Skip to main content
The One Dimensional Dad
Kate Fenton

The One Dimensional Dad


Following last year’s publication of the ASA’s report into gender stereotyping in advertising, have we seen any changes in how brands talk to parents, specifically dads?

As a business owner with a couple of decades under my belt helping brands market themselves to families and a husband who is filed under ‘Stay at home Dad’, this subject is close to my heart.  

In the UK, of the 2.08 million people in 2017 who were not looking for work because they were looking after family or home, around 232,000* were stay at home dads. Not an insignificant 11%. So why is it, many brands are still failing to see that family roles are changing?

Unfortunately gender stereotyping starts early, from what clothes a child wears to the toys they play with and how they are spoken to. The ad industry is still riddled with gender stereotypes; it’s either the hopeless clutz of a dad or the put upon mum obsessed with her clean surfaces (if I see another ‘Recommended by Mums’ sticker….).

The ASA have been clear that new guidelines aren’t about preventing ads that depict Mum from cleaning, as in their words “it would be inappropriate and unrealistic”. Hear hear! What it is about is ensuring that clichés are put to bed. There are three clear examples;

  • An ad which depicts family members creating mess while a woman has sole responsibility for cleaning it up.
  • An ad that suggests an activity is inappropriate for a girl because it is stereotypically associated with boys or vice versa.
  • An ad that features a man trying and failing to undertake simple parental or household tasks.

It’s the last point I want to talk about further…

Those tired parenting clichés continue to be rolled out and Dads get a particularly bad deal. It’s either, “Look at that cute but useless man trying to cope” or a patronizing pat on the back for being “Such an amazing Dad” (roughly translated as being able to look after his kids without a fatality). This lazy creative permeates our culture and if we don’t lead a change, our children are going to grow up thinking it’s the norm.

Have we moved on from the One-Dimensional Dad?

Lazy, forgetful, messy and clumsy… yes it’s Daddy Pig. Kids who adore Peppa Pig are seeing Dads as a bit hapless. Then there’s Homer Simpson. Someone who consistently lets his family down, loves Beer, TV and bowling, while Marge keeps the house and kids in order.

It’s not just Daddy Pig and Homer though. We have the opposite end of the spectrum – the ‘Hipster Dad’. The antithesis of Homer, but a cliché nonetheless. How depressing.

Millennial Dads are not all bearded hipsters who need a cup holder small enough for their Cortados when they swap their Shinola for a Silver Cross. Millennial Dads are incredibly hands on. 9 out of 10** want to be the perfect Dad, which means balancing life properly and being there for their children. 80%** of these Dads will turn to the internet for advice, with 37%** turning to social media daily. They are engaged, enthusiastic and want to be present.

With this in mind, things may be taking a step in the right direction… Did you see the BBC One Christmas trail ‘The Supporting Act’? A multi-faceted Dad, huh?! Which funnily enough is probably the reason this ad has been so well received.

I’m calling for no more lazy brief writing where the target audience is simply amorphous ‘mums’. Let’s think about parents holistically, let’s not discount dads. Dads in fact do go to Iceland.

Kate is a Founding Partner of the creative agency Multiply which has a specialist, cliché-free team dedicated to helping brands talk to parents… all sorts of parents. Multiply’s creative team is led by a woman (yes, we’re that rare 3% of our industry with a female Creative Director). Have a look at our recent work.



*2017 figures ONS
**2016 ‘Household Decisions & Influences: Are You Reaching the Millennial Dad?’ - SKUlocal

© Multiply UK Ltd 2016

Cyber EssentialsISO 9001:2008 firm.Living Wage Foundation logo.Google partner logo.Marketing Society logo.​​