McDonald’s ‘Playdate’ commercial plays with old dad stereotype

Can this really be what McDonald’s thinks of today’s modern father?mcdonalds2.png

In one of its latest ads, an “in over (his) head” dad apparently can’t handle a sleepover, nor manage to feed the girls while his wife is out of town — so he visits a McDonald’s.

Judging by reaction from dads on social media, the ad sends not only a message of insensitivity to fathers who supposedly can’t handle children nor prepare food, but it also inadvertently tells moms they’re the primary cooks in the home.

It’s another controversial approach for the fast food giant fresh off the heels of a similar contentious ad also involving fatherhood. Last May, it pulled a United Kingdom commercial after backlash from viewers who insisted it was insensitive to grief-stricken kids. In the ad, a grieving son hears how he and his late father shared a love of Filet-O-Fish sandwiches. McDonald’s promptly removed the ad after 150 people complained.

An email inquiry to the McDonald’s Media Relations Office went unreturned.

In today’s modern world where advertisers are increasingly evolving past “choosy moms” and “mother-approved” slogans, McDonald’s latest message trends backward.

Can’t dad handle a fun sleepover involving five adorably cute girls? Can’t dad manage to feed these girls without his wife being present? Is it necessary that dad needs to call his wife? What message does this ad send to all parents — that moms can be working women as long as they still maintain control at home?

Put another way, would McDonald’s ever run a similar ad with the roles reversed? Imagine the scenario:  a woman realizes she’s in way over her head when her daughter has four friends over for a sleepover and her husband is out of town, which means she has to feed and entertain a group of hyper little girls.

It’s highly unlikely that McDonald’s would go this route.

And that’s the moment you realize an old, timeworn, unfair stereotype has been employed — and you’ve insulted fathers (also your customers) everywhere.

It’s time for change, McDonald’s. Dads deserve better.

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Making the headlines

This headline appeared in the Gainesville (Ga.) Times last month, and I suspect it went largely unnoticed across the nation.headline

Except at dadmarketing.

With this newspaper article is a headline which places a sexist stereotype on mom, and one that must surely offend both mom and dad in the process.

Is a mom’s place is in the kitchen?

Is it such that dads can’t cook, or manage to pack a lunch?

Everyone knows that the headline is the text indicating the nature of the article. The newspaper could have been more responsible with its duty and used a clearer, less offensive term, or rewritten it entirely. Who packs the lunch has nothing to do with the story’s main topic (which, by the way, is a good one), that schools are serving healthier meals than ones students bring from home.

Instead, we get a headline rich in stereotype.

We contacted the Times’ Life Editor, J.K. Devine, who kindly offered the following response: “The headline stemmed from an original Associated Press suggestion. It was chosen to show that lunches made at home are no longer healthier than schools. And for the majority of homes, I would say mother’s make the lunches.”

The second sentence really answers the question as to why it was chosen, but why use the mom reference? The third sentence explains that, which is an assumption based on old-fashioned labels society has created over time; it may or may not be true.

A better headline choice might have been: “School serving meals healthier than packed ones.”

All of this reminds me of the oft-used “Mr. Mom” title. Others seem to think it’s fine to typecast a stay-at-home dad as “Mr. Mom.” But no one would dare call a breadwinning, working mom by the title “Mr. Dad.” So why is it still fine to say that only moms make lunches? It’s not.

Finally, let’s not let the Associated Press off the hook. Its “suggestion” is one that categorizes, labels and stereotypes. It’s wrong.

The media plays such a powerful role in shaping our minds and attitudes, and it should know better.

And I always thought it was the media’s job to report the news, not create it.

You can’t fault them for trying

We came across an interesting magazine ad the other day by American Family Insurance. At first glance, it seems as though they’re one of the few companies to get it right, but let’s take a closer look with a dadmarketing eye. 

All dads, no moms?amfam

You might be thinking, can’t dadmarketing just be happy with this all-inclusive dad ad? Yes and no. Yes, because it’s refreshing to see what might be a record number of dads (three) in a magazine ad. No, because it’s not necessary, and not what we believe in. You see, our main focus is to stop excluding dads from marketing campaigns, not make them the only focus. Moms belong in ads every bit as dads do.

If this was an ad for a male-only product – face shaving cream, suits, underwear, etc. – we’d see the need. But an ad for insurance is every bit a “mom” product as a “dad” product – it’s a “family” product, a word that’s a third of their name. Bring on the moms, we say!

The role fits the part too much

We’ve watched, heard and seen other insurance ads, and yet another stereotype is that insurance is the guy’s domain. Dads are the protectors of the family, right? So, moms supposedly let dads handle this department, just like dads supposedly let moms do all the diaper changing.

Having only dads featured in this ad reeks of formulaic cliché.

Stereotypical roles

Indeed, dads can perform all the roles as featured in the AmFam ad – buying sports equipment, going fishing, painting – and there’s certainly nothing wrong with these tasks. But aren’t they being a bit typecast here? We think dads should be featured in real, everyday roles, too. If anything, one of the photos could have shown a dad doing a task normally classified as what most think of as “belonging” to a mom: baking, making crafts, grocery shopping. After all, dads do these things too, right? Right.

All in all, much can be learned from American Family Insurance’s valiant attempt, as we have to believe it was good-intentioned.