Commentary

Oral-B Video Fails To Make Connection Between Toothbrushes And Father Love

Only 19 months into my tenure as a dad, it has become clear that I deserve more than a single day in my honor. Not to honk my own honker, but my son can often be found wearing clothes and shoes. He has only been exposed to “Blazing Saddles” on four separate occasions. Whenever he eats crayons, I provide nutritional counterbalance in the form of Apple Jacks. See? Fruit. I am the Genghis Khan of parental equanimity.

Thus for me and my fellow giants of contemporary paternity -- I'm joined on this particular Mount Rushmore by Larry King, Vince McMahon and Papa Smurf -- a single Hallmark-sanctioned Father's Day isn't adequate. No, there should be something along the lines of Father's Fortnight, during which we can avail ourselves of the finest meatball cubes and napping alcoves that IKEA has to offer. I shared this theory with my Wonder Woman of a wife, who has had approximately four minutes to herself since Junior was born. "Empathetic" is not an adjective I would use to characterize her response.

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But yeah, I love the kid with a blind ferocity that I didn't think existed outside of the Octagon. I'm a sap of a dad. Any marketer that taps into this, even unwittingly, can count on my patronage. To wit: the day after I saw Michael and Lindsay Lohan sharing a banana on the way into family court, I bought Chiquita stock and a booked a vacation to Costa Rica.

That's why I'm so disappointed in Oral-B and its "Power of Dad" video. In theory, I should awwwww! my way through all 100 smirkless seconds of father/child bliss, each interaction as warm and natural as the next. A dad cradles his newborn. A dad throws batting practice for his toddler. A dad teaches his tween to shave and embraces his high-schooler on graduation day and escorts the adult product of his nurturing down the aisle. Its message, as I interpreted it right until the moment the campaign's tag line flashed on the screen: That even if dad can't master the most important tactical demands of fatherhood -- manning the barbecue, packing a car in accordance with the tenets of spatial dynamics -- he'll be just fine as  long as he can handle the emotional ones.

Oral-B, however, encourages a far different takeaway. The company would like you to process "Power of Dad" thusly: "Remember all those smiles that dad induced? Well, now you can return the favor by buying him a turbine-propelled toothbrush for Father's Day and watching as it transforms his smile into something out of the Tom Cruise canon. Think of it as a golf club for his gums." Framed SAT-analogy-style, it'd go something like dads:children :: unconditional love:toothbrushes.

This trashes my opinion of everything associated with "Power of Dad," right down to its lovely, twinkly soundtrack. The too-forced connection undermines the content in the clip, rendering what was on initial viewing sweet and genuine thoroughly obnoxious and wildly overassumptive. You can't just announce the formation of an emotional bond; you have to work to forge one. You have to earn it.

I love my Oral-B toothbrush. It is my preferred weapon in the never-ending conflict that is oral-hygiene-vs.-rogue-celery-strands. Truly, my teeth and tongue are richer for their lifelong association with Oral-B products.

But I come away from "Power of Dad" with a compromised opinion of the brand. It wants me to rubber-stamp a connection with a product in a category that, its particular utility notwithstanding, doesn't stir a single emotion. This isn't a camera or a toy or a high chair. I'm not sure why "makes the best toothbrush" can't be enough in this particular instance.

2 comments about "Oral-B Video Fails To Make Connection Between Toothbrushes And Father Love".
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  1. Dan Gerlach from Storyfarm, June 13, 2013 at 5:06 p.m.

    Gee I didn't think it was THAT bad.

  2. Nance Rosen from NanceSpeaks!, June 13, 2013 at 9:49 p.m.

    In marketing, when you know the "what" but not the "how" - that's the icky outcome. Every marketer knows the product must have greater meaning. It must represent a connection to some quality of life the target segment aspires to. But, knowing isn't doing. What's missing is creating a metaphor to inspire awe and ignite desire. Sounds like a job for ZMET! (Of course, I come from Coke, so metaphors are us).

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