire pop-culture movement of marginalizing men and constantly portraying them (especially husbands/fathers) as bumbling idiots is abhorrent to me. Did “Something About Raymond” start that?

    I’ve watched women who self-identify as “feminists” laugh at and continue to perpetuate this — and I think this is why I no longer associate myself with where “feminism” has gone. You want to be a strong woman? Fabulous. Knocking down men, their roles, their power and their hearts is a terrible way to do it. I work as hard to teach my daughter how wrong these messages are as I do building up her self-view as a girl. I would never want her to see her dad or her husband like this – and certainly not treat a son this way.

    More power to you, Liz for championing men. I wish more women would.

  3. Before having children, I really had no idea what sort of father Kyle would be. It didn’t take long to find out though (and I am so ridiculously fortunate that he parents as he does).

    I have no idea where his parenting style came from. Certainly not the media or the example set by his own father (who is a good guy, but not the sort I’d want to parent alongside). I don’t know how to teach it or replicate it, other than for him to continue setting the example that hopefully my son will follow and my daughters will look for in their future partners.

    I do think part of what makes dads like Kyle (and Nate and Doug and Jason A. and Jason S. and Jon A. and Jon S. and Charlie…somebody stop me) somewhat invisible in the media is that they aren’t out there crowing about what fabulous dads they are. Granted, they share their stories on their blogs, but nobody’s basing commercials or reality TV series on their parenting.

    1. For every “Real Housewife” who makes me question the lack of licensing requirements for breeding, there are guys like that who give me hope.

    1. Thanks Isabel! I always like knowing what other people like. Ad people are a little…insular in that way.

  4. I couldn’t have said it any better. No, really. I couldn’t have. I can’t begin to explain what it meant to me to be in that space and talk to all those men as parents.; not moms, not dads, but as parents with no gender bias or ideas about how their roles are different than mine. Their roles are different because everyone’s family is different, but it isn’t because of what’s in our pants. It was enlightening. Well, except for that ONE dude.

    1. That’s exactly how I felt Diane. You put it so perfectly.

      Pleasure being on a panel with you – your story is amazing.

  5. Thanks for this and for your support of dads being something other than goofballs. The men at Dad2.0 are, IMHO, great role models.

    You know better than I, but I suspect the best ads are the ones made by people who really understand what their customers want. Obtaining that knowledge isn’t always easy or cheap, but a lot of it can be done simply by reading and listening.

    But what do you make of the press release Go Daddy sent out this morning – just a few hours after the SB, essentially declaring victory? The one where the CEO specifically said he wanted controversy and isn’t about to apologize? The one where they claim they had a surge in sales right after the ad? I realize I’m just giving them more attention, but I’d really like to know your opinion about this as well.

  6. Media still sees men with their kids as ‘babysitters’ and that is really sad. I’ll be honest, the only ad I hated was the GoDaddy ones. ALL OF THEM. I despise GoDaddy. However, it is obvious that in the eyes of advertisers only men watch the Super Bowl. Which was funny as I sat there and watched it with my three children.

    My ex is a fabulous father. I mean heck I share 50/50 custody with the man. As much as I miss my kids when they aren’t with me, I am thankful that they spend equal time with him. He is the first one to get irritated when he gets treated like a stupid man who is just baby-sitting his own children. I don’t know how or when things will change, but I believe that our kids dads are the ones who will make it happen. Just mostly by being themselves.

    ps. Did you see A Mommy Story’s post today? About her husband and a trip to Costco with Cordy?

  7. Well said, Liz, and thank you. To Julie’s point, I’ve pitched those shows featuring real dads as actual parents and I have yet find the network willing to take such a “risk.” It’s a frustrating battle where one shouldn’t exist.

  8. Sounds like an excellent conference! Thanks for telling us about it.

    I wonder with these ads if there is still a demographic out there where those old stereotypes apply, but I don’t know them. Dads afraid to play with their daughters just seems unappealingly insecure to me, but maybe this jokes works for the people they want to target.

  9. I’m so glad I married a man that loves playing with his child. Its sad to think of the commercial, that this dad only played with his daughter because he got some chips.

