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Huggies ad shows advertising is stuck in the past

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Advertising has always had a hard time striking the right note with fathers as parents. Long after the culture at large accepted that men were capable of changing diapers or reading a bed time story, advertisers still persisted in showing parenting as a woman-only affair. Which in itself would be one thing, but the fact that fathers frequently showed up on screen just to be bumbling fools made the whole thing worse.

Then, about ten years ago, there seemed to be movement in the ad-land stasis. There were several commercials in rotation that showed men doing parenting work: The dad who washed dishes while he and his high-chair seated baby rocked out to loud music; the father who picked up his child from a sleep over in the middle of the night (and the dad who was hosting the affair); the besuited dad who was amazed at a diaper that contained his baby's gyser-like emmisions. It looked like the advertising world was catching up to the real one.

However, that was apparently just a momentary blip; it wasn't long before the statis quo was back in full swing. And today, in the year 2012, fathers in commercials are right back to creating messes just like the kids and the dog (but fortunately, Mom has the right paper towel for the job) or encasing feet in plaster in protest of ill-fitting socks (good thing Mom knows where to buy socks that work). It's so bad that Huggies just rolled out a new ad campaign called "The Dad Test": "To prove that Huggies diapers and wipes can handle anything, we put them to the toughest test imaginable: Dads, alone with their babies."

No, for real. In an era where more and more men are the primary parent to their children, Huggies thinks that dads alone with their babies is a recipe for disaster. (And then "proves" it by showing fathers rocking their babies to sleep in a very competent and appealing way. No one ever accused ad creators of having a fabulous grasp of logic, I guess.)

Unsuprisingly, male-idenified parents are less than amused. The Huggies facebook page is filled with irritated comments from fathers, and a critical Change.org petition is gathering signatures. Will this stem the tide of offensive commercials, though? It's telling that a couple of commercials with good fathers sticks in the memory after a decade -- those commercials were remarkable because competent fathers have been a complete rarity in advertising for the entirety of television history, and remain that way today. Maybe the makers of ads are going to be the last to catch up to reality in this not remotely controversial area of life, but it would be nice if they tried to catch up already.

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