Bad Dadvertising: Oscar Mayer and McGarryBowen
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Oscar Mayer Bad Dadvertising

Let’s pretend you’re one of the most-known names in the meat industry. Let’s pretend your number-one selling product is hot dogs. Now, I’ve got no real demographics in front of me, but wouldn’t you want brand loyalty from men? So now, just for funsies, let’s just assume that fathers are men too. Using all this logic, wouldn’t a company like Oscar Mayer want to play friendly with fathers?

They should want to. But they’re not. And fathers, you should be mad. Your friend is stabbing you in the back. And as a coup de grâce, Oscar Mayer even jabs at father bloggers too.

Oscar Mayer’s new suite of commercials is so toxic for fathers that it’s making me rethink grilling season.

“We’re now poking fun at the messy, imperfect moments experienced daily as we struggle to make better choices,” says Tom Bick, Director of Marketing Communications & Advertising at Oscar Mayer (in a press release). “This allows us to show that Oscar Mayer Selects is an easy and delicious choice when it comes to breakfast, lunch or dinner.”

These are indeed messy and imperfect moments, from ad agency McGarryBowen, which executed the campaign. You might remember their work from a previous Oscar Mayer commercial where dad comes home from work, and seeing that his whole family is buried in technology, grabs a pack of hot dogs, shuts the house’s power off at the circuit breaker, and begins grilling. As kids run out to see what the problem is, dad simply resolves, “power’s out…want a hot dog?” Even in the punchline of the commercial, when one of the kids asks why the neighbor’s power is on – dad doesn’t look like a fool. It’s well done.

McGarryBowen’s new commercials are decidedly not well done.

Ned Holstein, Fathers and Families

Ned Holstein, Fathers and Families

The ad campaign is “everything a man could wish for,” said Ned Holstein, MD, MS in an e-mail to 8BitDad. “The wife in the series is smart, energetic, decisive, sensible and cute, and she finally says ‘Yes.’ Unfortunately, when she finally says ‘Yes,’ it’ s not what you might hope for, it’s for Oscar Mayer hot dogs for dinner.” Holstein is Founder and Chairman of the Board of Fathers & Families, a family court reform organization that champions for fathers’ rights in a variety of ways.

“And here’s an advance warning: the Dad is everything you have come to expect from television dads: infantile, inept, narcissistic, befuddled, sloppy and balding, stupid, insecure, and timidly subservient to his wife. I envy the skill that Hollywood and Madison Avenue bring to their work; it takes something near genius to convey all that in a 30 second spot. But they manage to do it,” Holstein said after reviewing the ad spots.

The Commercials

Styled like a campaign that should be called “Sh*t My Family Never Says,” mom plays the part of stone-faced buzzkill while dad is just one of the kids:

In this commercial for hot dogs, we see that dad is a buffoon. Dad wants the family vacation in Vegas (which we established is dirtbag-worthy) and is ready to let his kid risk his life with a chainsaw. Mom is painted as so rigid that even the husband’s sexual advances are treated with boldface rejection. A real wife (or husband) would have laughed and told their spouse to save it for later. And I’m sorry, but my wife wants a large television just as much as I do. The daughter is featured once trying to sneak out for a late-night date, probably because she feels bad that dad’s taking so much heat with his bad decisions.

But that’s not the only wiener on the chopping block. Oh no, there’s another commercial:

This time, idiot-dad wants to be Facebook friends with the babysitter, and wants to wear skinny jeans. Kids are featured more prominently in this one – the son find a mouse in the shed that he’d like to keep as a pet, and the daughter opens the minivan door to find the parents making out inside (we thought mom wasn’t into dad like that). But in the climax of the commercial, dad asks “is it okay if I quit my job and start a blog?”

No, of course not. Don’t be an idiot. Go to sleep dad – mom is in control.

What’s something mom gets to say “yes” about? “Cold cuts from a package.” Snore.

And while we’re on a roll, let’s make it a trifecta of failure:

In what McGarryBowen would want to point out (if their staff were present) is that dad actually gets to play parent (once) in this commercial. But aside from the scene where he’s denying an early 90’s Mark Wahlberg a date with his daughter, dad is still basically depicted as one of the children. Checking out another woman in a clothing store? Driving a ride-on lawnmower inside the hardware store? Asking if he can “stay out just a little bit longer” while out with friends? No, no, no. Even building a tree-fort for his kid proves to be too big a task for idiot-dad.

But where McGarryBowen lets its message that dads have no place in the decision-making process shine truest is at the end, when the daughter walks in to see dad unloading groceries. “Did mom say we can eat all that,” asks the daughter. This is the final reinforcement that dad is a powerless and ineffective parent; even his own daughter defers all power and decisions to mom.

