Chatbooks’ Snarky Parenting Videos Are Viral Gold, But Fans Said Something Was Missing: Dad

The app's newest ad shows rearing kids as a 2-person job

The Harmon Brothers' new Chatbooks video brings dad more into the picture. Chatbooks
Headshot of T.L. Stanley

Move over, Real Mom. It’s time to make room for Real Dad.

Until now, the witty videos for Chatbooks, a subscription photo book service, have featured a character dubbed “Real Mom” front and center as the primary domestic warrior, traffic-copping her family’s everyday chaos while singing the app’s praises.

And so far, she’s logged more than 100 million views, with creative work on the mini-movies coming from the Harmon Brothers, masterminds of Squatty Potty’s pooping unicorn and massive viral hits for Poo-Pourri, Purple and other brands.

But consumer research and social listening convinced the Utah-based Chatbooks that the lesser-known co-star, “Real Dad” (actor Gavin Bentley) needed more face time. So the newest video, which launched Monday, gives the male character as much exposure as the hilarious queen bee (still played by a pitch-perfect Lisa Valentine Clark).

“Our customers told us that both parents are equally involved, and one person doesn’t run the show,” said Rachel Hofstetter, CMO at Chatbooks. “While the whole idea of a bumbling dad is stale in advertising, we started to hear that ‘Real Mom’ as the only shot-caller was feeling a little antiquated.”

Chatbooks also took their cues from recent Facebook research that said parents want realism in their advertising and expect brands to acknowledge that both parents are making decisions on family purchases.

At least 5 percent of Chatbooks’ customers are dads, internal studies showed, and there were more than 1,500 requests to make it easier for dads to add photos to a family’s picture stash.

The insight, gathered over a number of months, also spawned new software on the free app. One feature allows parents to easily share and swap their pictures with each other. The second, a major upgrade to the service, incorporates AI into the process so Chatbooks “learns” which photos you’re likely to choose, discards the out-of-focus duds and makes the book selections for you.

The company will continue to try to expand the male market, recently debuting a 60-second video from Sandwich centered on a dad hanging out with his kids and explaining how the app works. The mom in the equation barely makes an appearance.

And then there’s the new Harmon-created 4-minute digital ad above, called, “If you’re a good parent, or want to pretend to be one, you need this app.” Real Dad builds Lego models, gets one eyebrow waxed off and snaps selfies in a runaway RV “driven” with disastrous results by his kid.

“When I first saw it, I thought it felt real,” said Hofstetter, who had been out on maternity leave while the ad was in the works. “Not the crashing-car part, but the rest of it.”

Below, you can revisit some of the campaign’s earlier, more mom-centric videos, followed by credits for the new spot.


Agency: Harmon Brothers
Agency Creative Director: Daniel Harmon
Agency Managing Director: Benton Crane
Director of Accounts: Gavin Bentley, Theron Harmon
Producer: Brad Johnson
Writers: Dave Vance, Jonny Vance, Whitney Meek, Kellen Erskine
Director: A. Todd Smith
Creative Director: Shane Rickard
1st AD: Sohrab Mirmont
2nd AD: Evan Lai-Hipp
UPM/Associate Producer/DIT: Tiffani Barth
Production Designer: Kristin Swensen
Lead Man: Gabe Jessop
Real Mom: Lisa Valentine Clark
Dad: Gavin Bentley
Sarah: Eliza Brown
Older Son: Kimball Stinger
Younger Son: Kenyon Stinger
Director of Photography: Tyler Stevens
1st AC: Brenna Empey
Gaffer: Phil Shepherd
Key Grip: Kevin Woodward
Wardrobe: Kathy Eckenbrecht
Makeup: Danielle Donahue, Keri Hatfield
Editor/Script Supervisor: Kaitlin Snow
Visual Effects Supervisor: Nick Ritter
Digital Effects: Tyler Stevens, Josh Badger
Production Sound: Dave Adamic, Gerald Hartley
Sound Design: Jacob Edvalson
Behind The Scenes: Mike Hendersen
Production Assistants: Sarai Stewart, Chad Wright, Chelsea Goodwin

Client: Chatbooks
CEO and co-founder: Nate Quigley
Chatbooker in Chief and co-founder: Vanessa Quigley
CTO and co-founder: Steven Bentz
CMO: Rachel Hofstetter
COO: Dan Jimenez
Director of Marketing: Tara Haynie
Director of Acquisition: Gerardo Castillo

@TLStanleyLA T.L. Stanley is a senior editor at Adweek, where she specializes in consumer trends, cannabis marketing, meat alternatives, pop culture, challenger brands and creativity.