What Father’s Day Advertising Gets Wrong About Divorce


  • Father's Day advertising does not typically focus on divorced dads.
  • When divorce has been focused on in advertising, it hasn't had to do with Father's Day.
  • Companies can often find it easier to focus on a married dad than a divorced dad.

"For divorced or single fathers, you, as a parent, want to experience time with your children, and by having your story told through advertising, others can better understand your plight."

Advertising leading up to Father’s Day would lend you to believe that what a father wants most on his special day is those new tools to help him fix things around the house or a new grill to help him cook the perfect cheeseburger. These advertisements typically end with the whole family gathering to help him celebrate the accomplishment that his Father’s Day gift helped Dad achieve.

For a divorced father, there is rarely advertising built around Mom dropping off the kids on Friday and picking them up late Sunday, after the festivities are over. The closest advertisers ever come to achieving the concept are advertisements for the holiday that do not include Mom in the shots, and even then, they fail to depict the emotional landscape of the situation of a father who may only see his children every other weekend.

Attempts in advertising

That is not to say that advertising has not attempted, or even succeeded, at depicting aspects of a parental divorce and how it affects dads. However, the outlets that do succeed in depicting aspects of parental divorce and how it affects dads fail to capture the emotional distance that unfortunately can develop in a child’s relationship with their noncustodial parent.

It does not necessarily dive into the emotional complexity and all of the baggage that stems from having a holiday based around an adult’s role of being a parent in a child’s life.

Father’s Day statistics

Most stores look to specialize in Father’s Day gifts and special deals on specific products. Others look to take their Dad out for a meal. According to MarketWatch, spending time with their kids is at the top of the Father’s Day lists for 2017. Dinners or brunches are at 48 percent, which is an increase of 5 percent from 2007.

Additionally, 27 percent of dads have said that they would enjoy an experience gift, which has lead 25 percent of shoppers to buy a ticket to a sporting event or a concern for Father’s Day. This is an increase of 22 percent from last year.

The desire for experiences

Experiences play a factor in what many millennials look for in the time that they spend with a part. That is why the trend of ‘Disneyland parenting’ has become an ongoing discussion in parenting circles, especially those involving divorced parents. Noncustodial parents want their children to have a positive experience when they are with them, so they tend to save fun activities for when they are around.

However, that also establishes a precedent, and that can have negative ramifications when something exciting and fun is not planned. Additionally, it can create a good-cop, bad-cop model between co-parents that does not encourage shared parenting, nor coexistence.

There also are suggestions being made, specifically to children buying for their divorced dad. InStyle magazine recently listed items to consider when shopping for a Father’s Day gift for your divorced dad. While these gifts are suggested with the best intentions, they all lean on the side of practicality, which is fine if that is what you are looking for in your Father’s Day gift.

Every father and child is different, and has different expectations for what to get their father for the holiday. Much of it stems from the relationship that they may share with their father, which is a sentiment that advertisers go with when pitching ideas. Depending on the product, they may spin the father-son or father-daughter relationship differently, depending on the demographic they are attempting to reach.

Looking for truth in advertising

This is part of the reason why marketing for divorced fathers becomes so difficult. In order to target a market, advertisers need to know how to convey the emotional complexity of the situation, and given that the dynamics and emotions of divorce can be so personalized, companies can often turn down ideas that skate the line, either out of being deemed insensitive or simply, because it’s not as easy as portraying a married father.

While the easy way out may translate into dollars, the two million single fathers (as of 2013, according to the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse) out there would not be opposed to advertising aimed at their situation. The 17 percent of custodial single fathers would not mind supporting a product, whose advertising depicted the complex emotional landscape of what Father’s Day means to them.

These fathers matter, and by showing them portrayed in advertisements, you, as a company can better connect with those that support your brands and products. For divorced or single fathers, you, as a parent, want to experience time with your children, and by having your story told through advertising, others can better understand your plight.

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