Consumer goods monolith Procter & Gamble gave some dads a rash in 2012 when they lathered the London Olympics in commercials thanking moms (and moms only) for their Olympic-level dedication to their kids. And for the Sochi Olympics, P&G’s ad wizards are massaging mom once again with their “Pick Them Back Up” commercial, an ode to the undying ability that moms have to, well, pick their little future athletes back up when they fall.
It would seem that the P&G machine has taken direction straight from their shampoo: Apply commercials to moms. Rinse, repeat.
Amidst the moms campaign hubbub, Procter & Gamble put out what the kids these days are calling a “short film” about Olympian Ryan Suter and his father, Bob Suter, who you might remember as one of them “Miracle on Ice” guys from the 1980 Olympic team. The 3-and-change-minute video, titled “Raising An Olympian: Ryan Suter” is a wonderful tribute to a son and father’s mutual love. And hey, Ryan even mentions Bob picking him back up in the video, so the consistent branding is like, already there, dude.
But is there a catch? Spoiler alert: yes.
First, check out “Raising An Olympian: Ryan Suter” – presented by P&G brand Gillette – here:
That warm feeling inside of you is hockey and dad-love, FYI.
Are dads finally getting a warm shower and a deep conditioning on P&G’s dime? What’s the catch?
For some, there’s no catch; P&G’s “Raising An Olympian: Ryan Suter” is a step in the right direction. And in my analysis of 140 dad-commercials from 2013, P&G actually showed up four times with commercials for Tide, Downy, and, (shocker) Tide with Downy. The commercials rated well – with scores of 5, 5, 5 and 3 - I like to imagine that someone at P&G’s profit and loss meetings last year held up print-outs of angry dad blogger articles and asked “what do we do about this?”
Look, this “Raising An Olympian” video is great. I like it, I love it, I want some more of it. I’m most happy about the fact that Nielsen and the Interactive Advertising Bureau concluded in 2013 that internet video seems to have more of an impact than traditional TV, so a YouTube video isn’t a bad offering. But that said, I can’t help but lament that “Raising An Olympian: Ryan Suter” won’t be on television. It won’t be offered during a hockey game as Ryan Suter’s profile, nor is it a commercial for P&G.
But here’s what’s really bugging me:
1. “Raising An Olympian: Ryan Suter” is about one father. When the “proud sponsor of moms” comes out and says so during the most-watched sporting event in the world, it’s big. It means, in no uncertain terms, that you’ve got - specifically - mom’s back. While I really like Ryan and Bob Suter’s story, it’s not meant to be a love song to dads. And while the short film was touted in its pitch e-mail to 8BitDad as “the first-ever P&G tribute to dads,” it’s not really about dads. It’s about one dad, and there’s no text overlay in the video that widens the scope; there’s no suggestion that the video is a thank-you to all dads for being an inspiration like Bob Suter. In fact…
2. Other “Raising An Olympian” videos exist, all about moms. They live on Procter & Gamble’s YouTube channel and have “P&G Thank You, Mom” in the title. The Ryan Suter video lives on the Gillette channel and subs the gratuity out for “Keep Your Head Up”. So, if this video is part of the “Raising An Olympian” family, why isn’t it alongside the others on P&G’s channel? Because…
3. Gillette lost profits for P&G at the end of 2013. Americans are shaving less. And well, this sounds silly, but stuff like Movember (or the less charitably-linked “No-shave November”), the rise of (and hipster adaptation of) barber shops, businesses like the Dollar Shave Club, and hell, even popularity of hairy-chinned musicians like Mumford and Sons, are kicking the shave gods in their stubbly bits. So it’s no surprise that P&G’s CFO Jon Moeller noted the shaving of Gillette’s profits last quarter (and even blamed Movember). Sales of non-disposable razors and blades across all brands, in fact, fell 7.8% in the last three months of 2013. Going after men at the Olympics is the least that P&G could do, right? Oh, and P&G also hoped fans would “shave, paint, win” with Gillette for another first quarter profit driver: the Super Bowl.
It’s actually almost comical that fellow dad blogger Chris Routly said these words in his article about the new pick-em-up mom-mercial: “moms are loving, sacrificing parents. Dads shave.” Razor burn!
On a personal level, the main complaint that I hear about the P&G “Pick Them Back Up” commercial is actually grounded in practicality: I don’t know a dad online or off that hasn’t been intimately involved in his kid’s sports interests. Procter & Gamble have created their commercial in an unreality – one where it’s only moms that take an interest in their kids’ sports.
“While I was not into competitive sports as a kid, many of my peers remember their dads as being the parents who were gung-ho about their sporting careers,” says Andy Hinds in an article on The Daily Beast about P&G’s campaign. “And yet, in the P&G ads, there is not a single shot of a father interacting with an athlete.”
(Also, is it really circle-jerky that Andy mentioned me in his article and now I’m mentioning him here?)
Another brand did some footwork here. Kellogg’s did an online survey of 501 competitive female high school and collegiate athletes, ages 14-23, about sports and their dads. What they found was that (drumroll) 53% of the female student athletes polled said that their dads were the single highest influence in their love of sports. Dads were actually cited four times more than other influences such as friends, coaches, and – ahem - moms, who raked in only 11% of the influence votes.
Now, we’re only talking 53% of a pool of 501 survey participants, but it’s not hard to imagine this number magnified. Coincidentally, dads are also the one that typically decides a family’s favorite team. Science!
“Raising An Olympian: Ryan Suter” is a good step for P&G, and so are the well-received Tide and Downy commercials from last year. But it’s still a shame that dads were left out of the “Pick Them Back Up” commercial; one that wouldn’t have lost any of its punch by merely thanking “parents” instead of “moms.” Then maybe the Ryan Suter video wouldn’t have to be put in a different YouTube channel as the other “Raising An Olympian” videos.
After all, Bob Suter cares about his son, and picked him back up whenever he needed it. Brett West, who built a luge track in his backyard for his son, Olympian Tucker West, cares about his son. Don McMorris, father of injured Olympic snowboarder, Mark McMorris, cares about his son, and was right there at the Winter X Games finals when Mark fractured his rib. Joseph Mantia, who is ignoring warnings of terrorism in Russia so that he can be with his son, Olympic skater, Joey Mantia, at the Olympics…that’s right - cares for his son.
Shall I continue, Proctor & Gamble? Or would you like to take it from here?