The Meat of the Issue

Kat Gordon, Maternal Instinct

Kat Gordon, MaternalInstinct

Kat Gordon, Founder and Creative Director of Maternal Instinct, knows the value of speaking to both genders. Her agency is centered around creating campaigns for companies that target families. “This campaign is a great example of what I call the 80/20 rule,” Gordon told 8BitDad. “They got 80% of it right: great tagline, high production value, awesome casting – even the basic concept is sound,” continued Kat. “Yet the 20% Oscar Meyer blew was in the assumption that someone had to be the fall guy: Dad. He’s horny, irresponsible, childish, incompetent and spineless. Mom, meanwhile is the family buzzkill. No one wins here. You don’t win mom by dissing dad. And you definitely don’t win dad by dissing dad.

Huggies recently found out what happens when you diss dad. They had released a mal-worded campaign, challenging moms to “put [Huggies] to the Dad Test.” After every single father blogger came out against the idea that the “dad test” was a cutely-worded way of saying “see what happens when that idiot doesn’t change your kid for hours,” Huggies, with the help of their father-friendly PR agency Edelman, personally called father-bloggers, apologizing and pledging to change the campaign to their best ability.

“What if, instead, they’d expanded on the scene where the teenage daughter catches the parents making out in the minivan,” asked Gordon. “That was really funny. Suddenly you can showcase all the things parents have to jointly say no to, all of which are offset by the YES moments of hot dogs for dinner. That’s a direction everyone can get behind.” Oscar Mayer, you listening?

Ned Holstein says that we should be especially wary of this image in the coming month. “Get ready for more of this kind of thing in the print media: Fathers Day is getting close,” Holstein says. “Once you are attuned to dad-bashing, you will be amazed at how much of it there is on Dad’s Special Day.”

Keep Your Wieners To Yourself

Fathers, don’t buy Oscar Mayer until these commercials are stopped or corrected. Show Oscar Mayer that their depiction of the average American family is not a representation of you. There’s only one way that you, as a consumer, can take the power back – and that’s by taking your dollar to someone else. Until Oscar Mayer respects you, don’t respect them.

Mothers, is this what your family looks like? Is this what your husband is like? We didn’t think so. Oscar Mayer has not painted you as the smart decision-maker in the household. They’ve made you look like an uncaring buzzkill – one that regards her husband as one of the kids. If you’re as unhappy with your husband and his role in the home as this woman is, meat wieners is the least of your worries. Stand together with your husbands in spending your money on a brand that celebrates both parents as equals.

McGarryBowen – shame on you. You saw what happened with Huggies, when they put fathers under a microscope, right? What you’re showing is unacceptable and while it may have been cute 15 years ago, it doesn’t fly these days. You made dad look like a stupid child and you made mom look like a rigid helicopter parent. As Kat Gordon said, “no one wins here.”

Oscar Mayer, step one, ditch McGarryBowen. Step two, take that money and time, and reconnect with your audience: families. Mothers AND fathers.

Or, if you’d prefer, keep running the commercials and see how many beef franks you sell this summer calling your consumers idiots. Frankly, this grilling season – my money is on your competitor.


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Author: Zach Rosenberg View all posts by
is married and has one son. He's a gamer and world-class unicorn wrangler. You should follow him on Instagram. You can also find his writing on The Good Men Project and The Huffington Post, and HLN.
  • Do we have anything up on the @OscarMayer Facebook page yet?

  • GizzardStone

    Well, I don’t buy Oscar Meyer anyway, don’t watch tv enough to see the commercials and think those ads are funny. I don’t demand realism from my advertising. It’s enough that it holds a nugget of truth and the rest is hyperbole. In fact, most entertainment is just that.

    Better hit dogs: Nathan’s or Hebrew National
    Better lunch meat: fresh sliced from the deli
    Better bacon: farmer john


    • Thanks for the comment, Mike! I prefer other brands too – and I think most people do and that’d be why we’re seeing the influx of ads – to get back market share.

  • The Real Matt Daddy

    I didn’t see this as grossly offensive – unlike the Huggies ads we destroyed – but I would agree with Gizzard that it’s a lot of hyperbole.  There are a lot of times that I will yield to my wife’s “No” because I don’t have a strong opinion either way, but I wouldn’t say that she is a tyrant – just like I wouldn’t say that I’m a pussy like this guy in the commercial.  I like Ms. Gordon’s “80/20” assertion, I believe that’s dead on.  I think some of the spots are worse than others.  If you watch them all together, like I just did, there seems to be a more balanced amount of mom saying “no” to dad and mom or dad saying “no” to kids.  Maybe if they had balanced the power a little bit, it wouldn’t sting so much.  Speaking of “80/20”, isn’t that about the right proportions of filler to actual meat in an Oscar Meyer hot dog?  I don’t buy their crap anyway.  I prefer my local butcher and farmer’s market.  If I do buy dogs is Esskay all the way!  Go O’s!  And OMG, have you tried ANGUS hot dogs yet?  If not, go get them immediately.  You will never want to go back to the ordinary scrape-it-off-the-floor “meat” in regular hot dogs.  Just sayin’. 

