Millennials’ Perspectives on Dadvertising

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Who whispered in all ad agencies’ ears that Super Bowl 2015 would usher in the new age of “dadvertising”? While I don’t know the answer, I do know dadvertising has caused a splash the world is thankful for. And while the Super Bowl has come and gone, dadvertising is here to stay as we approach Father’s Day.

It is important to note that I, clearly, am not a dad. I’m a 23-year-old female, and in the eyes of advertising execs, a part of everyone’s favorite riddle: the millennial. Dadvertising’s obvious niche is men with children at home, but if the way my friends and I still gush about these commercials is any evidence, we are as involved in the conversation as the fathers themselves.

These commercials speak to me as a self-proclaimed “Daddy’s Girl.” My father is my very best friend and as these commercials flash before me, the shots intermingle with those in my own mind: memories of singing to R.E.M. on the way home from preschool; his face at the fence of each of my college tennis matches; conjured images of our future father-daughter dance; him holding my first child.

And I’m not alone here. At C Space, we work with thousands of millennials each day to understand the experiences that resonate with them the most and enrich their lives. Here are five things we’re hearing from millennials that brands should consider when crafting their next dadvertisement. 

1. Dadvertising gives us all the feels

Dare I say we even feel more than the dads themselves? “I am really close to my dad, so I feel like they bring up great nostalgic feelings for me,” says Rachael Y., 22. “There were two Google Chrome “dadvertisements” that actually brought tears to my eyes. They are really emotional for me.”

2. It plays to that good ‘ol desire to procreate

As 21st century humans currently tangled somewhere in a web of Tinder, hook-up culture, and the pressure to “find ourselves,” these ads remind us why the uphill dating battle is worth it. We hope we can grow to be people that will someday display the same qualities exemplified in these Ad Dads. “As a female in her mid-20s who would like to have a family of her own one day, it makes me optimistic for the future,” reflects Stacy S., 26. And from the perspective of someday-dad James H., 22, “The dadvertising that I’ve seen, when tastefully executed, has actually resonated with me pretty powerfully. I think they tap into the natural male desire to be a role model, and exhibit decent values for the next generation to learn and emulate.”

A favorite we’re all still raving about is this Super Bowl stand-out from Dove:

3. But be careful … we’re onto you

When it’s a stretch, the attempt to squeeze your company into dadvertising relevancy can easily backfire. “The technique of dadvertising can sometimes feel a bit disingenuous. Like, for example, that Nissan ad,” Drew V., 27, remarks. Please do not take advantage of our feelings, described in points #1 and #2, by jumping on the dadvertising train. Instead, reflect on how your product could resonate in the lives of dads out there and their children. Take notes from Cheerios, who depicted a toddler sharing an 11 p.m. “breakfast” with his third-shifting father.

4. It strengthens the pride we feel as coming-of-age humans

Giving dads as many advertising nods as moms, along with messages that confirm “what makes a man is showing that he cares” (like Dove) proves to us that we are living in an exciting time. “It’s not the 50s anymore – gender roles in homes have changed and dads are doing more than ever now … So it’s awesome that brands are getting with the times,” says Brit O., 26. Ads that endorse this attitude of equality (without making a mockery of it à la Tide’s “Dad Mom” spot, as Yona W., 24, points out) are incredibly rewarding to millennials, who have worked hard to positively influence their generation.

5. You’re late to the game, and we’re (already) ready for more

Before you dadvertisers out there pat yourselves on the back, know that things as they currently stand are not quite good enough. Cindy K., 25, poses the hard questions and predicts the much-needed next steps: “It’s hard for me not to also want to ask for ads that feature 2 moms and/or 2 dads or a single dad and have that portrayed as well … Dad Ads tell effective stories, but I also feel like they’re too simplistic … What does it mean to be a dad these days? What are some other realities, challenges, etc. in this day and age?”

Commercials that redefine what it means to be a dad are as much about millennials, who have had a huge hand in shifting a new media mindset, as the dads in the spotlight. Don’t forget where we stand in the structure of dadvertising. This Father’s Day, remember: while we’re the secret fan girls and boys feeling the nostalgic warm-and-fuzzies during your Dad Ads, we are also the next moms and dads of this world and have already started flinging the door wide open to a new definition of 21st Century Parent.


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