Dumb Dads Advertising: Why pudgy, balding, “everyman” commercial actors will always work.

Perhaps it’s payback for decades of print and television advertisement history which portrayed women and minorities as somehow inferior intellectually, physically or socioeconomically to white men, but the backlash has become an increasingly tedious and obvious trend that I call “Dumb Dad” advertising.

Whether he’s an overzealous husband who decides he can juggle chainsaws because he “saved 15% on his car insurance” or a customer at an investment firm, asking if the purchase of a new motorcycle would be a great investment of his 401K rollover money, apparently, the guy next door; your husband, brother, father or even your grandfather, can no longer be trusted to complete the simplest tasks.  He can’t prepare breakfast for his family, let alone develop his retirement plan with a brokerage agent.

I’m not certain exactly when this trend started, but it seems like one can’t turn on the television these days without seeing a cavalcade of commercials that denigrate man’s intelligence, diminishing him to nothing more than an additional “child” in the hierarchy of the family.  Sometimes, he’s making a bad decision around the house like pouring bleach in a load of colored laundry; sometimes he’s inching his car forward and reverse over and over until his car reaches 100,000 miles; sometimes he’s being scolded for rejecting the idea of getting more fiber in his diet.

No matter what the situation, he is always in need of a savior, a “gal Friday” who can swoop in and “save” him by teaching him how to parallel park, advise him on his investments or school him on how to prepare toaster waffles for the kids’ breakfast.

Even half-way perceptive consumers must have noticed this trend, but, the question is, why is this becoming so prevalent and when, exactly, will the pendulum swing and, hopefully find a happy medium? 

Question:  Considering men still dominate the Executive Suite at most advertising agencies, what motivates these decision-makers to launch campaigns that degrade their own sex? 

Question:  Would a women-dominated industry do the same thing?  If the roles were reversed in today’s society, would this ever be tolerated by women’s groups such as N.O.W (National Organization for Women)?

I think the answer lies in the fact that the target audience of most of these products is women between 18 and 49 years of age, and the method of advertisement seems to be working.  I happen to fall in that age category (I won’t admit where), but I have racked my brain, trying to recall any man who I know (past or present) who would dip his son’s feet in white plaster to avoid having to keep the boy in clean, white gym socks permanently.  Call me crazy or call me lucky, but even the most primal, banal man I have ever known wouldn’t fit into the kinds of advertisements that I see these days.

With the advent of the TiVo and other devices that help us skip commercials, I think it would behoove advertisers to stop alienating such a large sector of their audience and see if they can draw him in with more appealing portrayals of his “kind.”  How about a Charles Schwab financial advisor who is a 35-year-old guy with a wife and a couple of kids who actually represents the voice of reason, rather than the doofus who thinks the motorcycle to be a more sound investment than a home improvement? 

Even though commercials are supposed to be memorable, short, sometimes funny and need the “butt” for the joke, I think it’s an insult to my intelligence as a consumer, to disgrace the only remaining demographic who is unprotected:  Men.

So, rather than trying to find the answers to why lazy advertisers keep this tired trend going, my solution is to stop purchasing any products that denigrate “man”kind. 

Just to name a few: TD Ameritrade, Dairy Queen, Hanes, Yoplait and Fiber One.

Sorry folks, I know that I’m just one voice out here and I may not make an impact, but I believe that just under half of the U.S. Population may also agree, catch onto this trend and perhaps take the same action, if anything, just to stand up for his own sex.

Until then, I will continue to observe and report.  I hope you will do the same.