  10. Liz~ BOTH of my small people were equally perplexed by the ad and I do really think that is saying something. The very idea that their dad would have to be bribed to play with them/spend time with them is foreign. As sad as it is, I do know men who still consider time with their children to be ‘babysitting’, but I love knowing that number is getting smaller and smaller and that mentality is being replaced by that of my husband’s (and yours and the many men you listed above – some of whom I know and admire). We’re lucky to be surrounded by men who can continue to be an example for how I want my son to be as a dad when HE grows up.

    Thank you for saying this so perfectly.

  11. I wholeheartedly agree (even tough I don’t watch Super Bowl and have husband that could not care less for sports in general), but I always have reality check running at the back of my mind: is my perspective really reflective of general population? I take it for granted that dads are 100% involved and 50% sharing parenting (or somewhere close there) in two income families, and even in stay-at-home scenarios, both parents are partners, and both pitch in with all they can. But then I look around myself, and even in my “bubble” I can see men dedicated to basketball practice and never, ever even trying to boil the egg. Or I can hear light snicker when explaining to friend that phoned me, that I’m busy fixing car while my husband is ironing. And those people are even considered progressive – like, they even changed diapers. And brought coffee for breakfast in bed. And bought Tampax without falling through the floor. But they would not even register the chips commercial as “degrading”. And would not think portraying men like that is odd. They would accept it as “just another” fact of life.
    We still have long way to go.

  12. Liz, it was great getting to meet you (ever so briefly, even) and it’s so wonderful to have you “on our side,” as it were. Moms talking about the ridiculousness of treating dads like secondary parents is going to be a lynchpin for changing the common conception — and build a general unwillingness to let it continue unchallenged.

    Thanks so much for being there, and being an advocate for us dads. 🙂

    1. We’re all on the same side Chris! Support for one another makes us all stronger when it comes to institutionalizing support for the family.

      Great to meet you too, Chris.

  13. If a laundry detergent ad portrayed a dad showing his son and daughter how to do the laundry with their (eco-friendly) brand, I would be a supporter for life.

  14. “Don’t they understand that a mother seeing a dedicated co-parent taking responsibility for their collective offspring on the teevee is not alienating?” That there? That there’s some brilliance, plain and simply like. Thank you for being a voice for the modern dad. We all thank you.

  15. Thanks so much for coming to the conference, Liz! It means a lot to have you and other women supporting us.

    It was great to see you again. I never seem to get much opportunity to talk to you at these things, partly because my voice is always shot from karaoke. At least I got to share a roulette table with you for a while!

    1. Next time maybe I’ll make it past 10pm and let you give a pair of earplugs a run for their money! Or fake chips, as it were.

  16. Great stuff, and a reaction to the ad that was identical to my own. In fact, I said “here we go, another dimwitted dad in an advert” when it started.


    But I want to just say that last year I was a bit taken aback by how many women were involved with the Dad 2.0 Summit, and it wasn’t because I was insecure. In fact, I’m very involved in the world of fatherhood, run men’s groups, etc, and one thing that men lack is a space where they can both be guys without the filter of having women present and can be dads, talking about parenting, with all its joys and challenges. That’s kinda what Dad 2.0 could be, but it isn’t because, well, there was never a moment that there wasn’t a mom or two in the room.

    That’s not a criticism of Dad 2.0, and I was also delighted with the experience and fired up about going next year too, but a simple observation. And I was far more cool with all the gals present this year because I knew what to expect. 🙂

    When I talk to men that have attended BlogHer, by comparison, they talk about being ostracized and not welcome at all. Consistently. I think we dads did a good job of welcoming and embracing (sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally 🙂 you moms. But still, the event isn’t Parenting 2.0 Starring Dads, it’s Dad 2.0.

    So give the guy who wasn’t happy about having so many women present a break. You don’t know he’s “oddly insecure”, you’re just dropping a convenient pop psych label on him. Maybe he has quite legit reasons for expecting and hoping that at least some parts of Dad 2.0 would have been male only, after all…

    1. “When I talk to men that have attended BlogHer, by comparison, they talk about being ostracized and not welcome at all.:”

      Shoulda talked to me. Or Doug French. Or Whit. Or Charlie. Or Jim Lin. Or C.C. Or Andy Hinds. Or, really, anyone who’s gone and looked to network and learn from women who’ve done a fantastic job at empowering themselves and carving out a niche that continues to push boundaries and create opportunities where none existed. But hey, frat houses are cool too, I guess.

