Fourteen percent of Millennials 18-32 years old are currently parents, with nearly 8,000 more taking on the title of mom and dad each day. When we first wrote about how Millennial parents could change families, we said that parenting as partners will be vital to this generation of parents. While in the past moms have received the bulk of attention from brands, now more than ever dads being included in that messaging will matter. As more have started families in the last few years, it’s become even more clear that for them it’s not just about Millennial moms, but about Millennial parents.
This month, we surveyed the new generation of parents to find out their feelings on family advertising, and what they think about ads that include dad and those that forget about him. Fifty-two percent of Millennial parents told us that ads they see are made for mothers more than fathers, and 83% say they think advertising for parents should appeal to both mothers and fathers equally. There is clearly a demand for more brands to recognize that mom is not carrying the childcare load solo.
Amazon is currently learning that lesson, as an online movement in the U.S. puts pressure on the site to rename its “Amazon Mom” service to “Amazon Family.” A petition championed by a dad blogger emphasizes that moms and dads are equal parents that share responsibilities. The push has taken to Twitter, where the hashtag #AmazonFamilyUS is being used by parents and non-parents alike.
So how do Millennial parents feel about ads targeting parents today? Dads could recall and felt negative about ads that excluded them, or made them feel like the inferior parent. One 31-year-old dad said he didn’t like diaper ads because “they just direct them to moms like the dad does not change a diaper,” while another commented that he didn’t like ads for “cleaning products [that] have just the wife cleaning not the husband.” A 25-year-old dad simply said, “[I don’t like commercials where] moms know things dads don't.” Commercials that made dad look like a dope bothered moms, too.
One 29-year-old female told us, “I don't remember what brand, but it was a paper towel commercial. Dad and the kids made a mess but didn't clean up well. Mom shakes her head lovingly and gets the paper towel to clean up. I hate commercials that make fathers look like the lesser parent. It's not funny. It puts out the message that men are incompetent and irresponsible at home. It's a subtle message that men belong at work and women belong at home.”
When we asked about an advertisement they really liked, commercials that showed dad taking care of his kids and enjoying it were frequent mentions. One 32-year-old dad said, “It showed a dad doing parenting tasks and not looking like the stereotypical fool they are made out to be.” But Millennials moms were even more vocal about loving dad-centric commercials, in part because they feel those spots help correct gender imbalances that bother them. A 26-year-old mom said she liked a Tide commercial that showed a dad doing laundry for his daughter because “it's helping to blur gender-defined roles in parenting.” Another mom named the same commercial as a favorite because “most commercials make men look like blubbering idiots and mothers stern authoritarians.”
The mom-knows-and-does-all trope is so entrenched that they are seeing marketing that takes a new approach as cause for celebration. A 34-year-old mom told us, “When my husband and I saw the new NyQuil commercial, ‘Dads Don't Take Sick Days,’ we cheered. We were like, 'YES! Nailed it!' At our house, Dad is a mission-critical employee.” Their demand for this marketing is there, and getting stronger as Millennials’ partnership parenting ideal becomes more the norm. Brands that include dad are being noticed, so it is probably time for more to stop targeting “Millennial moms” and start talking to Millennial parents.