In 2012, Huggies came up with an advertisement that consists of a group of dads and their babies spending five days in a house. The caveat? Moms were not involved.

Perhaps all too predictably, the dads were portrayed as absolutely useless oafs who couldn’t keep up with the demands of their babies.

What’s the point of this advertisement? Huggies’ diapers are supposed to be easy to use, so much so that they even pass as, according to the ad’s female voice-over, “the toughest test imaginable – dads”.

Where’s mom? Huggies’ marketing campaign highlights just how significant it is to have a good diaper on hand to mitigate the domestic inadequacies of dads.

But viral marketing is surrounded by a number of myths and unfounded beliefs. Our goal, in this article, is to dispel some of these myths for you.

Moms buy diapers; dads are useless

It’s pretty obvious who the advertisement is targeting. After all, mothers make 75% of the purchase for diapers – much more than purchases made jointly, and by fathers alone.

While some moms, in seeing traces of their doltish husbands in this ad, may enjoy a good chuckle, the advertisement misses the mark otherwise. To begin with, it’s just bad marketing to put down one half of the population in order to pander to the other. There are ways to appeal to mothers without making fathers the subject of mockery.

As noted in “Viral Marketing for the Real World”, a research paper by Duncan J. Watts, John Peretti, and Michael Frumin, there is no such thing as an ‘essential’ property that characterizes viral content. Qualitative measurements aside, how do you even quantify the virality of a video? By the number of views? Number of shares? Extent of reach? There is no consensus on this.

Secondly, marketing messages can settle and solidify into a brand’s image over time. Certainly, Huggies wouldn’t want to be perceived as the diapers brand that alienates men. Why risk it?
Would you go as far as Dr Pepper does to indulge in the (stereotyped) whims of a gender?

The third, and most obvious, problem in Huggies’ advertisement has to do with its dependence on stereotypes that are all too outdated and naive. Are modern dads really hapless idiots when left to their own devices? Let’s find out.

The Birth of Dad 2.0s

Let’s briefly consider two young families. The first consists of a working father, a stay-at-home mother, and a baby. The father in this family plays with his baby, but is otherwise removed from the intricacies of his baby’s growth. For instance, he doesn’t have any diaper-changing and bottle-feeding duties.

The second family consists of a pair of working parents who juggle work and baby. Neither are exclusively committed to certain responsibilities. Instead, they divvy up household tasks and duties whenever they need to.

Which family sounds more like the average American family of today?

The answer is clear once we look at the data. In the US, recent trends show that fathers are taking an unprecedented effort in rearing their children. A study by Pew Research Center finds that dads now spend an average of 7 hours a week on childcare tasks – almost triple the time they spent in 19651. The number of dads acting as primary caregivers to their children have also increased drastically, with stay-at-home dads numbering at 2.2 million in 2010, which is double that of 19892.

While most women still act as primary caregivers and most men still serve as primary breadwinners, fundamental changes are underway. Along with these changes, the picture of the traditional family, where dad goes out and mom stays in, is veering further and further away from the norm.

At the end of the day, people are much more than just their genders. Rather than pinning advertisements to outdated gender tropes that are not going to be welcomed by liberal-minded millennial parents, why not create an advertisement that addresses the challenges that modern parents face? Instead of showing just the father screwing up, why not show both parents screwing up, and then putting in collective effort to make things better?

There’s nothing controversial about it. Having both parents involved is simply what parenting is, and ought to be, all about.

Elsiana Ruiz gets help learning to ride her bike from her father, Sinahy, at a playground in Aurora, Colorado. (Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

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