      1. I’ve been to 4 BlogHers. I feel less ostracized than like a rock star (ok, it’s somewhere between these two extremes, truthfully) when I go. I’m heading to Chicago in a few months for #5.

        1. Agree with Jason. BlogHer is great, and the women have always welcomed me warmly. I wouldn’t have attended five of them otherwise. (I like to think Moebes and I are the Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin of BlogHer.)

    2. Thanks Dave. I appreciate your comment, although that little mention in my post was obviously a very very minute part of the overall experience there. There was more to my discussion with him that was wildly insulting and condescending, but I left it out because…well, not necessary. Fortunately I’m thick-skinned. However I’d bet a newer woman to the conference (or female sponsor? PR person?) might not have been.

      As for the inclusion of women at Dad 2.0 (an offshoot of the Mom 2.0 Summit where dads are always welcome), I was invited as a professional speaker to share my expertise at a professional conference. It’s not a conference about parenting. It’s a conference about social media, and we all have more in common than we don’t in that sense. So I hope that any attendee there can see my presence not as an invasion of a “man space” but as support for what dad bloggers are trying to do.

      We’re not competitors. We’re all in the same community.

      I’m not going to comment on men at Blogher because my experience has been far from what you describe second-hand. I’ll just say that in 2005 that conference was established in response to myriad tech and social media conferences where women were not welcome at all, and the idea of blogging about one’s kids was ridiculed as frivolous. Let’s hope everyone’s come a long way since then.

      1. If I may paraphrase, “Dad 2.0 Summit isn’t a conference about parenting. It’s a conference about social media.” Perhaps the mistake is mine, then: I thought it was a Dad’s conference where we talked a lot about the experience of being fathers and parents, and had some sessions about business and balancing work/life. In fact, with my perhaps skewed perspective, when I look over the talks, the keynotes, etc, it seems a lot more Dad-centric than social media centric. 🙂

        As you say, I don’t know who was complaining about having so many women present and I am not an apologist for their comments and what sounds like rudeness. That’s uncool however you slice it. I just felt that the original comment seemed out of place in an otherwise smart piece about the daft Doritos advert. The Goat one was better!

        And BlogHer? I still want to attend at some point and find out what it’s like for myself. And yeah, I’ll be a bit anxious about what that experience could be like, Jason. Different people, different journeys…

        1. I was at the San Diego BlogHer, and I had a great time – I felt like a welcome guest from the get-go, met a lot of amazing people, and really came away inspired and energized.

          1. Cool stuff, Jason and others. I’m reevaluating my attendance at a future BlogHer based on all your positive comments. A good antidote to what I’ve heard from others. 🙂

        2. I’m not going to argue the point of the conference with you. Doug could step in if he’d like. But from the website:

          THE DAD 2.0 SUMMIT is an annual conference where marketers, social media leaders, and blogging parents connect to discuss the changing voice and perception of modern fatherhood.

    3. @Dave–What Jason and Liz said. We’re obviously coming from different perspectives on this issue, and that’s cool, but I have NEVER felt censored by the presence of moms (or any women) at this conference. I’ve been to Mom 2.0 and BlogHer, and if I felt weird there at all, it was because I got an uncomfortable amount of positive attention.

      I would have been much less comfortable at Dad 2.0 had it only been men, but that’s just me I guess. I don’t really want to be a part of the “No Gurlz Aloud” club, and the worldview that promotes, consciously or otherwise. My gender philosophy is all about sharing responsibility and rewards equally. The more we work together, the better.

  17. Fabulous post, Liz. You nailed the whole thing… the conference, the superbowl ads and the culture we live in. I loved being at Dad 2.0 this past weekend and connecting with you and all the amazing men and women who were there (except that ONE dude! LOL!). Loved hearing everyone’s stories, and yes, that one dad blogger who almost missed out on his Ipad mini because he was changing his baby is everything that was RIGHT about this conference!!

