The reports of dad’s death are greatly exaggerated

You won’t believe what a certain parents magazine recently said about dads: they exist!americanbabymag6

After numerous stories where we pointed out American Baby magazine’s inability to consider dads as equal parents, it finally conceded to the inevitable reality that dads are indeed part of its customer base.

It was no easy road to get here.

We’ve written about American Baby magazine and its sexist photo credits.

We’ve written about its general monthly editorial content that ignored fathers.

We’ve written about how it doesn’t believe dads are concerned about child safety.

We’ve written how its baby registry advertisement disregards dads.

We’ve written about how it suggests that dads don’t buy baby products.

We’ve written about how it simply pays no attention to dads as parents.

We’ve also heard absolutely no feedback from ABM, nor any attempt to communicate, or even any acknowledgement of our issues.

But the tide is turning, and if you held the latest American Baby magazine by its spine and emptied out those (sometimes annoying) subscription postcards before reading it, you missed the best part. As you can see above, it clearly mentions dads by name, acknowledging that its magazine is for dads to read, too.

Well done, ABM, and we look forward to your next issue with great interest!

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Which insurance company has dads in good hands?

If the basic definition of marketing is “to promote something in order to sell,” then there’s no question as to whom each insurance company presented here is trying to speak.gerber2

One featured ad is actually a direct mail piece from Gerber Life Insurance Company, who for years has been regularly sending this mailer with “See what Moms are saying about…” printed right on the front. And if you’re a dad who has been surprised to receive this in the mail, that’s not the only the only thing Gerber has jumbled; scroll about one-third down here to see another way this piece misfires.

allstate1The other featured is a display ad from Allstate found in the July 2015 American Baby magazine (click to enlarge). It not only addresses all of its potential customers by using the word “families,” but it includes a photo of a family where dad is holding the baby.

So, if you’re a dad and in the market for insurance, or even a college savings plan, where are you more likely to turn? To whom is Gerber and Allstate trying to “promote something in order to sell?”

Allstate’s approach is a positive one. Companies so often follow the supposedly “safe” marketing path, misbelieving that mom is the primary household decision-maker. Allstate knows that the days of “mom-stays-at-home, dad-goes-to-work” are ancient history. Indeed, caring for the family is a responsibility handled by both mom and dad.

Gerber, on the other hand, doesn’t want to change. Keeping an iconic, recognizable logo is a wise marketing move, but ignoring potential customers isn’t. Neither is having a college savings plan that gets dubious reviews.

Ever since our first post about Gerber in January 2014 (and again later in October), it began blocking us on Twitter. It’s the only company we’ve written about who has done so, proving that in Gerber’s world, communication is a one-way street.

Allstate, on the other hand, has won dads over. Dads are in good hands, indeed.

A fine ad, but what’s with Walmart Moms?

mixedsignalsIf you’ve been following this website since the beginning, you know we’ve focused on a variety of ways in which dads are portrayed in marketing, advertising and media.

We’ve featured companies, media channels, sports, entertainment avenues, service organizations, as well as some general ideas of our own.

When it comes to the products we buy and consume every day, it is the retailers who exert immense power. Their prices affect our overall budget. They decide what’s on sale. They decide where it’s placed in the store. They shape our buying habits, and often turn items that “I want” into “I need.”

The retailer at the top of the list, of course, is none other than Walmart. With 4,779 stores nationwide, it’s responsible for $482 billion in annual sales, and no other store comes even close.

When we wrote about Walmart on January 7, we were disappointed by an ad featured in the October 2014 American Baby magazine.

walmart2But now, almost one full year after that magazine ad we discover a change in Walmart’s ways with an advertisement so impressive (featured left), it will no doubt get everyone’s attention in the retailing world. Hopefully it will turn heads and change the way others operate and market their products and services.

Check out this list of the top retailers from last year.  If you’re reading this Kroger, Costco, Target, Home Depot, et al, your friends at Walmart have officially raised the bar.

That doesn’t mean, however, that Walmart is officially the leader in dad-friendly marketing. This ad was a hit, but another part of its portfolio is a clear miss.

That’s because it still insists on offering “Walmart Moms,” a practice that wouldn’t seem so sexist if it offered a dadly counterpart. The old fashioned use of this biased name fosters the misbelief that mom is the lead parent, and dad is merely an assistant.

We call for an end to this chauvinist exercise by renaming the program “Walmart Parents.”

What do you say Walmart?

walmart5Walmart’s approach shows that it’s at odds with its own self. By offering a fantastic ad showing dad in a positive light as an involved parent, and then disregarding dad’s parental abilities through the exclusionary Walmart Mom program, it’s sending mixed signals to dads everywhere.

