Unruly / Blog / The Mighty, Emotional Rise of ‘Dadvertising’

The Mighty, Emotional Rise of ‘Dadvertising’

As with everything, the standards of ‘dadhood’ have changed radically over time. In simpler, more cave-centric times, the Dad Domain consisted primarily of hunting, gathering and maybe helping out with homework.

For the Victorians, the Dad was an elusive creature who sat grim-faced at one end of the dinner table, stoically straightening his stovepipe hat. In recent history, you were more likely to find pop culture dads fetishising BBQ equipment ahead of the big game, but even those stereotypes are changing. Dads, after all, are more hands on these days: as much at home in the kitchen as helping out changing diapers.

It seems appropriate then that, thanks in large part to advertising, fathers are having a moment online. And no, we don’t mean your dad’s coffee review Tumblr is finally taking off. Seemingly as one, brands across the social web, from cars, to cosmetics, to cereals, are celebrating the notion of dadhood in all its varied forms. And viewers are taking notice.

The trend is called ‘dadvertising’ (which is too good a moniker to waste) and even a cursory scroll through the most successful online video ads reveals just how real it is.

This week alone saw the release of two excellent Dad-positive adverts: Nike’s ‘Ripple’, a retelling of Rory McIlroy’s patience-testing path to glory, and Hyundai’s ‘A Message To Space’. The latter, a frankly genius stunt involving cars veering calligraphically across a desert in unison, takes a daughter’s message to her astronaut father and makes it legible from space. And you thought your petrol stop Fathers’ Day card was thoughtful.

If this veneration of fathers in advertising seems like an about-turn, that’s because it is. Influenced by comically-inept dads in pop culture, from Al Bundy in ‘Married With Children’ to Homer Simpson, ads which made fathers the butt of the joke have for a long time been the order of the day. Whether you think this trope is an equal injustice to, say, all the other forms of social oppression is subjective, but there’s no denying that the bumbling, goofy dad is a true ad stereotype.

Perhaps that’s why General Mills’ ‘#HowToDad’ made such a splash when it was released last July. A witty, joyful deconstruction of that very same ‘Can’t-Even-Work-The-Toaster’ stereotype, the spot finds a suburban dad positively revelling in his own Dadhood. Correcting homework with one hand and offering an exploding fist-bump with the other, it’s a genuinely funny concept that makes a compelling case for making dads cool again. Over 70,000 shares certainly doesn’t hurt either.

A similar sentiment is expressed in Dove’s ‘#RealStrength’, a montage of fatherly moments that range from the sublimely adorable to the genuinely touching. Affecting no matter who you are, ‘#RealStrength’ was just one part of the Super Bowl ad trifecta that made commentators label the tournament the ‘Dadvertising’ games.

Alongside Toyota’s ‘To Be A Dad’, featuring NFL players discussing their approach to fatherhood, and Nissan’s ‘With Dad’, all three ads strive to depict the relationship between children and their fathers with heartening complexity and warmth. The foregrounding of these ads at the Super Bowl, advertising’s equivalent of Christmas, says a lot about brands’ faith in this message and the universal appeal of this kind of sentiment. Even if your dad isn’t a handsome race car driver, nearly everyone knows how it feels to take your parents for granted.

The primary difference between ‘#HowToDad’ and the Super Bowl ‘dadverts’ is the latter approach their subject with a poignant, emotionally-charged tone along the lines of highly successful ‘momverts’.

Which brings us to 2015’s reigning king of ‘dadvertising’: MetLife’s ‘My Dad’s Story’, otherwise known as “that ad that made everyone in your office cry”. An incredible example of emotional advertising (and filmmaking, generally) the ad raises the sentimental pitch of these spots to previously-uncharted heights, particularly in the central montage. While it’s patronizing to say that has advertising has only just discovered that men have emotions, the sentimentality that these campaigns bring to fatherhood is undoubtedly part of their appeal.

The surest sign of this trend is their massive sharing popularity. With all of the ads listed here being spread widely across the social web, and particular successes like ‘My Dad’s Story’ racking up nearly 400,000 shares, the ‘dadvertising’ trend is more than some creative’s current fancy. With all that said, we’ll leave you with a reminder that Father’s Day is Sunday, June 21st this year. Consider yourself warned.


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