  18. Nailed. It.

    Humor and/or advertising to men should be predicated on our attempts ti overcome obstacles in re the job description of our lives as parents. When we focus on sniping each other, we all lose. Relating to our mutual frailties hits pain points across the spectrum. I fail as an individual constantly, but when those foibles are applied to a broad spectrum of people we get stereotypes. There is nothing I love more than relating to a deprecated character who resembles, regardless of gender. I AM THE MALE LIZ LEMON.

    The trick, and these people make enough money to be able to know and explore this, is how we get off the track we’re on.

    Thank you for this. So well done.

    And the eyebrow abides.

  19. Thanks, Liz. I think we’re only scratching the surface of the reality of being a dad today – brands and the media in general (and this includes the dad-blog-o-sphere, sadly) have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to economic, cultural, racial, even sexual diversity and how it impacts fatherhood.

    And to the guy who thinks that moms – especially those who have forgotten more than you’ll ever know about content creation, marketing, and brand strategy – have no place at a dad blogger conference…well, good luck with that.

  20. I don’t get it….should not matter what gender your kids are, you do stuff with them. period. I get weirdness all the time that I go to the majority of the boys’ games or other sporting events with them rather than just send dad and hit the day spa up myself. weird.

    as for the commercials – I felt like the audi one gave my boys the message to take the car, park illegally, get into a fight to the get the girl while harassing the girl and proudly show off a black eye .

  21. Liz, sorry I wasn’t able to make it to Dad 2.0…it would have been a pleasure to meet you.

    I appreciate what you’ve written here – and it really illustrates how we look at dads in media; dad’s an idiot, dad’s a hungry child, and then in the next commercial, dad has to be bribed to spend time with his kids that he’s just like.

    Some of the best commercials just show mothers and fathers parenting without pointing out that they are mothers and fathers. We know. If they’re handling a baby, we’re assuming it’s theirs. If they’re feeding kids lunch, we assume at least one of them is theirs. You don’t need to say “moms know what what’s best”. Or worse, “these are REAL dads with their REAL kids” – as if to say that were “real” not present, we’d assume it was all just CGI.

    And as you said, all commercials with a dad aren’t just FOR dads. Many commercials featuring dads are actually for women. The advertisers want to tap into a woman that sees the man that they want or have. So, that being said, advertisers are still in that old “safe” zone of playing to mom’s sensibilities to trick her into purchases. Ick.

    Anyway, thanks for talking about this.

    Also, it was awesome that Charlie Capen and Doug French got a picture with Elvis Costello at Dad 2.0.

  22. This was fabulous. Seriously. I loved it.

    One day I’ll get to connect with more dads across the blogosphere, in the meantime I’ll just know them and think they rock and meet them when I can. Same as I do the women out there. We’re all out there. Putting ourselves and our families front and center when we write, even if we’re anonymous.

    Thanks for this – I am apparently rambling so I’ll stop now. ;>

  23. Well, I have a few things.

    First of all, sorry I didn’t get to talk to you at Dad 2.0. I’m not much of a self-introducer, and I would have been more outgoing if only they had MORE free alcohol.

    Now, about the commercial–

    Oh, and it is silly to say moms had no place at this conference. Dad bloggers spend a lot of time looking at mom blogs, trying to figure out what they’re doing right and what should be left with mom blogs, so having successful mom bloggers there is essential.

    About the commercial– I understand what you’re saying. It’s unfortunate that the people who make this commercial assume dads would rather stay by their grills than play with their daughters. Personally, though, from a dad’s point of view, I didn’t find it more offensive than the Dove Men commercial from a couple of years ago–the one most people actually see as a positive example of fatherhood in commercials–where the dad finally finds peace by lying alone next to his beloved grill.

    I think these two commercials have a lot in common. Both show that dads in the media HAVE come a long way (since both commercials at least show dads interacting with their kids), and both show we have a long way to go (since in both commercials, the dads would rather be alone).

    Now, the God-Guts-Glory-Farming(?) Dodge commercial–I don’t know how I can explain THAT to my kids.

