A little over a year ago, a Kimberly-Clark television campaign provoked consumer outrage by positioning Huggies diapers as so foolproof that even the world's most clueless, inept, brain-dead klutzes – i.e., fathers – could manage them. March 13, 2013, a year and a few days later, a new campaign from Unilever's Dove Men+Care is doing just the opposite.
Fatherhood as an 'F' word
To say that the Huggies campaign disrespected fathers would be a gross understatement. As we reported at the time
Kimberly-Clark wanted to demonstrate the superiority of their Huggies diapers on television, and to do this they chose a stereotype right out of 1950s situation comedies.
They wanted to show how well their diapers did their job under even the worst possible conditions. And what conditions could be worse than putting them in the hands of the most hapless, clueless, inept adults known to American folklore -- fathers?
The Huggies "Dad Test" campaign filmed five babies left alone in the same house with their fathers for five days, on the premise that if Huggies could survive five days with these bumbling boobs, they could survive anything.
"To prove that Huggies diapers and wipes can handle anything," the female voice-over begins, "we put them to the toughest test imaginable -- Dads."
As a result of massive consumer outrage, from mothers as well as fathers – K-C pulled the first commercial and hurriedly started redoing the others.
During the ensuing year, Unilever apparently learned from Huggies' mistakes.
Unilever did something important that Huggies neglected to; they listened to their audience, which in this case is men 25 to 54 years old.
"We hear from 73 percent of men that they're falsely or inaccurately depicted in advertising," VP skin-care marketing Rob Candelino told Advertising Age. Specifically, advertising breaks them down into three stereotypes – "alpha males with chiseled abs driving high-powered sports cars, guys obsessed with winning the affections of women, or buffoon dads."
These men share the child-rearing and household chores, and most either buy their own personal-care products or influence the purchases, Dove's research showed. And, unlike Huggies, Unilever was smart enough to know that you insult your target audience only at your peril.
From January 31 through February 2, Men+Care hosted the Dad 2.0 Summit conference of national marketers and dad bloggers.
The new campaign, showing a different kind of dads, incorporates what they learned both there and through their research.
Instead of stereotyped fathers, Dove opted for real life. "We wanted to show real men in real life," Candelino explained, noting that what most men in their target audience say is, "First and foremost, I'm a dad."
The new "Real Moments" Men+Care campaign, breaking today during the NCAA March Madness telecast, features Miami Heat star Dwayne Wade and ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas.
Not as jock celebrities, but as real-life fathers.
In an interview, Wade says his Dove commercial shows
how I am with my kids and the things we do. I think a lot of people know that about me because of my book and my custody battle for my kids being so public. No matter how busy you are[, n]o matter who you think you are in the world, you have to focus on the most important thing to you. To me, that's my kids...
According to Ace Metrix research, commercials with celebrities perform less effectively overall than those without them. (They also cost more, thanks to celebrity talent fees.)
The one exception is when the celebrity has some relevance to the product or message.
As a father who fought a successful custody battle for his kids and the author of last year's A Father First: How My Life Became Bigger Than Basketball, Wayde's certainly relevant.