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Alokananda Chakraborty: Father’s day

Dads are back in fashion. Mostly overlooked as also-rans or as a dispensable accessory, the family patriarch is back in Indian advertising in meaningful roles. Many of these ads are hitting on togetherness, nostalgia and other emotional triggers outside humour really well. Case in point: HDFC Life’s latest campaign conceptualised by Leo Burnett. The film revolves around a father and his daughter who dreams of becoming a dancer. The little girl has an artificial limb and her pillar of strength is her father, who helps her wear her ‘ghungroo‘ every time she goes to attend her dance classes. On the day of a stage performance, he coaxes her to put on her ‘ghungroo‘ all by herself. As the little girl walks out in front of a live audience, proud papa watches her from behind the screens. He is happy that his daughter has finally become “independent”.

Hands-on daddy is an equal partner in another recent spot, this time for Tata AIA Life. A four minute-long film captures the relationship between Zooey, a little boy, and his father. In this ad, the father starts off as a clumsy guy but wins his son’s admiration when he arm-wrestles a man dressed as a superhero. This particular papa is not exactly the strong… HDFC Life… variety – he actually breaks his wrist in the bargain – but he is kind and understanding, much like the Clinic Plus or Horlicks moms.

There’s one more that caught my eye in recent weeks – this one is for Raymond’s. While the complete man has always been the focus of Raymond’s advertising, a new spot released by the brand shows the complete man in a completely new avatar – that of a caring daddy. He encourages his wife, who doesn’t seem to like the idea of leaving her crying baby at home, to leave for office with the assurance that he will look after the kid in her absence.

The thing is this: the traditional bastion of dads has been advertising created for the automotive, beverages, electronics and financial services categories. But even there, it was never a celebration of fatherhood. But this time around, fatherhood is central to the storyline of this new crop of ads – the father doesn’t just lounge around somewhere in the background or make a fool of himself much to the amusement of the little ones around; he is the my-daddy-strongest variety. This is a far cry from what you are used to seeing.

But why this sudden fascination with fathers and fatherhood? To begin with, research after research shows men are doing more shopping these days. So, it simply makes good business sense.

Just you look at the figures. A recent study indicates that while traditionally it was the woman who bought the majority of the personal care products consumed by a household, her hold on the purse string is slipping.

Today, nearly 50 per cent of men’s personal care products are purchased by them directly. Also, some marketers point out that advertisements that feature men in a nurturing, caregiver role have a strong appeal for the other half of the category’s buyers: women.

But beyond the raw numbers, the shift in the portrayal of the dad in advertisements has also to do with a more central and positive focus on fatherhood itself. FCB Ulka’s recent ManMood Study, for instance, finds that “women’s empowerment has perhaps had the most visible impact on the relationship between the husband and the wife and the contours of these relationships have changed drastically. The role of the man as the head of the household today is more like a constitutional monarchy rather than an absolute one with the extent of power being negotiated constantly…. The relationship between the husband and the wife has increasingly become a relationship of equals, with both partners sharing and supporting the family.” In other words, the portrayal of the father is simply a reflection of reality as more and more fathers play a bigger role in their kids’ lives.

Above all, households with fathers have something extremely valuable for marketers: money. A just-released survey by recruitment firm Monster India says that the median wage earned by women is 27 per cent lower than what men make. That means, on an average, men earn Rs 259.80 per hour, while their female colleagues earn only Rs 190.50.

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