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Tide’s Stay-at-Home-Dad Commercial Didn’t Fall on Deaf Ears
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Ad agencies, marketing wizards and social media moguls – listen up. We like to talk about good and bad “dadvertising” here, and we think we’ve got a commercial here that fits one and a half of those adjectives. While mostly good, a little digging reveals something we’re glad didn’t make it to television. We’re mostly happy – and in the world of dadvertising, that may just be good enough this time around.

Trey Burley, aka Daddy Mojo, originally turned me onto this now-not-so-new Tide commercial featuring a smart-sounding stay-at-home-dad. We love seeing brands celebrate fathers, so we asked the Tide overlords at Procter & Gamble about this push for dads. After a month of back-and-forth, I finally got hooked up with the right people, and wanted to share some of their sentiments with you 8Biteers.

First, let’s check out the commercial, after the hop.

There are two versions of the Tide commercial. Here’s the original that was aired:

Everything’s right about this commercial. Dad is presentable-looking, speaks intelligently, shows a knowledge for housework and his kid without being insulting to dads or moms. I mean, it’s awesome. And this commercial would have been epic, had it only been that 31-second spot.

The commercial, from ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi, is part of a “My Tide” campaign – so this stay-at-home-dad is only one part of the equation. “The spots on ‘My Tide’ are very personal, often using people we know and their stories, and this case is no exception,” Saatchi & Saatchi Global Creative Director, Maru Kopelowicz, told me in an e-mail. “Actually, the inspiration for ‘dad laundry’ is my husband. Paul stays at home with our daughters while I work, and many times I’ve come home to find him folding little girl’s dresses while watching detective series.”

“In 2011, it’s imperative to show men as well as women to break away from the typical gender roles in ALL household product ads,” added Saatchi & Saatchi Creative Director and Writer, Laura Mulloy.

This is what fathers are looking for in commercial advertising. Fathers don’t need to be singled-out, they just want to be treated like a parent. We don’t need a commercial to say “hey dads,” but we need a commercial to show a positive father character, taking care of household and care-giving tasks without looking like an idiot or gallivanting around like he’s better than anyone. Most of us fathers don’t want to or need to feel like we’re better than our wifely counterparts – we just want to feel equal.

Mulloy mentioned that the Marketing Director at Procter & Gamble saw the commercial, and being a father himself, loved it. “For us, it’s also about the changing dynamics of household chores,” said Mulloy. “The reality for almost every family we know includes dads who do laundry and moms who make money and everyone sharing home responsibilities as equally as possible.”

“More and more dads today are choosing to stay home, and it’s great to see how they handle fatherhood in their own way. This is not really a trend, this is a reality and we wanted to reflect this reality in the best possible way,” Kopelowicz added.

So at this point, we’re riding pretty high on the dad-train. But suddenly, as if out of the shadows, a longer version of the commercial appears:

Whoa whoa whoa. What happened?

A second ago we were high-fiving, celebrating fatherhood and talking about how great it is to be awesome dads, husbands and caregivers. Now, after watching the long commercial, we’re just left wondering how such a good 30-second commercial could be such a missed-opportunity as a 60-second one.

In the short version, the father is a wonderfully-strong and capable parent. Period. He even knows how to braid his daughter’s hair, which is awesome. It breaks gender stereotypes, and makes everyone look great, without rubbing anyone’s face in it. Then you see the long version. It makes both fathers and mothers look bad. It reinforces that a mother’s place is in the house, doing chores. After all, if a woman’s place wasn’t in the home, then why would the father have to be a “dad mom?” He’d just be “dad”. In saying that he’s a “dad mom,” they’re saying that this guy is a father doing a mother’s work.

Laura Mulloy defends the “Dad Mom” name, saying that “we found it a sweet way for the guy to refer to himself– like I call myself a Lady Writer. The commercial would’ve worked without it, sure. I think that there’s an inherent sexiness to men who raise kids and handle chores… it’s enlightened and modern and women like seeing it… so if we’re guilty of anything, it’s of objectifying this stay-at-home dad so that women can fantasize about marrying someone like him.”

Yet I can’t help but think that women would find it sexier to see a father just being awesome, as he does in the shorter commercial.

In the longer commercial, dad-mom gets cocky with the line “I know that there’s dads out there that are astonished at my ability to dress a four year old.” Sigh. It’s that kind of bravado that was pleasantly missing in the shorter commercial. And here’s something important – in the short version, you don’t even realize you’re being sold a product, which is funny because the product talk is front-and-center. It comes and goes, and you’re thrilled with the dad by the end of the commercial. In the longer version, it becomes painfully obvious that you’re being sold something when dad-mom lets you know that “with Tide Boost, I can use the brute strength of dad to mix with the nurturing abilities of my laundry detergent.” Too far bro. Too far.

In the longer commercial, you don’t even get to see the daughter – you just get a promise that dad-mom is going to go pump-up with some pull-ups and crunches in the other room.

Coincidentally, this dichotomy between the short and long versions of the commercial were even covered by CBS, in addition to other dad-bloggers. Heck, check out the YouTube comments on the short and long versions and see the difference.

So – did Procter & Gamble and Saatchi & Saatchi do a good or bad thing with the Tide brand? Drumroll, please…

I’m going to say: good enough.

The short version of the commercial is incredible and is everything that commercials about dads is not. It’s sweet, flattering and natural. Like I said, I don’t even feel like I’m being sold something. But the longer commercial commits missteps that both fathers and mothers can easily take offense to. Does this sink Tide and the whole My Tide campaign? No. But it’s a warning – tighten it up, folks. Saatchi & Saatchi – you had a great success with the short commercial. Learn from that. And listen to the community’s feedback on the “dad-mom” gaffe. Dads can be a great ally as long as you treat them like parents, and don’t make them feel like the lesser gender.

Thanks to Daddy Mojo for bringing the commercial to our attention, and thanks to Maru Kopelowicz and Laura Mulloy of Saatchi & Saatchi for answering my questions. The more we all talk, the better its gets for us dads!

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Author: Zach Rosenberg View all posts by
is married and has one son. You can also find his writing on The Good Men Project and The Huffington Post, and HLN. He is an avid gamer, rides unicorns, and loves rainbows.