    1. I love that so many people have different perspectives on the same ads. My Twitter feed was like a schizophrenic LOVE IT/HATE IT montage all at once. Thanks so much for weighing in. Next time, I’ll meet you when you have a beer in hand.

      (Not that dads have to drink beer. I’d still say hi if you were drinking a Cosmo. And that would be okay.)

      1. Ha, my drinks usually include little umbrellas.

        I did talk to the poor Dove Men guy there (the young guy who was tweeting, not the exec), to explain why I felt alienated by that commercial. He kind of nervously looked around and said, “Yea, I mean, that’s why we’re here! To learn, and to expand the conversation!” And I’m sure all these things mean something in ad-world-lingo, but to me it sounded more like, “Please leave me alone!” So I thanked him and shook his hand, and went back to the main room.

        1. I can speak on behalf of the exec – they are there to learn. For real. I’m super impressed with Dove Men as a brand. Just my .02.

          In fact, on Day 1 in a panel some men suggested that the shoe shine girls didn’t need to be in short skirts. They were in pants the next day.

  24. gotta say thank you for the recognition i have 3 kids 2 girls a boy and ive been a horse a cushion and a drawing pad for my kids and all while i work 10 hour shifts in a factory all in all there are alot of fathers like me and the vote of confidence is reassuring to say the least

      1. ty give my kids pens or pencils and thats what you get lol
        but its fun lol

  25. A portrayal of a dad who plays princess with his daughter because he wants to spend time with her would be great. Maybe there could also be a version in which the dad is ready to play princess, but the daughter asks if they can play catch in the backyard instead.

  26. As usual, Liz, I’m in that lovely position of being able to point to your post and say “what she said!” You’re the best, but you already know how I feel about you.

    I just wanted to chime in as one of the “moms supporting the dads” at Dad 2.0 this year — it’s not until RIGHT NOW (seriously) that it even occurred to me that’s what I was doing. That is to say, my mom-ness and woman-ness was not an issue during the conference, it was simply a perspective during conversations. I never felt out of place, I never felt like I needed to tiptoe around anything, I never felt like anything less than a full, contributing member of the community there. There were moments when I would respectfully shut up, sure, but there are moments like that at every conference…when it’s time to listen and learn.

    I loved being there. It was a privilege to hear many of those stories, it was fun and enlightening to have a “speaking part” and participate in a mom-and-dad conversation about being parents, and it was just wonderful, truly wonderful, to feel like I made new friendships and deepened old ones.

    1. Now I get to say “what she said!”

      So great seeing you my amazing friend. You bring something special wherever you go.

      1. And now I get to say, “What you both said!”, albeit 4 days late. Normally, I will see a pile of comments on a post and decide not to comment because, well, who really wants to hear my .02 anyway. Yet I keep coming back to this one and reading through these comments has inspired me to by commenter #97!

        First, I totally agree about the commercial, it was ridiculous. I also agree about the conference, which I dare say was life changing for me. I just wanted to comment specifically about the presence of women at the conference. I thought it was great. I think you all fit in just like anybody else and at no point was I nervous about how you would perceive me. Not true, I was nervous about that, but not because you were women, I felt that way about everyone.

        I’m only a year in but the thing I love most about blogging has been the community aspect to it. Sure, we’re not all meant to be best friends but in general I have found that people are willing to help, which is amazing. I couldn’t even list all of the people that have helped me along and inspired me along the way, with absolutely nothing in it for them. Community is what makes us great, not gender, and I feel lucky to be a part of it.

        Great post and it was a pleasure meeting you! See you next year!

        1. A comment is no more or less important if it’s first or 97th. (Unless it’s the first comment that only says FIRST! Then it’s not important.)

          I’m sorry we didn’t get to hang out more. From everything I’ve heard, and all the ahem, video I’ve seen, you are one to watch, Chris. So whatever nervousness you had? Over!

          Thanks so much for your comment.

  27. Thank you again for a brilliant take on a serious issue in our world today. I was turned off by many of the commercials. I know at 41, I am not the target demographic for many of these ads. But still, I have to ask are we still perpetuating gender roles and stereotypes. No wonder we are still debating birth control in 2013.