    • One thing about the “balance” – while the kids’ denied requests (keeping a mouse as a pet, sneaking out for a date, going on a date with a thug) are totally normal for kids of their ages – the stuff that dad is denied are ridiculous and dumb to begin with – which makes it look like dads are just kids with more capability.

      (except of course quitting your job to start a blog…totally normal!)

      • Harvey Smith

        “Dads are just kids with more capability” “There are a lot of times that I will yield to my wife’s “No” because I don’t have a strong opinion either way, but I wouldn’t say that she is a tyrant”  These commercials seem to me to be about average. Maybe I have been brain washed by television but what happens in these TV ads happens in real life as well.  Men don’t have any great feelings about ordinary life things in the family, they can take it any way it’s presented.   I work in a renovation store and it is always the wife that makes the final decision on what color the paint should be and what type of counters for the kitchen, even the drapes are her decision not his. Men can pay the bills but what they can do is repairs around the house and if attacked by outside forces, they are there to physically defend the family and lend support to the Mom. Guys with their own opinions are single.

        • There are a lot of times where I’m the more “let it fly” of my wife and I, but not the way that it’s portrayed in the commercial. Oscar Mayer didn’t just portray a free-thinking dad who lets his family operate independently and responsibly – it portrayed a family where the dad was one of the kids, a fool who was to be punished and snapped at like he’s testing the boundaries of logic. And mom, as usual, looked like a drill sergeant and kitchen slave.

          There are plenty of men who will concede decisions to their wives simply because the wife cares more about that particular detail – and not JUST the stereotypical colors of household items. But when depicting a father as so stupid that the mom has no choice but to take charge for the sake of the family…that’s just bad dadvertising!

          Thanks for the comment, Harvey!

      • GoddessAnonymous

        And that’s what makes them funny.  Sorry, but even after reading, and agreeing with what your wrote, the commercials still made me laugh. Maybe not a lot, but they did get a giggle.  Not that I would ever buy that crap from OM anyway, ew.  Meat, ew.  Men are being the butt of the jokes in advertising now because women are the ones doing the shopping in many households. Advertisers are catering to the ones spending the money. I love what Kat Gordon says about it, and about the value of speaking to both genders. I think the humor can be found without creating the fall guy. On the other hand, I think a lot of women do think of their husbands as “their other child” in many instances. Trust me, when it’s girls night out, husbands are the butt of the jokes and stories.  This doesn’t mean they are not valued for what they do, or unloved, and often the story is told with as much love as laughter and followed by a story about something awesome he did too. But it’s still told. I don’t think these commercials are so bad as to be more offensive than humorous on the one hand, but on the other I do see your point of view, these commercials are the equivalent of the “dumb blond” outlook and if you happen to be blond that can get very annoying very quickly, as these commercials can get annoying if you happen to be male. 

        • Before I start talking and turn you off, thanks for reading and commenting!

          So…first, we don’t REALLY know a true percentage of who’s doing the spending. If you ask moms, they say moms. If you ask dads, they say dads. Who’s really shopping? There’s some old stat that no one can ever nail down that moms do 80% of the spending, but my guess is it’s closer to 50/50 than people would like to admit (and that’s just a qualitative guess). Almost every one of my male friends does grocery and home goods purchasing for the family – but I live in California and we’re cool like that here. Then again, I’ve got Twitter friends all over the place and they all say they shop too. So…real stats? I don’t know. And I’m not sure anyone does definitively.I’m sure when it’s girl’s night out, a lot women call their husbands “the other child.” But that doesn’t make it right to put in a commercial. If when “a lot” of men had a guy’s night out, they said their working wives were emotional, catty employees that didn’t know how to figure out a copy machine – would that make it right to put in a commercial as if that’s the norm? Of course not! And advertisers don’t, since that’d be an insult and they’d lose money. You nailed it with the dumb blonde thing – it’s possibly funny once, but not really.

          In short, there’s better ways to make commercials than insulting people – even if it’s something people say. People say A LOT of stuff we don’t want in commercials!

          Anyway, thanks for your comments and discussion!

        • jamesweld

          “Trust me, when it’s girls night out, husbands are the butt of the jokes and stories.  This doesn’t mean they are not valued for what they do, or unloved, and often the story is told with as much love as laughter and followed by a story about something awesome he did too. But it’s still told. “I think those sentences say it very well.  If the wife saying no didn’t love the guy she would not be living with him.  It would be divorce time.  The product’s taste is in question but the commercial works

    • Jamesweld

      I noticed that Angus beef started showing up around the time that some cows were found to have mad cow disease in them.  I think that Angus beef  was use to cover up where the beef was coming from.