We’ve debunked the moms are the lead shoppers fallacy so many times over it’s hardly worth doing again, so we’ll let another group do it.

Again, Walmart here offers one quality ad and a fantastic step in the right direction. But as for Walmart Mom, it reminds us of another dad exclusionary marketing campaign that’s taken a beating this year.

Perhaps it’s time for Walmart to be proactive (like the Today Show), rather than reactive, and let dads know that they matter as consumers.

A quiz: what kind of magazine will it be?

whatkindofdad1Just when we think American Baby magazine is leaning toward doing something right by placing a dad on the cover of its June 2015 issue (no doubt a gratuitous Father’s Day nod), we turn inside to find an article trying to be humorous, and rather offends.

First of all, we know ABM is geared toward mothers, despite its name. The advertising and writing all fuel the bias that moms are the lead parent, and that dads don’t count. For a magazine to continue with a title name that truly suggests nothing otherwise (yes, both women and men have the ability to care for babies), this is wrong – but you have to remember this magazine’s mission as you proceed with this piece. After all, a quick flip through ABM’s pages indicate the heavily unbalanced photographic tally of 44 images of moms, compared to just 11 dads. It’s like this every month.

If language expresses intent, then what does that lopsided ratio suggest?

In case you still had some doubt in your mind, the article titled “What Kind of Dad Will He Be?” (available online here), should cement the fact that ABM disregards dads with nearly every step it takes. Again, we know the magazine and this particular story favors moms – of course, there’s a need for that in this world – but why not within this same issue or another one, have a similarly titled story written for dads asking “What Kind of Mom Will She Be?”

The flimsy bone that ABM offers dads on the cover is forcefully snatched away on page 3’s table of contents, after one quickly realizes that there’s not a single article in its so-called “Father’s Day issue” offering dads a way to better themselves as fathers, or why dads mean something to families, or how to plan for a fun Father’s Day, or even the social media loving “dad bod.”

We can even look past Sarah Schmelling’s humorous tone, which somehow finds a way to dig at men by using every possible sexist connotation imaginable. By comparison, do women really find it funny when men try to be comical and use the, “a woman’s place is in the kitchen” line?

Let’s forget all that for now, though, and look at two inconspicuous items of note:

  1. Check out the photo caption at the top of page 56 (pictured above). “He may not even need coaching to become your parenting team’s MVP!” Talk about incongruous writing – first AMB is acknowledging that dads are on the parenting team (and the possible MVP, no less!) – yet the rub is in the first six words:  “He may not even need coaching”?  That’s some seriously curious language, because mothers bear no more instinctive abilities to parent a child than fathers.  One can argue whether being a parent is an instinct or an acquired skill, but one parent doesn’t possess the skill more than the other simply by way of gender.  Although this website talks about a slightly different but related topic, here’s what one wise, hipster homemaker has to say about dads and babysitting.
  2. In the last section of the article under “MOSTLY C’S,” the author uses the phrase “Mr. Mom.”  Don’t get us started on the use of that term (because we already have), but in short, would anyone dare call a working mother “Mrs. Dad”?

It’s hard to give the author kudos for the wonderful, cute ending, “Few things are more fun for a child…” when the previous sentence exhausts the last of several tired, unflattering stereotypes, suggesting that every dad must live “The Hangover” lifestyle every weekend.

C’mon dadmarketing, you might say, have a sense of humor.

It’s scarcely amusing when ABM pushes the dads-don’t-matter-to-us agenda every month, and it’s in a supposed Father’s Day issue. Imagine if, for example, there was a dad-related food story with a photo caption that offered, “She may not even need coaching to start cooking like your own mom!”

With stereotypes, there’s always someone who isn’t laughing.

Hopefully by the next time ABM releases next year’s Father’s Day issue, we’ll have a magazine that helps celebrate, appreciate and thank dads for all they do, rather than create an unnecessary divide on the parenting team.

Are dads on the go?

One must wonder what Ashton Kutcher might think of the latest American Baby magazine ad supplement titled, “Mom in the know, mom on the go.”americanbabymag4

It reminds us of the world he rightfully bemoans, where changing stations remain plentiful in women’s restrooms, yet not in men’s.

Mirroring this is the myopic American Baby magazine again pushing the dads-don’t-parent envelope, making fathers to be the second class parental unit through an advertising page that suggests dads don’t buy baby products.

We beg to differ.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: American Baby magazine should consider a name change if it’s going to continue the practice of deliberately avoiding its dad readership. The chain reaction of support Kutcher received from his Facebook post, including from state legislators, validate what we’ve been saying all along: dads care.

The days of hands-off fathers who watch mothers raise children are ancient history. That was generations ago. Today, dads have never been more active, and more vocal – and they shop, too. Just ask Ashton Kutcher.

