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Father and son playing on beach

Advertisers have spent decades telling moms that they understand them. Now, they want to send that message to dads.

A new ad from General Mills Canada is attempting to serve as a manifesto of modern fatherhood; and it is just one of the marketers attempting to reverse a tired-out trend of portraying men as useless clods.

The ad for peanut butter-flavoured Cheerios features a man walking around his house giving an impassioned speech about the contribution dads make to the family.

"We get our hands messy. We tell hilarious jokes … We build the best forts," he says as he helps to get orchestrate a busy morning, getting his family out the door.

The modern dad character thinks his wife is hot, tells his son to wear his hat brim-forward, and approves his daughter's profile picture on social media (teenage mortification not pictured.)

The idea is to sell peanut butter Cheerios as "the official cereal of dadhood."

And there's a good reason: research shows that men have not only been taking a bigger role in family life for some time, they are also playing more of a part in family purchasing decisions. That kind of buying power is what has made advertisers so keen to woo moms for so long.

But those who study the issue have also found that advertisers have fallen behind in speaking effectively to modern dads.

That's beginning to change. Brands such as Huggies, Tide, and Clorox have taken steps to portray men as responsible, emotionally-engaged fathers for a few years now.

In the Cheerios ad, created by agency Tribal Worldwide Toronto, the picture of parenthood presented is a messy one: the kids jump on the bed, one has a broken arm, the bathroom is occupied, and while the house is sunny and fashionably appointed, it also has tables strewn with pencils and magazines and laundry still sitting in its basket on the couch. That's a carefully-crafted response to the kinds of images that younger parents respond to best.

Even where moms are concerned – and marketers are still paying plenty of attention to them – there is an appetite for advertising that shows a more realistic picture of their lives. That means messy houses, an acknowledgement of the chaos of parenting, and recognition of the role their partners play.

For brands like Cheerios, that means betting on dads, if it comes across right, could have a much wider impact with potential consumers.

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