Real Dads Cry Too: Father’s Day Ads Get Emotional

It’s no secret that emotions play a powerful role in advertising. Psychological research shows that intent to make a purchase is more influenced by emotions than by actual ad content – two to three times more!

When we think of scenes that reflect the emotions we want our audiences to feel, typically the first ones that come to mind are positive: smiling faces enjoying a soft drink on the beach, a satisfied young executive driving away in his or her first sports car, or a happy couple checking into a hotel for their honeymoon.

But as it turns out, the type of emotion the audience feels, whether happy, sad, afraid, or angry, isn’t as important as how deeply it resonates. In fact, So-called “sadvertising” can be extremely effective at achieving a desired response.

Companies selling life insurance have known this for years. When the sale of a product invariably requires contemplating the passing of a loved one, it’s only natural to play up emotional ties. But more and more brands from other market segments are looking to try out this approach, if only for a few campaigns.


Ads for All Kinds of Dads

Perhaps due to the reshaping of the idea of masculinity to include a more inclusive and diverse worldview, Father’s Day has become the newest target for tearjerker advertising. Unilever is leading the charge this year with a new spot for Dove in a continuing campaign called “Dove Men+Care.”

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The 60-second ad features a series of clips, sourced from the web, of real dads. The theme is dads of all types – able-bodied and disabled, gay and straight, conventional and unique – sharing wonderful experiences with their kids. Several show them using superhero-like “dad reflexes” to save their young ones from imminent harm.

The tagline “Care Makes a Man S+ronger” sends the message that real men don’t need to hide their emotions. “Jennifer Bremner, Unilever’s director of marketing, said the campaign originally started as a response to what was seen as a negative and unrealistic portrayal of the father role in advertising.”

Oral-B ran a similar campaign last year called “The Power of Dad,” also making use of videos shared on social media and video sites of dads making their kids smile.

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Parental Holidays Are a Growing Opportunity for Marketers

Summer seasonal advertising is a great way to stay connected to consumers during the slower months of the years. Even small events can be a big revenue boost. Honoring dads still doesn’t generate numbers as big as Mom’s special day, but it’s nothing to sniff at: “According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), US consumers spend more than $21 billion for Mother’s Day and nearly $13 billion for Father’s Day each year.”

So who else is taking advantage (and making us cry in the process)?

Subaru released a wistful spot of a dad cleaning out his old Forester SUV to give to his daughter. As he takes out odds and ends – a crayon, a hospital bracelet – he’s reminded of the times he spent with his daughter. It plays well with the brand’s overarching slogan: “Love. It’s what makes a Subaru, a Subaru.”

Google, making use of the 360-degree video capability of YouTube (which also works with its Cardboard VR viewers) commissioned a short clip from former Pixar animator Patrick Osborne about a dad and his daughter on a road trip.

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In 2015, Angel Soft took an interesting approach that had everyone grabbing their cottony bath tissue, but not for the usual reason – they needed something to dry their eyes. The ad features men and women who were raised by single mothers thanking them for doing the job of a mother and a father.

These ads show that every brand, even ones without typically masculine appeal, can find ways to connect with their customers on Father’s Day. Don’t treat lesser holidays as an afterthought. Virality means never knowing what is going to go over big, so hit those emotional buttons, and you just may end up delighting dads – and everyone else, too.