Saturday, August 2, 2008

Particularly offensive advertising

I've long been puzzled by a particular advertising strategy: the one in which the advertiser purports to know about someone's life and/or history - specifically, your Dad's. Buick used this strategy, claiming to have been "your father's car", thus appealing to a sense of tradition and brand loyalty. Great: I should ignore consumer reports and recall records, and blindly buy a car just because my Dad supposedly did. Actually, he did own a few Buicks. He also owned some Pontiacs, an endless stream of Fords, and later, Toyotas and Hondas. The Buick years are not remembered fondly for reliability and maintenance-free driving.

Another advertising offender was Canadian Club, which was supposedly my Dad's drink of choice. That annoying ad strategy is back today, appearing on Facebook. The ad says:
"Your Dad Rocked.
He did what he wanted, when he wanted. Follow his lead."

I'm then urged to become a fan of Canadian Club.

Who comes up with this shit? Hey, "idea people": you don't know dick-all about my Dad. My Dad is a great guy, but he never struck me as "doing what he wanted, when he wanted". He was much too busy working and helping my Mom raise six kids. How are we not supposed to feel excluded when advertisers create this Dad-stereotype which doesn't fit the image that probably the majority of the population have of their Dads? And how are we supposed to feel about being excluded?

Stereotype-Dad played football in high school, graduated university, probably married his high-school sweetheart, and lives in a big house with a white picket fence. If there is a photo of stereotype-Dad, he is white. (I could never shake the feeling that stereotype-Dad was part of a university fraternity that didn't admit blacks or Jews, and if that's the image I have, the advertising idea people can blame themselves - it's their own contrived image.) My own Dad, on the other hand, had his Mother die when he was a baby, was on his own and out working for a living before his mid-teens, was put in a prison camp during WWII, joined the army to fight for Canada when he was permitted, and met my Mother when his army buddy brought him home during the war. So excuse me if I have trouble picturing my Dad when I see these stupid ads.

You know what? My Dad does rock: for loving me unconditionally, for raising me with a sense of security, for making all the sacrifices he did for family, and for teaching me to always persevere. These are the things I will always remember about my Dad. Fuck the whiskey and luxury cars.


L-girl said...

When watching or listening to baseball, I often hear the opposite: "This is not your father's after shave!" "This is not your father's pickup truck!" "This is not your father's whatever!"

The implication is that you have a preconceived notion of the product as being for old fogeys, for an earlier generation, but they've remade the product, it's new and vibrant and NOW!

So we're supposed to buy things our parents did because that's tradition - and we're supposed to stop avoiding buying other things because our parents did.

As long as we keep buying, that's all that counts!

Kim_in_TO said...

The implication is that you have a preconceived notion of the product as being for old fogeys

Right - I've seen that too. I don't know which is more offensive.

Tom said...

It's a huge event to see gay families in advertising at all. I hate that it's like that and whenever we are it always results in some wacky group getting attention with a boycott.

Jen said...

Somewhere out there ( NYTimes magazine?) there's an essay that compares the stereotype of "the dad" as seen through sit-coms. They examine two dad sterotypes that represent both the dad Kim discusses in the original post versus the one described by Laura in comments.

The whiskey ad. dad in the article is the wise, down to earth dad who had it right, i.e.: Marty Crane, at the expense of the educated but out of touch son, Frasier. The dad described by Laura: the old-fashioned, racist/sexist, can't keep up with the times, Archie Bunker played against the always-right inclusive Meathead.*

Interesting that there are the sametypes in the ads. I think the ad companies are looking to have us relate to the characterizations of dads in media as opposed to tapping into our own relationships with our dads. The media-dad is the universal connection.

*[The article also delved into the relationships of the sons to their dads and how the age of the "all knowing one" (either Marty or Meathead) matched the age of/was the most relatable to the target market, the baby boomers]

L-girl said...

Jen, that's interesting. I read an article about how dads are the only family member that can still be portrayed as idiotic or insane on TV comedies, in a way it's no longer acceptable for women to be portrayed. The Simpsons, Malcolm In The Middle, Family Guy come to mind, and there were several others from shows I don't know.