Monday, February 4, 2013

"Idiot Dad" Largely Absent From 2013 #SuperBowl Advertising

As a former advertising professional, I usually follow the trends of Super Bowl commercials. It seems that every year there's company that comes up short, falls flat, or makes a gigantic mistake. Now that I'm an at-home dad, I thought that I would look at the commercials from a different perspective. This year, I had my pen and paper ready. I planned to dissect the most watched (and most expensive) television messages of the year, looking for any hint of a company that used the "idiot dad" stereotype in their advertising. I planned to report the results to you here, and spend a good deal of time ripping each company apart for their blatant disregard for fathers. But I am happy to say that I have very little to report. After thorough examination, I have assembled the very best and worst(?) dad-related commercials from last night's big game.

One of the few commercials that came close to showing an "idiot dad" stereotype was the "Big Idea" ad. This ad was taking a cheap shot at men in general but not specifically dads, so I let it go. See for yourself.

I did notice that there were some commercials where a "mom" character took the place of a role typically stereotyped as a "dad" role. In the Hyundai ad "Team" a kid is being bullied on the playground and is told that he can't play until he comes back with his own team. Mom comes to the rescue.  The usual stereotype is that dad helps son stand up to the bully. Hyundai got this one right though. This ad was funny regardless of who was driving Jr around to rally his team.

Hyundai did didn't leave dad out of the picture completely. In their ad "Epic Play Date," they give dad a central role, and he manages to have an amazing whirlwind adventure with the kids. Mom's there too, but she doesn't have any lines. Other than seeing dad drive like a maniac with a car load of kids, this one was pretty well done. Oh, and it features The Flaming Lips. That scores major points with hipster parents everywhere.

Hyundai wasn't the only car company in on the Super Bowl action. Toyota cashed in on the star power of Kaley Cuoco. Unfortunately, this is one of those ads that missed the mark. It wasn't until I watched it again to post on this blog that I even got the "spare tire" joke. I realized that this happened because I was just getting over the "infinite witches" part when I watched it the first time. I was like "WTF? Witches?" There was a lot going on in this ad, and none of it was done well enough to hit home. While I don't think that this was necessarily a negative image of dad, it definitely wasn't the most positive. In the context of this ad, I was willing to let it slide because it wasn't really making a statement about fathers in general. What do you think?

There was one more care company that featured a dad in their commercial. Audi had a huge hit with their ad "Prom". In this ad, the son is headed to prom alone. Mom is consoling; little sister is making fun; and dad lets him cut loose by tossing him the keys to the Audi. This ad was stereotypical, but not in a negative way. I didn't feel strongly that it was "pro" one parent over the other either. It was clearly about the kid and his "bravery" which is the trait that Audi wants you to associate with their brand.

Soda and beer companies mostly ignored the "dad" character altogether, unless you count the guy who raised the Budweiser Clydesdale. (That one was called "Brotherhood" anyway) Beer commercials focused on "buddies" or "friends" or "opposite sex/attraction" or "creepy Stevie Wonder." Coca-Cola missed the mark, in my opinion, with the Coke Chase (which may have been racist) because it left no positive association with the brand and involved an online contest with no apparent incentive to play along.

Pepsi redeemed themselves from their terrible Elton John spot during last year's game with a commercial for Pepsi NEXT simply called "Party." It's clear from the beginning that everything about this commercial is meant to be "over the top" and ridiculous. The "parents" were merely another reflection of that.  I don't take commercials that begin with someone dressed in a unicorn head all that seriously when it comes to their display of gender roles/parenting.

The most hotly debated ad in the dad community is the fan-made Doritos spot titled "Fashionista Daddy." This content was made and voted on by fans to get air time during the big game, so even though I didn't like this ad, I can't really blame Doritos or their ad agency. There are several things I don't like about this commercial. The first is that the daughter is begging her father to play with her. I get it. My kid does this all the time, and sometimes *gasp* I blow her off. I always hate myself for it later, but it does happen. I don't like it being the joke, but I get it. I don't like that the daughter had to bribe her dad with Doritos, but I get it.

Now, this dad is apparently blowing off his daughter in order to play football with the guys. This is not a big problem if mom is home to step in while dad has friends over, but as we see at the end of the commercial, it appears that mom was out shopping, so dad was going to leave his young daughter unattended in the house while he played football outside with the guys. This is not a good parenting decision. Taking the grocery bag out of mom's hands would have kept this from being an issue with me. I don't like seeing fathers making questionable parenting choices in advertising. It just feeds the stereotype that we are somehow incompetent when it comes to taking care of our kids. What do you think? Did this one go too far? What could they have done differently and been just as funny?

Toward the end of the game, there was a Milk ad with Duane "The Rock" Johnson chasing down a milk truck so he could serve his daughter and her friends their morning cereal. Like the Pepsi commercial, but in a completely different way, this was intended to be "over the top" and ridiculous. He probably ran past three bodegas to track down that milk truck. And he left the girls alone, but hey, they got their protein! This was not a favorite.

The big winner for dad-friendly commercials goes to Kia and their "Space Babies" ad. This ad was clever, family oriented, had great brand association, and included a great display of selling features.  I think that this is one that will stick with us for a while much like the VW "Use The Force" ad from last year.

What do you think? Did you watch the commercials? Did I miss any important ones?


  1. Many comments I leave start off with me saying I'm from South Africa.
    I like to start that way because so much of this is foreign to me.
    People getting excited over ads, analyzing them, talking about them.
    Over here an ad is an irritation on TV.
    Interesting point though about the 'idiot dad' stereotype.
    Glad it seem that didn't use it so much this year.

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