P&G’s Sochi Olympics Ad: Moms Again, Why Not Give Dads the Spotlight?

With the Sochi events currently underway, advertisers are now showing off their Olympics-themed ads and commercials. One of the most prominent advertisers during the Games is W+K for P&G (any more acronyms that I can throw into the mix here?). You may remember their “Best Job in the World” commercial from the 2012 Olympics in London with their tribute to athletes’ mothers, and their 2014 ad, called “Pick Them Back Up,” is very similar. But is making such a similar ad a good idea? Or should they have gone in a different direction and focused on fathers instead?

London’s “Best Job” commercial resonated very well with viewers, and I think it was one of the most memorable ads of the Olympics. Part of its grip on viewers stemmed from its originality, because thanking mothers for doing a good job raising our country’s Olympic athletes was a different and unexpected approach (to me, anyway). Motherhood is often a hard and thankless job, and it was refreshing to see someone remind us how much our moms do for us.

While I do like this commercial, I wanted to like it more. The “Best Job” spot was great because it was original, but with “Pick Them Back Up,” the idea is starting to lose its freshness. W+K appears to be milking this concept for all its worth because it did so well in London, but the originality was what really sold the London spot. Because the originality is gone, to me it’s starting to look like P&G just wants a popular video instead of meaningful advertising.

What I would have rather seen this year was a tribute to fathers. Did they not have a hand in picking their athlete kids back up when they fell down? Do they not deserve a pat on the back? I think a campaign focused around the dads of the world would have been both refreshing and more original than just rehashing the past Olympic theme about moms, and it would seem more like a sequel to the first commercial than an extended version.

Because this is 2014 and not 1960, more and more fathers are staying home to be “Mr. Mom,” and are more involved than ever in their kids’ lives. To have a major company advertise during a major event about fatherhood would have been golden. Even a slower transition by including both mothers and fathers in this commercial would have been better than only showing moms, because to me it looks like they’re insinuating that only mothers pick their kids up when they fall, and apparently the dads are elsewhere, uninvolved with their children.

Also, a minor detail that I think is mildly annoying is that at the very end of the commercial when they list some of the major P&G brands, they show Gillette–a razor specifically made for men. But they put it in a commercial about moms. Hopefully I’m not the only one who sees some irony (and dare I say hypocrisy?) in that moment.

However, all of that being said, I can’t shift all the blame on P&G. The way I see it, advertising is a good reflection of where we are as a society. We often complain when brands play it too safe with their advertising, but when they go out on a limb they get criticized. We’ve seen it with sexuality when JC Penney made the Mother’s Day ad featuring a lesbian couple, and then later a Father’s Day one with a gay couple. We’ve seen it with race when Cheerios made a commercial with an interracial couple, and also in the latest Coca-Cola commercial with “America the Beautiful” sung in various languages. Even though each of these ads portray what real American society looks like, they each received some really nasty backlash.

We want brands to take risks to better portray a realistic society, but when they do it causes controversy. So as much as I would have loved to see a “Thank You Dad” commercial from P&G, I could see some people somehow getting upset about it. And while a little arguing isn’t always a bad thing (it does give a lot of publicity) I don’t think P&G wanted to risk it during the Olympics. So in that sense, from an advertiser’s perspective, I can understand why they went the route that was sure to appease most of the naysayers.

But I want to hear what you think. Should P&G have focused on fathers this year instead of playing it safe with moms again? Or are they simply trying to avoid controversy during this monumental advertising stage?

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3 comments

  1. Honestly it’s kind of just expected at this point. Dads are ignored in every media outlet imaginable. My facebook timeline includes a few “Moms rock” or “Moms do it all” posts on a weekly basis. Countless newspaper and magazine articles trumpet the many accomplishments of moms but ignore dads entirely.

    So it’s no surprise when I turn on the tv after a long day of doing absolutely nothing (other than chasing my kid around all day, taking him places, feeding him, teaching him, etc) and see this commercial giving thanks to the moms while pretending the dads are off somewhere doing something, anything, other than raising kids.

    It’s the world we live in, where the only job more thankless than being a full-time mom is being a full-time dad.

    1. It really is just what’s expected right now in our culture, which I think is disappointing. This is 2014, not 1950. Most fathers are so much more involved in their children’s lives than they were several decades ago, but the media’s portrayal of them hasn’t seemed to change. Whether it’s in TV shows, books, movies, etc., many times the father is a bumbling idiot with no clue how to raise a kid, and it’s always mom to the rescue. And most people don’t see anything wrong with that.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Mike, and good luck with the parenting adventure!

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