When we wrote last week that advertising’s war on men – and particularly fathers, whom television commercials consistently portrayed as mindless, bumbling oafs – may be ending, we were wrong.
But not as wrong as Clorox.
Just days after Father’s Day, Clorox put up an essay titled “6 Mistakes New Dads Make” on its website. Within 24 hours, they had to take it down.
“Saying ‘No-no’ is not just for baby,” it began. “Like dogs or other house pets, new dads are filled with good intentions but lacking the judgment and fine motor skills to execute well.”
And that was just the beginning.
It went on to list the six mistakes these creatures possessing the intelligence of a dog and lacking fine motor skills make:
- Dressing their kids in light summer wear before taking them outdoors in the dead of winter.
- Putting the seasonally inappropriate clothes they dress them in on backwards “and not understanding why they fit wrong.”
- “[R]elaxing with a brew and blaring inappropriate [television] shows while baby stares in horror/awe/wonder at the colorful moving yell-box.”
- Letting babies eat off the floor.
- Forgetting to wipe that food from the floor, Play-Doh and other dirt off their faces.
- Taking kids to R-rated places like “casinos, pool halls and poetry readings.” (Poetry readings?)
Or, as Josh Levis summarized it for CNN,
new dads give our kids dirty food and Play-Doh to spread all over their faces while watching “Kardashians,” then put them in backward summer clothes in freezing weather, oblivious to their cries en route to a poetry slam. But you can’t blame us, because of our perpetually beer-soaked state and canine-level motor skills.
But if anyone was “lacking the judgment…to execute well,” it wasn’t new dads.
It was Clorox, who somehow forgot that 32 percent of American fathers are their children’s primary caregivers, that the other 68 percent pitch in with child care and that, according to Time Magazine, “dads are nearing equality with moms in time spent with their children.” And who forgot the disaster that Huggies’ dad-demeaning campaign brought upon their brand just last year, causing them to scrap millions of dollars’ worth of television production.
“The response,” said the Huffington Post, “was fast and absolutely furious. After the essay appeared on the Clorox website, Twitter, Facebook, and all manner of parenting blogs quickly filled with denunciations.” Denunciations like
- “What the heck are you THINKING, Clorox?”
- “As a woman, a single mother, and a feminist, I find this ‘article’ disturbing on so many levels. Perpetuating unfounded gender stereotypes is deplorable and insulting. Always.”
- “Me want to comment but me two dum. Me MUST be male may bE evn noo dad.”
- “Has the Clorox marketing department been in a bomb shelter since the 50s or something?”
- “What in the almighty hell were you thinking by making fathers out to be giant dummies who can’t figure out which end of the baby a diaper goes on? It’s 2013, for [P]ete’s sake – do you really not realize that marginalizing 50% of a household ISN’T okay anymore?”
- “Insulting on so many levels. I agree with the other responses and dads who have all weighed in. It wasn’t even the slightest bit funny and as a stay at home dad who makes all the household purchases I will be more inclined to go with another brand since you think so little of my ability to make sound decisions. How is that for good judgment?”
Or, as Mike Adams, editor of naturalnews.com, put it
Can you imagine the outcry if this ad had been about WOMEN? Or BLACKS? Or MEXICANS? Or GAYS?
Here’s how it would have read, using the exact words from Clorox: “Like dogs or other house pets, BLACKS are filled with good intentions but lacking the judgment and fine motor skills to execute well.” – Clorox.
A Clorox spokeswoman claimed that this was just an oddball, lighthearted joke, “a piece of web content written by a freelance humor writer who helps us on a number of projects.” But Clorox’s history of advertising, all done by professionals, belies that.
- In a 2011 commercial, a father makes such a mess of helping with his daughter’s science project that his wife just has to sigh and clean it up.
- In a 2012 commercial, [no longer available on YouTube], two dads who took their kids to the park are so busy talking cars, they ignore their kids.
- A June, 2013 60-second video called Splatteral and produced by The Onion Labs says, “Human males are a fascinating breed. While they possess many good traits, The Onion Labs takes a look at the one area in which they lack basic proficiency – their aim. In most areas of the home, this lack of coordination can be overlooked. But in the bathroom, it’s not as easy to ignore. Fortunately, Clorox® Toilet Bowl Cleaners helps [sic] undo the mess made by squirts, sprays and dribbles.”
Given this track record, it looks like it’s Clorox, not new dads, making the mistakes – and making them over and over.
They’ve alienated potential and existing customers. Even if men account for only 20 percent of household purchases, that 20 percent equals $1.1 billion of Clorox’s $5.5 billion annual sales.
They failed to follow the same standards of sensitivity and respect that they’d automatically apply to women and ethnic minorities.
And as a result, they didn’t realize that even less outrageous advertising provokes instant firestorms of outrage on the internet.
While insult may be one staple of comedy, it’s not exactly the most effective sales technique for advertisers talking to and about their audience (or a significant segment).
Clorox needs sexist “humor” like this the way a fish needs a bicycle.
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