Dads aren't dummies in the diaper wars

March 14, 2012 at 8:48 AM ET

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By Bob Trott, TODAY contributor

Dads have won a battle against Big Diaper.

Huggies launched a questionable ad campaign recently in which the joke was … (are you ready for this fresh, innovative take on modern society? OK, brace yourself, here goes...) how dumb and clueless dads are with their kids! Oh, how my sides ache from the laughter and mirth!

A commercial voice-over laid it all out: "To prove that Huggies diapers and wipes can handle anything, we put them to the toughest test imaginable: Dads." One ad featured men ignoring their kids’ full diapers to watch sports. Huggies also urged women to stick diapers into their mates’ hands, point them in the direction of the kids, then chronicle the hilarious results on the company’s Facebook page.

The “Have Dad Put Huggies to the Test” campaign – which was aimed at diaper-buying moms – was such a rousing success that it sparked Internet outrage amongst the Dad community. Eventually, Huggies maker Kimberly-Clark rethought the concept, ditched the ads, and apologized – while, of course, continuing to focus on selling women diapers.

A Breinigsville, Penn., dad named Chris Routly started a petition entitled “We’re Dads, Huggies. Not Dummies” and spelled out the issue pretty succinctly. Routly points out that according to the most recent U.S. census, one in three fathers acts as his family’s primary child caregiver. Routly summed up the anti-Huggies criticism nicely:

“Why reduce dads to being little more than test dummy parents, putting diapers and wipes through a ‘worst-case scenario’ crash course of misuse and abuse?”

Huggies retooled the ad campaign, but kept the theme – their diapers face “the ultimate test – Dads. Alone with their babies. At naptime. After a very full feeding.” It's hard to complain about what you see in the new commercial.

Of course, the “dopey schlub paired with the smarter babe” dynamic is all over the lowest common denominator-style media entertainment – “The King of Queens,” for example, or most anything with Jim Belushi in it. That stereotype ticks me off, too – particularly since most people probably look at me and my tall, blonde wife and think it’s a “dopey guy in over his head” relationship, too.

But in the long run, I really don’t care that much. Because I know better. And I’m not hugely offended by the Huggies campaign.

The reason? Commercials are just about the last thing in the world I care about.

Maybe once in a while I’ll pay attention to an ad, like when those nice Victoria’s Secret ladies try to get me to buy underwear for my wife. I’ll watch ads featuring Will Ferrell, too, because he is hilarious. But generally, aren’t we all skipping commercials whenever we can, and reading Twitter, Facebook or a magazine when we can’t fast-forward past them on the DVR?

Bob Trott
Bob Trott and daughter NJ

Commercials have always been irritating and intelligence-insulting – particularly toward women. (Maybe we should thank Huggies for leveling the insult playing field.) After all, advertisers used to use doctors and famous athletes to sell cigarettes.

I like beer, but if I paid real attention to beer commercials I would probably never quaff a brew again because most everyone in those ads, men and women alike, are stupid and awful and obnoxious.

Commercials insult everyone at some point. If I reacted to every bad commercial I saw, I’d be too mad and writing too many angry letters to ever put a diaper on my 2-year-old. (A task I handle with style, grace and aplomb, Huggies. Just so you know.)

So yes, Huggies was wrong to use dumb dads as a selling point. But I didn't get my pitchfork out to storm Kimberly-Clark. Basically, if you’re taking your cues from television commercials, you’re in big trouble.

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