AT&T Dadvertising

Bad Dadvertising Spotlight: AT&T


AT&T Dadvertising

Hey, moms! AT&T has a message for you: dads are unreliable idiots, but fortunately with a home automation system you hardly need them at all.

At least, that’s what appears to be the message of their latest ad, “Piece of Cake.” In it, Mom goes out of town and puts things in the capable hands of Dad, who’s currently feeding his kids breakfast. Ah, look at that–an involved dad! Everything’s going to be a “piece of cake!”

Except that he forgets to close the garage door as he’s asking his kids how to get to school. (Is that a dumb dad joke? Or is he a dumb dad?) Oh, and he forgot about the dog-walker, who is left standing outside the house. And he falls asleep on the couch with his kids next to him, one of whom is apparently eating a giant bowl of popcorn. And just so we can see how irresponsible he is, there’s also a basket of laundry that’s clearly not folded and put away. My guess? It’s not even washed, or it’d still be in the washer.

Of course, thanks to AT&T, Mom has no worries. She closes the garage, lets in the dog-walker, turns on the living room light to wake Dad and send the kids to bed, and, oh, turns on the house alarm remotely because he couldn’t even do that while he’s saying “piece of cake.” Too bad there isn’t a “wash and fold laundry” button, because it looks like Mom needs one of those, too.

And throughout it all, Mom just chuckles and talks to herself. Because you know what? It’s pointless getting mad. It’s not like this is a grown man who should know better or could learn to do things himself.

Does he not drive anywhere, or does he have a habit of leaving the garage open every day? Is he incapable of reading a clock without Mom there to show him what the big hand and the little hand are pointing at? I’m not sure which is worse, the fact that Dad is still muttering “piece of cake” even while in the act of forgetting something, or that Mom just thinks it’s adorable that she’s married to a dolt. I mean, at least the dad in the Lowe’s Valspar Reserve ad had the sense to hide his terrible at-home skills.

Lowe's Valspar Reserve: Video Call
Another fine example of fatherhood from Lowe’s.

Hey, I get it. It can be tricky taking over somebody else’s responsibilities for a day or two, and moms are statistically more likely to be in charge of the kids, even working moms. If Dad is usually not the one to let the dog-walker in, I’ll forgive him for letting that slip his mind. I don’t expect my wife to remember which when our every-other-week trash day is without a reminder because that’s regularly my responsibility. But I also wouldn’t tell her that taking over her regular duties is a “piece of cake,” either. I’d make sure I had a list.

As blogger Lori Garcia put it, Dads are men, not idiots. You don’t have to treat them like large toddlers who can’t take care of themselves while you’re gone. If this is the primary message that men get about how to be dads, it’s hard to learn that it’s not the only option.

Old Tom Foolery Father's Day Card
A Father’s Day card from Old Tom Foolery.

This is not the message we need to be sending to parents, dads or moms.

Listen, AT&T, home automation is pretty cool. We get it–we’re GeekDads, after all. But there are so many other ways you could sell this. How about a family that goes on a trip together instead? What about a dad turning off the lights that his kids left on when they left for school while he’s at work? Choosing to use the bumbling dad stereotype is simply lazy storytelling and bad dadvertising.

Parenting and managing three kids is no piece of cake–I know, I do it every day. If you want to reach dads, you’ll need to show how your product makes me better at what I do–not that it makes me unnecessary.

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7 thoughts on “Bad Dadvertising Spotlight: AT&T

  1. Have you seen the recent commercial for Mac and Cheese where the clueless Dad uses all the pots and pans in the house to make the mac and cheese? The “working mom” comes home to discover the kitchen a mess but she’s so proud that Dad served them something with protein she cuts him some slack on the pots and pans usage.

    I get that most advertising for food, diapers, family items are geared towards stay at home moms, but there’s got to be a better way to advertise without implying that men are idiots. If the roles were reversed and women were portrayed as bumbling idiots in the workplace and in the driver’s seat, jobs at PR firms would be lost.

  2. The thing that gets me about bumbling dad ads is that there’s an insidious sexism in them — clearly we should leave the domestic stuff to women, because women are naturally domestic while men are completely out of their element. It’s 1950s gender roles writ large.

    1. Yes, that’s the assumption that’s being sold every time you see the “capable mom, bumbling dad” stereotype. It’s as harmful to women as it is to men, maybe even more so, because it’s raising the already ridiculously high standards for women, and lowering the bar for men.

  3. Yes, this commercial would be better if it switched back and forth to Dad forgetting something and Mom setting it right; then vice-versa. My dad hated this trend in all parts of the media years ago, and I agree with him.

  4. Mom & Dad backing each other up would have been a perfect commercial. Each one individually overwhelmed when alone with the kids, missing little things here and there. But the partner who is away from the kids being able to lend a hand here and there remotely.

  5. I wouldn’t be so bad if – 1) people didn’t believe it and 2) people did act like it. When we were expecting our first. I was the primary researcher and information distiller. Every vendor involved either seemed surprised or uncomfortable (like my wife didn’t have a choice because of her overbearing husband or something. Labor was really bad, until I asked for the one thing I couldn’t do. (run nails through my wife’s hair. I cut mine short.) Then they suddenly were like, “oh this guys got this” But then one of the nurses explained that that a majority of the husbands were clueless in the labor rooms. To the point of just watching TV. I mean, the hell! I think a lot of people see these and think well other guys don’t know so it isn’t so bad if I don’t. Like the DARE program made the drug problem worse. This sexism crap excuses ignorance and laziness.

    Sorry to go all Clark Griswold.

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