Words matter: why ignoring dads in ads is baloney

Nearly every day, words spoken by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump make national headlines.  Of course, some quotes are more shocking than others, and yet the level of scrutiny is often over a few select words.

Why the fuss?

Because words matter.oscarmayer4.png

Oscar Mayer recently introduced an ad about sending young children to school for the first time.  At first glance, it’s touching.  It looks great.

Note we said looks, because if you re-watch the ad with the volume muted, most everything looks good.  It looks like a touching ad involving the entire family, even if dad plays a rather minor role.oscarmayer1.png

But cue back the volume and notice the complete omission of “dad” in speech, and that changes the ad’s marketing breadth entirely.  No longer is dad playing a token cameo at best, but rather, he’s been excluded from the message – a sad, recurring theme among lunch makers who only believe mom’s pack lunches.

Oscar Mayer’s eschewed use of the word dad is an unfortunate practice for a company with dads at its roots.oscarmayer3.jpg

After all, what does this ad say to the late Richard Trentlage, the man who created the venerable Oscar Mayer Wiener song, who died Sept. 21 at age 87?  As a dad, Trentlage used his living room as a recording studio and had his children sing audition tapes.

It’s part of a rich Oscar Mayer legacy, which was founded in 1883 (perhaps Mayer was a dad?).  But 1883 is a whopping 133 years ago.  It’s high time this prominent company gets back to the basics if it wants to be perceived as the leader in lunch meats for the next 133 years.

Even if its marketing research suggests a majority of women purchase its products, there’s no point in senselessly alienating the other part of its customer base, and being perceived as a company who places a greater value in one gender – thus creating a bias, and all over useless, old fashioned stereotypes.

Besides, we all know sexism is wrong.

Oscar Mayer may have a way with b-o-l-o-g-n-a, but it also has a regrettable way with excluding dads.  Let’s hope that practice comes to a quick end before the next school year rolls around, because dads do indeed get kids ready for school and pack lunches, too.

And they love their kids every bit as moms.

 

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Why is Disney making dads out to be moms?

Sometimes it appears as if Disney can do no wrong.

Most of its movies are hits.  Disney TV is generally squeaky clean and safe.  Media acquisitions seem to be financial steals.  Its merchandising knows no bounds.  And a visit to one of its theme parks has become a consensus family destination of a lifetime for many.

But at least one part of it is a major letdown.

That’s because Disney Parks, a subsidiary responsible for the conception, building and managing of its theme parks and vacation resorts, offers a rather dad exclusionary feature on its website, disneyparks.com.

Click on the Vacation Planning menu tab, and you’ll find a section offering a Moms Panel, an inexcusable practice that leaves dads out in name, and in other unfortunate ways.disneymoms1.png

First, Disney Parks offers no Dads Panel counterpart, thus ignoring a father’s contribution and unique perspective for vacation planning.  By presenting no voice for dads and the viewpoints they might lend while families prepare for a dream destination, it directly ignores the indispensable influence of fathers.  Disney is also clearly saying that dads don’t handle this vacation planning facet of family life, and that dads don’t matter.

But wait – you say – there are some dads on the panel.

And therein lies problem number two, where it uses the term “mom” as an equal synonym for “parent” – a faulty, exclusionary approach when marketing to families, families which include dads.  There are very few products exclusively intended for one gender as parents, and vacation planning certainly is not one of them.

Alas, the term gender bias comes to mind.

Disney makes matters worse by trying to rationalize its practice of replacing the word parent with mom:

We understand that the role of “mom” is met differently from family to family, so we made sure to fill our panel with enthusiastic, dedicated and diverse individuals—moms, dads and other in the know family members—to help guide you with your vacation planning.

Note how the word mom is placed in quotes.  Here, at least in Disney’s world, all dads are no longer equal parents, they’re moms!

Let that sink in for a moment:  Disney is calling dads, moms.

Don’t dads matter to Disney more than this?  Must dads’ presence as equal parents be demeaned, it not outright ignored?  It’s wrong.  Dads matter every bit as moms.

Now take a look at those actual dads serving as Moms Panelists:  don’t these dads have a problem with this concept?  If one was called a mom at a public function, wouldn’t he correct the speaker?  Let’s hope so.  So why let it persist online, in print, for the entire world to see?  disneymoms2.jpg

This whole discomfiture is not just literally inaccurate – it’s gauche, inappropriate and disrespectful.

And ignoring the contribution of a father by way of exclusion in its name – Moms Panel – doesn’t exactly feel welcoming to fathers seeking information.  It leaves them out of the discussion, and makes them feel like outsiders – that is, if they even bother to find and examine the site in the first place.

What’s more, among its entire 27 panelists only two are dads?  That’s hardly representative of the population, nor its customer base.disneymoms3.jpg

Third, it’s beyond disappointing that the Moms Panel was unveiled in 2008, during these politically correct times.  It’s not like we excuse Jif for prolonging use of its old fashioned motto, but at least it was born during a time where its slogan was representative of a bygone era.  That slogan, too, is inappropriate and Jif is taking steps to minimize (perhaps eliminate) its use.

But 2008?  That’s a mere eight years ago.  In this so-called modern, gender sensitive, all-inclusive, equality-seeking world, doesn’t Disney have some high level PR officer who would’ve screened this before it even happened?

This entire Moms Panel endeavor reflects a huge lapse in judgement for a global mass media and entertainment conglomerate that considers its parks “the Happiest Place on Earth.”

Dads can’t be happy with this kind of treatment.disneymoms4.jpg

Whether or not you’ve made it to Disneyland or Disney World before, at least we can all say we’ve enjoyed its movies over the years, and we continue to be enthralled with its new Star Wars handiwork and future plans.

But that’s what makes the rub hurt even more, because with Disney, we expect more.  We don’t just want our expectations met, we want them to be exceeded.  Sure, that’s a lofty desire, and maybe a bit unfair, but that’s the standard Disney has set.  We expect greatness.  Perfection.  Happiness.

All of it makes Disney’s use of the Moms Panel name indefensible.

Not long ago, Amazon – the largest Internet-based retailer in the United States – finally responded to the PR nightmare known as Amazon Mom by quietly and suddenly changing its name to reflect dads’ contributions as parents.

Let’s hope Disney can make a swift change, too, and thereby stake its claim as the Happiest Panel on Earth.