    I felt this way when the olympics came around and there were all of those thank you mom ads but no thank you dad ads run.

    It’s always mom putting dinner on the table in commercials, where in our house my husband does that almost as much as I do. I’d love to see commercials that highlight the kind of dad my kids are lucky t have.

  28. Fantastic post! Thanks for bringing this perspective and thought.

    I love that marketers from large household brands express a desire to learn. And it’s great that those brands support a forward thinking conference. It’s going to feel like lip service until they produce work that is engaging and reflects the realities of our changing parenting dynamic and culture.

    On a personal note, it was great to finally get a chance to talk with you in person and hang out a bit. You have great energy, wit and drive. Thanks for taking and sharing that photo of me with Charlie and Doug. I was not drunk (at that time) and my expression is how happy I am to be a part of all of this. The fact that women were there is great. We are all messengers. We all can learn from each other.

    1. Could it have something to do with having groped me? Was that before or after? I don’t remember.

      Either way, I had a great time in large part because of several people who wrote on this page.

  29. I debated on commenting because I’m not looking to stir the pot or be derisive, but, I just…wasn’t offended by the commercial. And that’s somewhat unusual since I’m typically the queen of PC. I think the way I looked at it was, if you are upset because you see truth in it, then let the commercial be a catalyst for an important conversation with the men in your (child’s) life. If you are upset because it is completely off base and poorly represents the men you know, then chalk it up to a bad joke and be really happy that you have those kind of men in your life. I just can’t imagine that one Doritos commercial, or even several, are going to make men less likely to want to play with their daughters without chips, nor that if if your kids have a really great dad, that they’ll wonder if they’re being bribed to play with them. I guess I’m just having trouble seeing how it is harmful instead of just lighthearted, which, again, I’m not saying to try to be argumentative, I just don’t really get this one. Perhaps I’m missing the point? I’m not really sure.

    That conference sounds like it was awesome. It’s wonderful to hear about a coalition of men who are (publicly) doing right by their families.

    1. You’re always entitled to disagree!

      I would just take issue with the use of the word “offended.” Just because I didn’t like something or think that we can do better doesn’t meant that it offended me or that I’m upset by it.

      Harmful is a strong word too. However I do think that if you look at the collective portrayal of dads on television commercials, it’s not keeping up with the reality of the world. Maybe one spot in isolation is “lighthearted” but the continual promotion of any kind of negative gender or racial-based stereotype hinders progress in tangible ways. Like when your husband asks for paid paternity leave for 6 weeks. Good luck with that!

      How’s that for a totally non-lighthearted response!

      1. Ha. I think you make fair points with the semantics on the offended and harmful. If it helps, I didn’t mean to imply as though I thought you were being unreasonable with your reaction, just that I felt differently.

        I see your point about promotion of gender stereotypes. Perhaps the GoDaddy commercial just so skewed my sense of what a commercial with a bad message looked like that I couldn’t see it in the Doritos one.

  30. Great post, Liz.

    I really enjoyed meeting you at the conference and appreciated your (and all of the women’s) attendance, participation and now support well after the event has concluded.

  31. Not sure if this point makes it better or worse but it’s worth throwing out there… that ad was voted on by fans of Doritos to be the superbowl ad (all ads for consideration were submitted by aspiring filmakers as part of the “Crash the Superbowl” campaign they do every year). And, they are mostly male (disclosure: Ketchum is the PR company behind the campaign). So in a way, it’s almost like male consumers are perpetuating this?

    Although my scalp bears the scars of a my daughter’s My Little Pony hairbrush (and I have no snack foods to show for it), I wasn’t too taken aback by this ad, mostly because I saw it as a struggle between playing princess and watching the game with his buddies who were over at the house presumably for that reason — as opposed to a random weekend day without external social commitments involved.

    Also, wow… I deconstructed that ad WAY too much!! hahaa

    Anyway, it is a great point you make regardless of whether or not it was THIS ad in particular that perpetuates it. Because it is happening. However, as a dad who can rock a tiara, I can say our time is coming. You just watch.

