Friday, June 15

Advertising: Do You Really Know The Audience?

Huggies understands dads more than it used to. That was one of the lessons learned when one of the brand's advertisements depicted hapless dads in March.

Huggies wasn’t alone. There are plenty of brands that blow it with dads. Ragu blew it by thinking dads don’t know how to cook. Several years ago, it was Verizon that was forced to pull a dumb dad ad. And AskMen has a a top ten list that chronicles some of the worst unintentional attack ads aimed at men.

Are men getting thin skins or did marketers get stupid?

There’s always two ways to look at advertising, especially those that use disparaging humor to be memorable. Either men are thin skinned or the marketers ought to know better. I lean toward the latter while still appreciating that individuals can be less than bright, but not an entire gender.

Sure, one or two generations ago, household roles made men’s ignorance about family issues tragically funny because it was closer to the truth. They weren’t stupid but they did have other responsibilities, which made their cluelessness tragic in a comedic way. But that’s not true anymore. Nowadays, the stereotype has become tragic and that’s not funny.

The only reason some advertisers hadn’t caught on is because they take their cues from Hollywood and network television more often than real research. But what they fail to appreciate is that Hollywood and network television can get away with propping up the stereotype because they make it about an individual character and not a gender.

If advertisers were more in tune, they’d learn something else. 

More than eight in ten (86 percent) fathers today are spending more time with their kids than their own fathers did in the previous generation, according to a new national survey conducted by the Ad Council. So, in cooperation with several organizations, the Ad Council is running a campaign aimed at pushing that message forward, using the men who do as role models for those that don’t for one reason or another after conducting considerable research.

"The survey validates the trend that family dynamics are changing for the best. Amidst their challenges, in general fathers are stepping up and becoming more active than ever in the lives of their children and families," said Kenneth Braswell, director of the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse.

In fact, the national survey not only revealed that dads are spending more time with their families, but they also want to be even more involved. Seven in ten dads feel they could use tips or ideas on being a better parent and eight in ten report feeling financial pressure in their role as a father. Simply put, what most men want for Father’s Day is some time away from the pressures of parenting and economics and the chance to spend time with their children — just being a dad.

It’s an important idea, especially in the wake of another survey by Whaleshark Media that found despite the changes people have made in their households to be equal parents — seventy-seven percent of men and women said that mothers receive a disproportionate amount of attention on Mother’s Day compared to fathers on Father’s Day. Only 35 percent of men, the survey revealed, expected or hoped for a gift. Most just want time with their family.

The lesson for advertisers is simple enough. The fathers some advertisers might have had or the characters portraying dads on the small and big screens aren’t the same ones who are share responsibilities today. Ergo, any particular audience is never what you might expect them to be until you actually take the time to get to know them.

Let’s hope this helps at least one marketer avoid a dumb dad commercial in the future. As one of the 86 percent by a wide margin, I imagine that might make the best Father's Day gift yet, outside of exactly what you might expect. A little no pressure time to play is always welcome. Happy Father’s Day.
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