3 Tips for Marketers to Reach a More Realistic Audience This Father’s Day

Because dads aren’t just bumbling fools or sole breadwinners

On a dimly lit stage there are numerous men dressed in only aprons
Dollar Shave Club's Father's Day spot celebrated the dad bod. Dollar Shave Club

There’s a certain kind of dad making the rounds in advertisements. He’s the hapless, good-for-fun-but-not-much-else kind of parent, great at tossing a ball in the park but can’t find his way around a teething ring.

With Father’s Day approaching, it’s a good time for advertisers to rethink this lazy messaging that reinforces stereotypical family roles to the detriment of fathers and mothers alike. When it comes to portraying fatherhood in a way that advances positive values and resonates with modern dads, the following three tips can help advertisers hit home.

Go deeper than greeting card clichés to find genuine connections

Much has been written about Gillette’s decision to feature transgender activist Samson Bonkeabantu Brown in its recent campaign. The brand’s bold, inclusive approach is certainly to be applauded, not just for the way it celebrates Brown but also for shining the spotlight on his father.

Rather than hearing dad gush about how much he loves his son and how he supports his choices, Grey Canada exhibited admirable subtlety, opting to show dad quietly and intimately guiding his son through the shaving process, honoring a rite of passage. It is a beautiful moment observed between a proud father and his child, and the shared love and respect is palpable.

Don’t be tempted by the familiar tropes

In the technology category, Amazon hit a high note with its “Dad’s Favorite Song” spot, demonstrating how tech can create meaningful bonds between father and child. However, the company’s more recent effort reinforces the stereotypical mother and father gender roles. In “Dad’s Day,” we see mom as the manager of the household and dad as executor. Our protagonist requires constant reminders and guidance from Alexa to keep his bundle of joy alive and well. It feels like dad is babysitting while mom is away.

Reality is closer to what I’m currently experiencing, typing this article with one hand while feeding my daughter some bizarre combination of Cheerios and scrambled eggs with the other. If anything, the spot was a useful reminder to add some items to my Prime basket.

Show a different side of dad

Google Chrome successfully demonstrated how technology can be used to deepen the relationship between father and daughter in the classic “Dear Sophie” spot from its “The Web Is What You Make of It” campaign. Here we see dad take an active role in his daughter’s life over a sustained period of time, creating a sort of digital scrapbook to remember the moments shared. Every time I watch this spot, I find a little bit of grit in my eye. Ads that aim to celebrate fatherhood and are not afraid of showing emotion resonate far more deeply than the bumbling buffoon act.

That said, there must always be a space for levity in “dad ads.” This year’s “Dad Bod” by Dollar Shave Club, for example, should be enjoyed precisely for what it is: a riotously funny, cut-through piece of creativity to promote the brand around Father’s Day. And as the second (third?) month of not going to the expensive gym I pay for rolls by, I can relate.

As millions of families take this weekend to reflect on an important family figure, it’s also an opportunity for advertisers to reconsider their portrayal of dad.

Alex Monger is a business director at BBH New York and father to Marlowe.