    1. You should get paid double at Ketchum, Jim. Not just because you can rock a tiara.

      Loved seeing you this week!

      also wait, now that you mention it…the dude was about to leave the house to play football. Later, the mom comes home with groceries. So were they both just going to leave her alone?

      1. So this ad is about child neglect now! My torch is lit. Let’s go!

        (loved seeing you too, and we actually got some time to hang out, which is awesome)

  32. My husband and I call the dad in media “Stupid Daddy Bozo Clown” because of the portrayal of dads in popular culture as people barely able to tie their own shoes. And if they do tie their own shoes, Mom comes in and rolls her eyes and reties them because gah, men are so stupid.

    The breaking point for me was when I saw an ad for some kind of instant muffin mix where the *daughter* came in to the kitchen to roll her eyes at Stupid Daddy Bozo Clown who was doing it wrong.

    I’m raising a son. (He’s 4.) I really don’t want him taking in these messages of “don’t try too hard, you’ll always get it wrong and someone will have to fix it” and “you’re not expected to actually be good at anything anywhere ever” – we actually canceled our cable in part because of the horrible messages for boys in media. Never mind the unrealistic sexualized images of women in media, which is teaching boys a whole different kettle of fish.

    I just read this over and realize I sound like a crazy woman trying to shield my kid from everything – not the case. We still watch tv, but we do so on Netflix, with no ads, and some control over what shows he’s exposed to.

    The men in his life are the opposite of the dads/men portrayed in popular culture. Let him soak in those messages for just a little while longer.

  33. Yes. So True. All of it. After the weekend we just had, it was hard not to notice every single commercial last night that included parents and especially with focus on dads – critique the heck out of it (some aloud with my buddies & some internally) – and ask why those brands weren’t at the Dad 2.0 Summit this weekend to witness or observe the tsunami of competent, nurturing, and engaged fathers. Maybe they were, but already shelled out the $4 million for their ad spot…so we will see the revised version during March Madness. wishful thinking?

    Great post and so glad I got to meet you this weekend!

  34. Perhaps because I don’t have daughters, perhaps because my three boys were busy making as much noise as possible while it was on, that Doritos ad kind of floated by without notice for me. But you hit it exactly on the head—advertisers and pop culture need to start showing more dads that reflect our reality. No boy should grow up thinking his dad is a buffoon or that being a grown-up with responsibilities and a family is something that will turn you into one.

    P.S. My favorite TV show dad is Coach on Friday Night Lights. Or maybe Adam Braverman on Parenthood. Both highly acclaimed, yet commercially not-so-successful shows. Hmmmm.

    P.P.S. It was really great meeting you this weekend! I hope we end up in a karaoke bar together somewhere soon. : )

  35. Dads aren’t the parenting equivalent of a powder puff football team. They’re doing the real thing, every day and doing a great job at it. I love that you and you daughter recognized that it’s totally normal for a Dad to play with his kid. It doesn’t have to be sensational to help a child grow.

  36. So much truth. And why is that advertisers hold onto the old cliche that women make the decisions of the house in a vacuum? Too many single-home families, co-parenting homes and other demographics are ignored in favor of a “persona” from the 1950s. Making dads look dumb is a terrible travesty that tells our youth that it’s okay for a dad to be lazy, dumb, disengaged or otherwise negative. Why do we teach our kids these lessons through ads? Thank goodness for DVR and fast forward.

    Dan Moyle – a hands-on blended-family dad.

    1. Well from the marketer perspective: Research still indicates that women make 89% of the purchasing decisions for a household. So while there are always exceptions to the rule–more every day–mass media by definition is always going to target the majority and not the few.

      That has nothing to do with the lazy cliche in ads that all dads are dumb and all moms are eye-rolling nags. Sigh.

      Thanks for your comment Dan.

  37. My husband absolutely can’t stand the way men are portrayed in most commercials as beer-guzzling, inept morons. (Well, neither can I, but it’s a bit less of a direct insult to me, I guess.) It just doesn’t represent the manhood or fatherhood that I see around me, and I live in a small rural town in the Midwest, not exactly known for progressive politics. The men I see are (mostly) involved, hands-on, and competent, confident parents. Oh, and *willing. They’re INTO it.

