The New York Times reported a new series of ads introduced by the Advertising Council yesterday. The target demographic? Dads. The hard sell? Fatherhood. The campaign created by Campbell-Ewald specifically targets American-Indian, Asian-American and Hispanic dads and is a follow up to the “successful” 2008 spots which you may recall. They featured an African-American dad teaching his daughter how to cheerlead as well as other ads which contained Hispanic and Caucasian fathers.
The reason for casting such a wide demographic net is to assure the campaign successfully delivers its message to as many diverse groups of fathers as possible. And the message — “take time to be a dad today” — is a good one. But is it a necessary one?
It is according to our government, more specifically, the Department of Health and Human Services. As Campbell-Ewald created the pro bono spots for that department’s two subdivisions — the Administration for Children and Families and the Office of Family Assistance. (No word, incidentally, on whether or not the Coalition of Redundantly Named Familial Departments Association was involved.) The campaign’s website will be run by Roland C. Warren, who is the media campaign director for the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse — a government project which supports fatherhood.
These most recent ads come at a time when nine out of ten parents believe a “father absence crisis” exists in America. At least according to a survey conducted by the National Fatherhood Initiative. And guess who heads up that organization? None other than the aforementioned Roland C. Warren. Is it just me, or is that a $5,000 hammer I’m starting to smell?
To be fair, it may just be me. After all, I don’t head up a nonprofit whose research generates statistics cited in conjunction with a government-sponsored ad campaign of which I’m also a part. But I, for one, do NOT think there’s a “father absence crisis” in America. Rather just the opposite. From what I’m able to discern, fathers appear more active than ever before. I see it in the carpool line, on the soccer field, and at church.
And I also see it online where dozens of leaders within the realm of fatherhood have emerged. Many sites like DadCentric, DadWagon and DadLabs offer their readers top-notch, father-related content and are building communities in the process. Other sites like TheDADvocateProject are working hard to define exactly it means to be a dad today — presumably because it means something different than it used to.
Please don’t get me wrong. Messages encouraging dads to be, well, dads, are positive ones. And men like Roland C. Warren who build careers out of advocating fatherhood are good men. The world is a better place because of them. It’s just that this dad has a hard time believing that nine out of ten parents feel there’s “father absence crisis” in America right now.
But even if I’m wrong, why can’t such an ad campaign attribute its emergence to the growing number of dedicated dads rather than piggybacking off of doom-and-gloom statistics which portray us in a negative light? All that does is reinforce the (obviously false) perception of Daddy being nothing more than Mommy’s goofy domestic subordinate.
But maybe I’m out of touch. What do you think? Do you believe what supposedly nine out of ten American parents believe? Do you believe there’s a “father absence crisis?”