OMD UK and Trinity Mirror Solutions have today published a major new study into parental attitudes towards advertising, parenthood, and the roles of mum and dad. The ‘Future of Parenting’ exposes how brands are struggling to empathise with, and react to the realities of modern family life.
Based on a survey of over 2,000 parents in the UK, only 19% believe advertising represents their experience of parenthood. The industry’s preoccupation with parents of babies and primary school-age children means older parents are increasingly feeling neglected and detached from brand communication. Just 5% of those aged 55-64s feel advertising represents their experience of parenthood versus 45% of 16-34s.
The study also reveals the extent to which brands are falling short of parents’ expectations. Based on an analysis of twenty leading brands, there are large gaps between what parents want from an ideal parent-friendly brand and what brands actually deliver. Although 40% say ‘understanding me and my family’ is essential, just 12% associated the trait with the brands we questioned them on. A similar pattern is repeated across a number of metrics, including being ‘trustworthy’, ‘genuine’ and ‘understanding of family life’.
The research also demonstrates the pressures of being a parent, which is particularly evident amongst mums – they are significantly more likely to feel pressure to be the perfect parent (62% vs. 53% dads) and find it difficult to switch off (51% vs. 42% dads). Mums also rate themselves higher than dads on being a role model to their children for ‘helping others’ (67% vs. 47%), ‘positivity’ (66% vs. 57%), and ‘sharing responsibilities’ (55% vs. 49%).
The study also demonstrates that when it comes to household chores, behaviour falls well short of attitudes. Even though 50% of parents say doing the laundry should be a shared responsibility, 78% of Mums say they are solely responsible for doing it. This pattern is repeated across all household chores with the exception of DIY, taking out the litter and gardening, where dads are more likely to be solely responsible.
Dads may not be as ‘hands on’ around the house, but when it comes to child-related tasks, expectation and behaviour is much more aligned. Not only do a majority of parents perceive childcare related responsibilities to be shared equally, behaviour seems to reflect attitudes e.g. 79% of parents say bedtime should be a shared responsibility vs. 73% who say both parents take responsibility.
So what do brands need to do?
- Brands should ensure that they understand this diversity and move beyond narrow definitions such as ‘housewives with kids’.
- Brands should invest in ensuring that they understand parents and reflect this in communications.
- Brands should play a supportive role, relieving pressure and celebrating success.
- Brands need to tread carefully when talking to parents and find the difficult balance between being realistic and reflecting the experiences of different parents and being patronising.
Brands need to act now. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) announced new guidelines earlier this year which set tougher guidelines for brands and how they feature stereotypical gender roles and characteristics in their ads, claiming that they are harmful to society.
Andrew Tenzer, Head of Group Insight for Trinity Mirror, said; “Engaging in lazy stereotypes does little to helps brands connect with parents. It’s time for advertisers to give more thought to how they are portraying parents, and appeal to their desire to be supported, not stereotyped.”
Sarah Gale, Head of Insight at OMD UK, said; “With only 19% of our respondents believing that advertising represents their experience of parenthood and nearly 8 million families with dependent children in the UK today, advertisers need to sit up and start paying attention to the huge proportion of parents who sit outside their traditional targeting parameters. We hope this research helps brands engage in a more authentic way with this audience.”
Download the research here.