Dear Mr. Dad: About a year and a half ago, you wrote a column about Procter & Gamble’s “Thank You, Mom” campaign that ran during the summer Olympics. You correctly pointed out that P&G was completely ignoring dads and how important they are. I thought P&G had gotten the message, but in the run-up to this year’s winter Olympics, they’re running the very same campaign. What’s their problem?
A: You’re absolutely right. P&G’s campaign during the London Games (which, by the way, was just a tweak of the “Proud Sponsor of Moms” campaign they ran four years earlier, during the Beijing Games) is back. This time, it’s worse. Here’s why:
First, they’ve made the spots more tear-jerking than ever. Each one is a masterpiece. But each one also reinforces the message that mothers are the only parents who care about their children and encourage them to achieve great things.
Second, they seem to be going out of their way to slap dads in the face. Yes, moms deserve a ton of gratitude and thanks. But so do dads. How ‘bout a second campaign that thanks fathers? Or just “Thank you Mom and Dad”? Nope. P&G is doing everything they can to convince consumers that dads don’t exist.
Here’s a lesson I’m constantly trying to teach my kids—one I hope P&G learns too. “If you do something that annoys someone, acknowledge your mistake and apologize. If you do it a second time, you get a reminder. Apologize again and make a better effort to change your behavior. But if you do the same thing three times, it’s clearly deliberate and there will be consequences.”
I started a petition during the London Olympics urging P&G to acknowledge dads’ role in their children’s lives. Hundreds of people signed it and I really hoped that the company would have listened. No such luck. So, since this is at least the third time P&G has offended millions of loving, involved fathers (without a single apology), there should be consequences.
Dads today are involved in every aspect of our children’s lives. We’re also an increasingly important consumer demographic and are responsible for a fast-growing percentage of household spending. Ignoring us as parents is insulting. Alienating us as consumers is bad for business. Positive images build brand loyalty (the “Thank You, Mom” ads prove that) and negative images—or deliberately absent ones—do exactly the opposite. I stopped buying P&G products in 2012. But if enough of us band together and respond with our wallets, maybe P&G will finally listen.
As you may know from reading this column, I’m something of a research nut and I’m constantly reading studies about how parents influence their children. I’ve looked at a ton of research on sports, and the findings are clear: Dads are the parents most likely to get their kids involved. They’re also the ones who are most likely to coach sports teams, and they spend countless hours helping their children (and many other people’s as well) hone the skills they’ll need to succeed—and the resilience to cope with losing—whether it’s on a world stage or just at recess.
The benefits of dads’ involvement continue off the court too. Children whose father supports them in sports get better grades in school, are less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol, and have more successful careers when they’re older.
P&G does a great job of acknowledging all the hard work moms do. It’s high time to start thanking dads too.