Remember the Great Huggies Dad-Diss of 2012? You know, the one where Huggies hired a team of awesome commercial-maker-types and created a series of commercials that reduced fathers to rubble? One portrayed a bunch of normal-looking, loving fathers with their babies, all lined up in a room, with the following smug female voiceover:

“To prove Huggies diapers can handle anything, we put them to the ultimate test: dads…alone with their babies…at naptime…after a very full feeding.” Blah blah blah, then “grab a dad and see for yourself…” blah blah blah.

So, naturally, this created such an amazing sh*tstorm among level-headed parents, that Huggies had no choice but to turtle and pull the ad. Literally every one of our online dad-cohorts had something to say about this ad, and a dude named Chris Routly even started a petition about it.

Hell, they even called 8BitDad bright and early on a Saturday morning to apologize. Oh wait, I was supposed to title that:

The Good News

Huggies, in case you didn’t read above, called us, as well as multiple other dad-bloggers. They also hopped on a plane to attend the Dad 2.0 Summit, which happened over last weekend. Representatives from Edelman and Huggies-parent company Kimberly Clark made it their priority to git ‘er done in record time. On the call with me was:

  • Kevin Brown, Integrated Marketing Planning, Kimberly Clark
  • Joey Mooring, Global Marketing & Brand Communications, Kimberly Clark
  • Missy Maher, Executive Vice President Consumer Brands, Director of Mom

Facebook no longer says "put them to the dad test"

“We have not removed one Facebook post,” Brown told me over the phone. These days, that’s important. Brown and Mooring wanted me to understand on the Kimberly Clark side, silencing negative comments wasn’t their intention. Oren Miller (aka A Blogger and a Father), who you might remember from the epic Voltron team-up against Philips, even received a response from Huggies on their own Facebook wall.

Back on the phone call: “We listen,” Mooring said. “We got it that we didn’t get it right.”

Maher’s presence was important. You might remember that Edelman had teamed-up with The Parenting Group recently to report some dad-stats about grocery shopping. Maher assured me that she had already been booked for the Dad 2.0 Summit “months before” the Huggies incident went down, but once the storm hit, she was the one that called on the Kimberly Clark guys to also fly out immediately and start eating crow.

In a follow-up e-mail to me, Brown further solidified exactly why the commercials were pulled and changed. “We changed these spots because we realized, after hearing feedback (from both Dads and Moms), that the true message of our campaign was not coming through; which was to demonstrate the performance of our products in real life situations because, as parents ourselves, we know this is what matters most.”

In addition, Brown told me and other bloggers that not only are commercials being changed, but the scripts in existing commercials are being changed. As well, the Huggies Facebook wall has changed to reflect a less combative gender-war of putting dads to the test. Brown, Mooring and Maher were clear in saying that the intention of the campaign was always to put the Huggies product to the test, but it was miscommunicated.

“Miscommunication” is one of them fancy words for “someone was thinking with a wallet.”

So – in the end, Huggies owned up to their – ahem – miscommunication, and has committed to correcting it in every way they can. And most importantly, they didn’t ignore social media. Not only did they not ignore it, but they flew people out to a social media conference whose subject was the exact group they offended. They essentially flew themselves directly into the lion’s den. And for those who weren’t at the summit, they made sure to call them. It would have been easy enough to address the summit-goers and leave it at that. But to pull three bigwigs on the phone and call us – that’s important.

As well, us and other father-bloggers have been invited to future not-yet-scheduled round-tables for their future marketing.

Bad news? This is probably still in your mailbox.

The Bad News

There’s still work to be done. Marketers, Social Media Managers and Corporate Brands are still, at the end of the day, out for money. When they asked if there was any other comment I had, I mentioned that the best way to address fathers was to not mention that you’re doing so. I told them to show parents of both genders, doing some act of caregiving, but don’t mention that it’s both. We’ll pick up on it and celebrate it – no need to hammer us over the head.

Best part of the call: when I then told the Kimberly Clark people that if they really wanted to be champions, they could feature same-sex couples in their commercials too. The silence after I said it was deafening. Not to say that Huggies doesn’t support same-sex couples, but I think if they’re struggling with fathers – who are a reported 30% of their market share, I can’t imagine them going out on a limb for what is probably a smaller market share. But if they did, they’d be incredible.

Also filed under “bad news”: Lisa Belkin of The Huffington Post was left with a not-amazing message in her follow-up with Aric Melzl, Senior Brand Manager at Kimberly-Clark. Melzl, who spoke directly with Chris Routly about the petition also, told Belkin that Huggies was really going after mothers in their campaign. “I don’t want there to be any question about who we we’re going after,” Melzl was quoted as saying.

And not to stop the Huggies love-in, but it seems like according to The Consumerist, there might be (another) packaging redesign in their future.

When in doubt – use minigun?

So Who Won?

It was a tough week for Huggies, but I’ve taken them off my own personal “do-not-buy” list. They created a problem, but owned up to it and admitted it was misguided, and contacted any major player that they could find to apologize. Maybe I’m just happy to be thought of as a major player.

Sigh…8BitDad…a major player in fatherhood advocacy. That sounds so dreamy.