What Florida researchers learned about how new fathers respond to "Dadvertising"

<p>Advertisements directed toward dads now portray fathers as actively involved in parenting. Credit: Shutterstock</p>

Advertisements directed toward dads now portray fathers as actively involved in parenting. Credit: Shutterstock

Stay-at-home dads are more common than ever before. Because of fathers’ changing roles in the household, advertisers are shifting how they market their products to this target audience.

Advertisements directed toward dads now portray fathers as actively involved in parenting. This form of advertising is commonly referred to as “dadvertising.”

To determine how successful dadvertisements are at influencing the target audience, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications scholars Cynthia Morton Padovano and Benjamin Johnson, doctoral students Sophia Mueller and Bhakti Sharma, and Advertising Professor Emeritus Jon Morris, conducted a study to investigate the following variables:

1.    Perception of the dad featured in the ad

2.    Emotion generated in response to dadvertisements

3.    Wishful identification

Researchers also investigated fathers’ attitude toward the ad, their recall of the brand sponsor, their attitude toward the brand sponsor and behavioral intentions related to parenting. Further, the authors sought to develop a deeper understanding of the influence of parenthood anxiety on responses toward the commercial communication.

Male participants who reported being a first-time father or an expectant father between ages 25 to 40 were recruited for this study. They were randomly assigned to one of two advertising test conditions: progressive/nurturing or hypermasculine/traditional.

The nurturing ad elicited more positive feelings, perceptions of the dad and attitudes toward ad and brand. However, researchers were surprised that results also showed that higher levels of anxiety around fatherhood produced fewer positive emotions in response to the dadvertisement and produced greater perceptions that the dad in the ad was weak.

Given this result, researchers recommend that marketers engage in dadverstising to this target market, though with the caveat that they should be cautious of the role that anxiety plays in fathers’ responses to advertising. Anxiety notably altered the perceptions of new and expectant fathers, resulting in negative responses toward the more progressive father depictions.

While this study outlines a path through which new fathers may interpret and respond to varying messages depicting fatherhood, there are several limitations and opportunities for further study. Only two stimuli were used in this study, representing only one modern dadvertisement and one traditional dadvertisement. Expanding to survey a wider array of advertising messages that contribute to either nurturing or progressive depictions of fatherhood would be useful.

Additionally, factors such as the new fathers’ relationship with their own fathers and their overall familial support system are worthy of future study. An examination of women’s responses to ads that feature fathers in traditional versus progressive roles would also be useful, given that they are consumers for these products as well.

The original paper, “Like the Data in the Ad: Testing a Conceptual Model for New Fathers’ Responses to Dadvertisements,” was presented at the American Academy of Advertising conference in 2021. This summary, which originally appeared on the College of Journalism and Communications website in March 2022, was written by Marie Morganelli, Ph.D.

UF News June 15, 2022