    Great post, Liz.

  38. Coincidentally – I’m wearing clogs right now.

    Dad-as-stupid-bumbling-fool is one of my pet peeves when it comes to advertising and tv. It seems to me the commercials that truly stand out are the ones that DON’T rely on stereotypes, hyperbole, and offensiveness to sell their products. I think that pushes the envelope much more than an almost naked Calvin Klein underwear model, a nerd and a model slurping on each other, or a dad who is easily bribed by Doritos into playing dress up with his daughter.

    My observation of most of the ads from this year’s Super Bowl was that it was same-‘ol same ‘ol in the advertising world. These companies paid millions of dollars for tired, unoriginal, boring silliness. Or, in the case of several of the ads, blatant emotional manipulation. “Aw, I’m crying. That makes me want to jump up and make a Budweiser run!” ??

    The men I know are far from being easily plied with processed food.

  39. Fantastic and very smart post. Just for the record, I thought the only super bowl ad that deserved any praise was the Clydesdale Budweiser ad…my son was moved to tears as were me and my husband. As a mom to all boys, I can’t comment on the dad/daughter thing, but I’d also like to say that I think I defy those stereotypes of long ago as well. I am out there playing catch with my boys ALL the time, riding bikes and shooting baskets. I used to work in advertising and quite frankly, it’s amazing how Mad Men-ish it still is, even now.

  40. There’s a deeper discussion here about social norms and majority culture and how we internalize it — whether it’s race, ethnicity, etc — and allow it to blind us. Dare I say brainwash us?

    Most people didn’t think twice about the Doritos ad because it’s what we see ALL THE TIME. And so we’re like “Aw, a dad who wants to play with his kids” and our mind jumps over the part where he has to be bribed with a gross chip in order to do it because YAY at least he’s playing dress-up with his kids because that’s so awesome because DADS NEVER DO THAT.

    I wasn’t offended it, or wildly insulted. I just thought it was really lame and that it perpetuated stereotypes that need to be broken for our children. If we don’t question these things, if we don’t raise a discussion about them, then they keep happening.

    1. I believe that’s what my co-panelist on Raising America said yesterday: “YAY at least he’s playing dress-up with his kids because that’s so awesome because DADS NEVER DO THAT”

      Well, not in those words but that was the essence: Isn’t it all good whatever the circumstance?

      I’d say not coercion.

  41. I don’t think I’m going to add anything intelligent to the conversation beyond what others have already said.

    “Yes, so why the hell am I leaving a comment?” Liz wondered.

    I am surprised to hear there were some dads who were wondering why mom bloggers were at the conference although I’m sure their were. Overall, though, I didn’t hear a lot of us-against-them (mom bloggers) talk among the dads. In fact, despite my pre-conference cynicism–which has since evaporated–I sensed for the first time that dad bloggers may have, to a slight degree, carved out an identity of their own. The talks there seemed to focus on our identity as men and fathers along with how brands hurt or support that identity as opposed to how do I make money with my blog. I might not be explaining this right but in any case I see male identity as the focal point for this issue. There are too many confusing messages out there being broadcast to men AND boys. Part of this is because I think men are easy, safe targets for media and advertisers there are a lot of guys who buy into the buffoon cliches and they play the part. I digress.

    Sorry we didn’t get a chance to chat at the conference–my raging social anxiety keep me in the men’s room chain smoking.

    1. I felt the same way you did Ron – it was really awesome to see that identity being shaped. You make a great point.

      I did spot you in the corner at a panel so…we had that. Glad you enjoyed yourself.

  42. I love your reflections on this subject. I am so tired of the stereotypes all over this country…and world. Dads can be and are engaged with their kids, able to show a range of emotions and interested in a lot more than sports. I know my husband and I work hard everyday to make sure that we don’t typecast our son.

  43. Not sure how I missed this first time around, but for some reason it appeared in my Google alerts today, perhaps you updated or something. Just want to say, great post, and honored by the mention. So happy to hear my talk made an impact.

  44. Hi colleagues, pleasant piece of writing and fastidious arguments commented here, I am
    genuinely enjoying by these.

Comments are closed.