Super Bowl commercials are usually all about the laughs.
We need talking M&Ms and beer-guzzling men to break up the game tension. But Sunday night’s commercials are getting complaints for being too somber. There was a lost puppy, a dead kid and, come on, there was a dead kid. Thanks, Nationwide. But there was a bright side: daddy power.
For years, TV has shown fathers as the Al Bundy and Red Forman types — buffoons and tough guys. As dedicated as we are to fighting for balanced representation of women, dads deserve better, too. Enter “dadvertising.”
Toyota, Nissan and Dove delivered Hallmark-worthy spots showing daddies with their children. Seriously, it was like Father’s Day came early. We saw a dad kissing his son on the forehead, a father driving his daughter to the airport, a husband holding his baby for the first time.
“I thought they were really tugging at the heartstrings, and it’s a nice change of pace,” says Erin Gregory, a Lee’s Summit mom. “We’ve seen all of these touchy-feely mom-centric commercials, and it’s a cool change in perspective to see things go dad-centric. I’ve definitely noticed the shift from the dad stereotype to a portrayal that is more fair and more accurate.”
It’s important for dads — and their families — to see such well-rounded images, Erin says.
“As we empower women and push the message that a woman can do anything — she can be the breadwinner and she can be empowered in the home — it’s important to show Dad stepping in, too,” she says. “No more gender stereotyping. It’s good to see dads put on the Band-Aid, give the hugs and be the caregiver, too. It shows how balanced families are healthy, and it sets up good role models for young girls and boys.”
In one of the most talked about commercials of the night, Dove continued its #RealStrength campaign to show the softer side of strong men and fathers. It features children of all ages calling for their daddies. Cue all of the warm, fuzzy feelings.
Naturally, all of these commercials are out to push products. With Dove, it’s the Men+Care body wash, deodorants and such. But it’s also deeper than that. The company did a study last year to find out how the meaning of masculinity has changed. And it’s moved outside the beer-and-brawn box: 9 out of 10 men surveyed see their nurturing side as a sign of strength.
“We know that men today are embracing their caring roles more than ever and that these experiences are fulfilling and strengthening them,” Jennifer Bremner, Unilever director of marketing, said in a statement. “This inspired us to share a film that shows what strength truly looks like today. Especially at a time when fans are overwhelmingly hearing about physical feats on the football field, we wanted men (and women) to hear at least one voice saying, ‘Care Makes a Man Stronger.’”
Kemet Coleman, a Kansas City musician, is expecting his first child in March. Those Super Bowl ads didn’t move him to tears like they did me, but he says such images do nestle in the back of our minds.
“Those subconscious associations sometimes carry over in real life and mold people’s perceptions,” he says. “It made a difference to see fathers shown in a more positive light on such a large platform, especially for me, stepping into that realm soon. It’s another way people will perceive me or perceive men in general.”
So the Super Bowl commercials weren’t that funny this year. But celebrating dads with heart? I’ll take that over a cheap laugh any day.