If American Baby magazine doesn’t start altering its ways and incorporating more dads in its magazine, it would only take only one tweet from @aplusk to let his 16 million followers know just how he feels.

Ashton Kutcher: a dad’s best hope

They say ‘good things come to those who wait,’ but it’s likely Ashton Kutcher never listened.kutcher

Upon leaving the University of Iowa in 1996, Kutcher rose to meteoric fame by immediately modeling, and then landing on Fox’s long-running “That ‘70s Show” by 1998, where he gained his instant stardom.

He appeared in his first film by 1999, and deftly spread his wings by starring in and producing a varied mix of shows, including the clever “Punk’d,” the cult film “Dude, Where’s My Car?,” and the psychological thriller “The Butterfly Effect.”

And his acting accomplishments may seem like nothing compared to his prowess on social media, particularly Twitter, where he became the first user to reach one million followers in 2009.

Yet as he reaches a nearly 20 years of work in Hollywood, Kutcher is taking on his biggest role yet: dadvocate.

Last October, he and Mila Kunis gave birth to daughter Wyatt, and just a few months later, Kutcher had become victim to dad exclusion like so many fathers before him. So, this past March, Kutcher complained about the lack of pubic diaper changing stations on his Facebook page, a post that went viral and caught the attention of a New York state senator, Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan).

Hoylman’s proposed an amendment would change the New York Civil Rights Act and require many newly constructed or renovated public buildings to provide diaper-changing rooms in men’s rooms where they are also present in kutcher2women’s rooms.

Kutcher, meanwhile, launched a change.org petition intended to have Target and Costco offer changing stations to both moms and dads in their stores.

How this plays out remains to be seen, but for now, both Kutcher and Hoylman should be enthusiastically lauded for their efforts.

With all due respect to our lawmakers and government, Kutcher, in particular, carries a lot of weight and power, and he may be a key figure in putting dads on a rightful equal ground.

However, real change isn’t going to happen in a restroom, it’s going to happen when perception shifts – and that can only occur when principal influences begin to treat dads like they count as much as moms when it comes to parenting.

Those influences are in the marketing and advertising of the products and services we use, in the media which shapes our attitudes, and in how Hollywood portrays the dad character.

As long as Jif Peanut Butter trumps its one-sided marketing slogan, and Kix cereal speaks only to moms, and American Baby magazine employs old fashioned writing that ignores fathers, and writers slap unfair and embarrassing stereotypes on dads which only apply to a minority – and thus we keep reading, and buying and using these products – diaper changing stations for dads will be merely pacifistic tools demanded by law.

And only fathers would see the change anyway; indeed, it would be a welcoming and needed change in law, but only dads would benefit and see the restroom modification.

Instead, if Kutcher could really get to the heart of the matter, and use his influence to encourage others to include dads in positive ways through marketing, media and entertainment, the “#1 Dad” mug he receives from his daughter on his first Father’s Day this June will be more valuable than any acting honor he’s ever accepted.

And letting everyone see it would make for the best tweet ever.

This is weird: a dad can buy Desitin at Amazon Mom

Johnson & Johnson, makers of Desitin, is at it again.

It puts dads in a box, seeing dads as the way it has always seen them, no matter how much times have changed.desitin2

You’ll find its latest ad and subsequent slogan, #1 with Pediatricians and Moms, is repeated twice on its latest two-page spread, featured where else but American Baby magazine, as well as highly visible at the top of its website — with its own separate “seal of approval” logo to boot.

And dads?

Completely nonexistent, from the print ad and all the way through every single web page at desitin.com.

Even though J&J/Desitin totally ignores dads, I still find it slightly odd that – through applying the troubling “dads don’t know how to handle babies” approach – it wouldn’t even seize that as an opportunity to highlight at least one dad on its website.

After all, with menu tabs like, “What is Diaper Rash?” and “Identifying Diaper Rash,” and having an only-moms-care-for-kids approach combined with a boxed-in, close-minded attitude toward fathers, you’d think Desitin would take the opportunity to feature that other, less involved “assistant” parent – you know, dads.

desitin4

Screen shot from desitin.com

We offered a review of a similar Desitin ad 9 months ago, and now here we are today, and it’s the same problem.

Isn’t that how some define insanity: continuing to do the same thing but expecting to get different results?desitin3

Good marketers can let go of the past and move on to a new future, growing the brand and branching out into other market segments.

Look at this past Super Bowl to see how much big-time marketing departments value fathers.

But doing the same thing over again results in a stagnant approach.  It may not translate directly into sagging sales today, but over time, and generations, it’s a surefire way to kill a brand.

Is J&J/Desitin up to the task?

Only time will tell.

But if it is, I suspect like diaper cream, it would see instant results.