  • It seems to me they’re trying to hook on to the popularity of Modern Family with the “Phil Dunphy” dad image It's tough to compete with the stylings of Ty Burrell and a lot of advertisers are trying it. The better Tide commercial comes to mind

    I dunno, I believe advertising has a huge responsibility as the mirror of society – this type of humor misses the Modern Family mark and is counter-intuitive to the active role dads are trying to break into today. Commercials are tough because they need to grab you (if you actually do watch commercials) within 30 seconds. At the very least, the message is left for our subconscious to filter and process. THAT is where the problem is for me.

  • First, no one should be eating Oscar Meyer anything. Not only cause of these commercials but also because their food has less nutrition than a baggie full of rat vaginas (true story). Vienna Beef is my brand of choice but since they’re not available out here almost any other brand will do. Hebrew National, Applegate, etc. Second I agree with Bryan in the fact that they’re playing off the Phil Dunphy type character. It saves them from having to put any sort of original thought into their work. How many times have we seen this in advertising and TV shows? The husband/father type is always a fat, balding, bumbling buffoon. I seem to remember that shortly after the success of The Hangover I saw a handful of commercials that had the Alan type character in it. Uninspired, lazy advertising.

    • BTW, I love a good bag of rat vaginas while I work. I get the dried honey-drizzled ones from Trader Joes.

      • You should also try the wasabi ones.

      • Jamesweld

        Sounds about as tasty as pork rinds

  • GREAT reporting Zack…wow, there is REAL journalism out there, just NOT by msm!

  • kloo2 yoo

    Zach, OM responded to the mensrights twitter feed, but I only saw it today:

    @mensrightsrdt We’re sorry you feel that way. It’s tough to create ads that appeal to everyone these days. DM us and let’s chat.  11:42 AM – 16 May 12

    via TweetDeck

    most of the mensrights twitter feed is directly from reddit, so that’s how your post got tweeted out.

    • Thanks for the heads-up. OM sent me an identical tweet, to which I initially responded “You know where to find me” then today, DM’d them saying that if they’d like to respond, please e-mail me. I don’t suspect they will!

  • Steve

    We don’t eat Oscar Meyer crap anymore anyway.

  • Dmenchell

    No only is Dad a spineless jerk as portrayed in this ad, but if he really cared about his family, he would be saying yes to fruits, veggies and lowfat meats, not cold cuts and hot dogs.  Sorry Mom, this is one instance where Dad could be doing you one better by saying no to Oscar Meyer.

  • Bob Knows

    I’ve taken OM off my buy list.  Misandry is NOT father friendly, or son friendly, or even daughter friendly.  Hebrew National has been promoted to my #1 Brand.  Thank you Oscar Meyer for buying ads to tell us how scumbag your company is.  I’m off your customer list.

  • James Alexander

    Without likely knowing it, these creatives created something this is pretty discusting.

  • Brian Cunningham

    I like Oscar Meyer hot dogs, but Oscar Mayer Select hot dogs taste awful. Really awful!

    • Jamesweld

      The key word is “Select” only the worst tasting hot dogs are selected, so there is truth in advertising

  • Baquin

    Thanks for the “heads-up” on Oscar Mayer’s disregard for the dignity of 50% of the population, Mr. Rosenberg. I most certainly will no longer purchase their products. While we’re on the topic of representing people fairly and accurately, you might consider this: I am in my mid sixties so I no longer look like I did in my prime. I am still, however, fairly neat and tidy. I do most of the health conscious cooking in our home. I am comfortable with my baldness, and up until I read your fine critique of this insensitive company, I had no idea that baldness should be so high on the list of offensive human characteristics. Food for thought.

  • Zamboniman50

    I guess you you don’t know that it’s the Dad that do the shopping for the cook-outs, you probably don’t any thing about the Beef srike we had when you thought we were a bunch of Dummies, I will not buy another one of your product, and will inform the rest of the Family and the organizations we belong too.

  • Felix Frijoles

    2nd funniest commercials of the year……because they are soooo true.

    #1 is the Haverty’s Furniture Speed Dating Commercials.

    • I agree. Just another way for an organization to make a mountain out of a molehill to benefit their own cause. Women are constantly objectified. All this is is comedy.

  • James

    Uhm, the boy is old enough & large enough, physically, to learn to manage a chainsaw. He’s got proper safety gear on, and the chain brake is engaged. He’s hardly risking life & limb. It’s entirely appropriate for his father to be teaching him how to do it safely & under controlled conditions. It would be equally appropriate for hm to be teaching his daughter.