Ward Cleaver’s not in the House. So where are the Olympic Dads?


Ode to the soccer Mom.  Does it ever get old?

P&G doesn’t seem to think so.  The newest Olympic ad in the ‘Thank You Mom’ campaign is an emotional tribute to Moms worldwide for helping raise future Olympic athletes.  Moms in different countries, each raising young children, are depicted supporting their talented offspring by doing…what else?  Laundry and dishes.  In between domestic duties, Mom takes a break to drink a cup of coffee with the neighbor, but, for the most part, she’s always right there.  Watching from the sidelines and cheering the stands. In the end, as said offspring achieve Olympic greatness, Mom is tearing up and there for a hug.  Surprisingly, she doesn’t have a roll of Charmin in her needlepoint bag or stuffed into the pocket of her Mom jeans to dab the tears.

Is something missing here? Where’s Dad?  What’s his role in Olympic training?

The number of stay-at-home Dads has doubled in the last decade.  In 2001, the number of stay-at-home parents that were men was 1.6%. Ten years later, that number has risen to 3.4%, according to U.S. Census data.  In a recent study of stay-at-home Dads by Boston College called The New
Dad: Right at Home
, more men are actively making the choice to stay at home and raise children, whether it’s due to the recession, or a matter of practicality or family values.  What’s more, these stay-at-home Dads are not just raising children (or would be Olympic athletes), they’re playing supporting roles to their spouses in their careers.

The agency behind the TV commercial is Weiden + Kennedy.  Despite the fact the agency
uses expletives on their home page and has creatively approached earlier P&G spots with irreverence and humor, the Thank You Mom ad takes somewhat somber, traditional and decidedly old-fashioned approach to the role of women in the family dynamic.   It’s very Sterling, Draper, Cooper, Pryce.

To be fair, the message of Moms raising great kids is a noble and widely accepted theme.  And,
after all, working or non-working, women make buying decisions more than men.  The Moms in this commercial are just modern day June Cleavers; the typical stay-at-home garden variety.  There’s nary a hint of Mom working (other than domestically).  She’s not running to meetings, juggling projects at the office.  Even a glimpse of Mom in the workplace (frantically checking her watch, because she’s probably late for practice pick-up), or at least handing the kids off to Dad (‘I’ll drop off, you pick up’ and baby brother or sister strapped into the mini-van scenario), might have been helpful.

In June, Mark Pritchard, P&G’s Global Marketing and Brand Building Officer told an audience of advertising executives in Cannes to ‘take risks’ and that he likes to ‘inspire creative work that is so brilliant you’re willing to bet your career on it.’ According to Pritchard, 1 in 3 people who have viewed the ad has shared it with others, making it one of the most shared videos of all time.

At a July 25th press conference, Timo Lumme, International Olympics Committee Head of Marketing and Television Services spoke about the ad.  “Consumers around the world strongly identify with this message,” he said. “How could they not?”

True.  But a nod to Dad would’ve been nice.



  1. They are at home, working 3 jobs to pay for the kids and moms to travel all around the world doing what they love to do!

  2. Thanks so much for your article. I know most dads (and moms) echo your sentiment. A quick correction though: according to most recent census data, approximately 33% of at home parents are dads.

  3. So well said! We agree that mom deserves praise for all that she does as a parent, but that DADS should not be ignored! It takes a parenting partnership between mom & dad to raise a family. We believe P&G’s ad campaign does a disservice to mom & dad so we decided to take action via a Petition. P&G should include father’s in their Olympic ad campaign: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/164/941/709/stop-ignoring-dads-in-olympics-ads/

  4. I don’t understand why the percentage of “stay at home fathers” one way or the other has any sense of legitimating this advert. The fact is the advert is what it is: “Proud sponsor of mums” and NOT “Proud sponsor of stay at home mums”. I suspect that this is because P&G wanted to be inclusive and not offend “working mums”. Yet, it has offended many fathers, whether they are “stay at home” or not.

    When are pundits going to learn to keep their arguments focused? Stay at home or not stay at home is irrelevant as to whether men are “worthy of inclusion”. For the avoidance of doubt, a “stay at home” parent is just a worthy of the title “parent” as one who works and vice versa. And that moniker, namely “parent”, IS gender neutral.

    P&G should be ashamed not only for not including fathers, but setting back the clock of gender stereotypes. And I’m also appalled that leading feminists have not seen fit to speak up more.

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