Among all the flash and spectacle of Super Bowl advertising, an interesting trend emerged: figures that all too often have been treated as the butt of the joke in ads, were given a starring role – dads and the elderly.
Dodge opted to emphasize its 100-year history by asking people close to their centenary (and some over the age of 100) to share some life lessons.
The people in the Dodge ad are lively sources of wisdom such as, “hesitate and you lose,” “don’t bitch,” and “live fast.” One man is shown sitting confidently behind the wheel, a position usually occupied by younger models.
The commercial was a refreshing approach to people who are all too regularly mocked, or ignored altogether. But that is changing.
French fashion brand Céline recently made 80-year-old writer Joan Didion the star of its spring campaign. Stars in their 60s, such as Helen Mirren, Diane Keaton and Jessica Lange, have all been featured in beauty and fashion advertising recently.
The Boomer generation’s mass spending power has long been a strong influence on advertising trends. Here’s hoping that as they age, companies will recognize the business case in changing their portrayals of older people.
Other marketers have also recognized a need for change when it comes to another consumer segment: dads. Three separate Super Bowl commercials were part of a larger reversal in portrayals of fathers.
Unilever’s Dove Men+Care brand, for example, recycled its latest Father’s Day campaign, a sweet collage of scenes of fathers who are present and active in the raising of their kids. The slogan, “care makes a man stronger,” was typical of a newer movement among some marketers who are shedding the overused device of the goofy, inept dad that has often been played for laughs in commercials.
Toyota Motor Corp. took a similar approach. In the lead-up to the game, the auto maker released a teaser video online featuring dads (including pro football players) describing what they learned from their fathers. Their children also appear with them, talking about their dads' approach to parenting. The company used the video as a springboard for a social media campaign, asking people to post photos of their own fathers.
Toyota’s big game commercial was told from the point of view of a man talking about fatherhood, and with scenes of his daughter growing up. The commercial ends with the man dropping his daughter off at the airport, apparently to join the military, and saying goodbye with tears in his eyes. The supportive and openly emotional portrait of manhood is vastly different from many ads, which have often shown men as a childish burden on the women who are the brains of the family.
In recent years, however, marketers have faced a growing backlash for relying on these tired stereotypes.
In 2012, for example, Kimberly-Clark Corp. brand Huggies portrayed a day alone with dad as “the ultimate test” for their diapers. The response was so negative that the company rejigged the ad, and spoke to dads who had objected about how they could do better in the future.
Nissan Motor Co. also used its first Super Bowl ad buy in 18 years to broadcast a commercial starring a father, but it was a more complicated portrait. The story of a race car driver and his son is told over the classic soundtrack of absent fatherhood, Harry Chapin’s song “Cat’s in the Cradle.” The ad is not an admonishment – when he is around, the father is shown as highly involved in his son’s life – but it is slightly bittersweet. At the end, the two reunite (in a shiny new car, naturally).
While women still hold a great deal of economic influence, research shows that men are taking a larger role in household purchasing. That provides an economic reason for marketers to treat them with respect. But there is a larger reason as well: both men and women have objected to commercials that denigrated dads.
According to reports, advertisers paid up to $4.5-million (U.S.) for 30-seconds in the American broadcast. The fact that they were willing to make such a large bet on shifting their approach signals that more change could be on the way.