Last month Huggies, the popular diaper brand from Kimberly-Clark, launched a campaign putting their diapers to the “Dad Test.” Huggies believes the campaign will “celebrate fatherhood.” But some say it is ridiculing fatherhood. On their Facebook page, Huggies asks consumers (moms presumably) to “Nominate a dad. Hand him some (Huggies) diapers and wipes and watch the fun. Tell us how it went on Facebook!”
Daddy bloggers are offended, saying the statement is loaded with stereotypical assumptions that dads don’t know how or when to change diapers. “It seems to me they’re hoping for comments like “Huggies diapers are so good, even dad can use them,” one said.
Along with their Facebook campaign, Huggies has a series of TV ads. One was a teaser announcing the campaign saying “To prove Huggies diapers and wipes can handle anything, we put them to the toughest test imaginable: Dads, alone with their babies, in one house, for 5 days while we gave moms some well-deserved time off. How did Huggies products hold up to daddyhood? The world is about to find out.”
At a time when dads are routinely on diaper duty and national surveys show they are taking on more childcare and child-rearing stress, the campaign is not resonating well.
“How can you insult hundreds of thousands of dads, who serve as the primary caregiver, and in some cases, THE ONLY caregiver, to their children?” asks an irate John Taylor, a Virginia dad who writes the blog The DaddyYo Dude, in an open letter to Huggies he posted 3/7.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania dad Chris Routly has launched an online petition asking Huggies to yank the ads. From his press release: “Parents from across the nation have joined a popular campaign on Change.org calling on Huggies to drop its new ad that portrays fathers as incompetent and make an ad that celebrates the contributions of capable, committed fathers.
Routly, a stay-at-home father of two young sons, is leading the campaign on Change.org against what he says is the stereotype of dumb fathers portrayed in Huggies’ new “Dad Test” ads. The “Dad Test” — what Huggies terms the “ultimate challenge” — is fathers left alone with their children, illustrated by men fumbling through routine parenting tasks.
“As a dad who stays home every day taking care of my children, I don’t see myself in these ads at all,” said Routly, who launched the campaign on Change.org.
“If you ever wonder why, in the 21st century, so many men still feel like they are naturally incompetent in caring for their own young child, it’s because of advertising like this,” Routly added. “Men and women learn from these sorts of thing is that no matter how much a dad loves his kid, no matter how much he tries to be involved and get his hands dirty with feedings and diapers and anything else, he can’t and won’t do it right, because he is, after all, just a dad.”
The company has already backtracked after facing criticism on Facebook, saying they “love dads” and the ads are meant to “celebrate dads.” Within hours of the campaign’s launch, Routly had recruited hundreds of supporters on Change.org, the platform for social change.
“It’s clear that this campaign has hit a nerve with dads and the moms who support them,” said Change.org Senior Organizer Shelby Knox. “One stay-at-home dad, armed only with a laptop, has rallied the support of parents all across the country. It’s been incredible to watch this campaign take off.”
The controversy comes at a particularly sensitive time for the issue. Last month, New York Times Motherlode blogger KJ Dell’Antonia set off a firestorm when she pointed out that a 2010 Census report on childcare designates mothers as the “designated parent” and a father as a “childcare arrangement.” The Census Bureau also issued a 2011 release of data compiled for Father’s Day that grouped statistics about fathers’ increasing parenting role under the title “Mr. Mom.”
Routly points out in his petition letter that one of the dangers in perpetuating these stereotypes is that they can undermine a father’s self-confidence. That, in turn, might lead a father to disengage, which doesn’t benefit anyone.
Joey Mooring, Senior Manager, Global Marketing & Brand Communications, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, tells RBR-TVBR they have been watching the reaction to the campaign closely, and wanted to clarify its intent, “as well as some of the changes we’re making as a result of the feedback we’ve received.
First, we want you to know that the Huggies brand is learning and listening, and we are making changes to ensure that the true spirit of the ad campaign comes through in the strongest way possible. For instance, we have already replaced our initial TV ad that created the initial online comments with a new one that more clearly communicates our true intent; are in the process of revising the wording of our Huggies brand online advertising and on our Facebook page based on what we’ve heard.
We respect the job that all parents do in helping to raise and care for their children. We also recognize that Dad is playing a larger role in the family and deserves to be celebrated. So the Huggies brand recruited real Dads, with their own babies, to put our diapers and wipes to the test in our recent campaign. While we continue to receive positive feedback, we also recognize that there is an opportunity to clarify the campaign’s message.
At the end of the day, we want to be sure that our true intent – to spotlight the honesty of parenting, with real dads and their own kids putting our products to the test – comes through. We want your readers and other followers to know we have listened and are making changes, which is what the campaign is all about.”
RBR-TVBR observation: Likely, Huggies is targeting the shopper of the house—usually the mom. She figures Huggies must be easy to work with if so many dads have mastered the effort. In addition, over the past few decades, so many television shows portray dads as the inept dunce of the family, always the last to catch on to what’s going on, it’s almost part of our culture to expect it in media. Perhaps that’s changing with the rotten economy.