Oscar Mayer Bad Dadvertising

Let’s pretend you’re one of the most-known names in the meat industry. Let’s pretend your number-one selling product is hot dogs. Now, I’ve got no real demographics in front of me, but wouldn’t you want brand loyalty from men? So now, just for funsies, let’s just assume that fathers are men too. Using all this logic, wouldn’t a company like Oscar Mayer want to play friendly with fathers?

They should want to. But they’re not. And fathers, you should be mad. Your friend is stabbing you in the back. And as a coup de grâce, Oscar Mayer even jabs at father bloggers too.

Oscar Mayer’s new suite of commercials is so toxic for fathers that it’s making me rethink grilling season.

“We’re now poking fun at the messy, imperfect moments experienced daily as we struggle to make better choices,” says Tom Bick, Director of Marketing Communications & Advertising at Oscar Mayer (in a press release). “This allows us to show that Oscar Mayer Selects is an easy and delicious choice when it comes to breakfast, lunch or dinner.”

These are indeed messy and imperfect moments, from ad agency McGarryBowen, which executed the campaign. You might remember their work from a previous Oscar Mayer commercial where dad comes home from work, and seeing that his whole family is buried in technology, grabs a pack of hot dogs, shuts the house’s power off at the circuit breaker, and begins grilling. As kids run out to see what the problem is, dad simply resolves, “power’s out…want a hot dog?” Even in the punchline of the commercial, when one of the kids asks why the neighbor’s power is on – dad doesn’t look like a fool. It’s well done.

McGarryBowen’s new commercials are decidedly not well done.

Ned Holstein, Fathers and Families

Ned Holstein, Fathers and Families

The ad campaign is “everything a man could wish for,” said Ned Holstein, MD, MS in an e-mail to 8BitDad. “The wife in the series is smart, energetic, decisive, sensible and cute, and she finally says ‘Yes.’ Unfortunately, when she finally says ‘Yes,’ it’ s not what you might hope for, it’s for Oscar Mayer hot dogs for dinner.” Holstein is Founder and Chairman of the Board of Fathers & Families, a family court reform organization that champions for fathers’ rights in a variety of ways.

“And here’s an advance warning: the Dad is everything you have come to expect from television dads: infantile, inept, narcissistic, befuddled, sloppy and balding, stupid, insecure, and timidly subservient to his wife. I envy the skill that Hollywood and Madison Avenue bring to their work; it takes something near genius to convey all that in a 30 second spot. But they manage to do it,” Holstein said after reviewing the ad spots.

The Commercials

Styled like a campaign that should be called “Sh*t My Family Never Says,” mom plays the part of stone-faced buzzkill while dad is just one of the kids:


In this commercial for hot dogs, we see that dad is a buffoon. Dad wants the family vacation in Vegas (which we established is dirtbag-worthy) and is ready to let his kid risk his life with a chainsaw. Mom is painted as so rigid that even the husband’s sexual advances are treated with boldface rejection. A real wife (or husband) would have laughed and told their spouse to save it for later. And I’m sorry, but my wife wants a large television just as much as I do. The daughter is featured once trying to sneak out for a late-night date, probably because she feels bad that dad’s taking so much heat with his bad decisions.

But that’s not the only wiener on the chopping block. Oh no, there’s another commercial:


This time, idiot-dad wants to be Facebook friends with the babysitter, and wants to wear skinny jeans. Kids are featured more prominently in this one – the son find a mouse in the shed that he’d like to keep as a pet, and the daughter opens the minivan door to find the parents making out inside (we thought mom wasn’t into dad like that). But in the climax of the commercial, dad asks “is it okay if I quit my job and start a blog?”

No, of course not. Don’t be an idiot. Go to sleep dad – mom is in control.

What’s something mom gets to say “yes” about? “Cold cuts from a package.” Snore.

And while we’re on a roll, let’s make it a trifecta of failure:


In what McGarryBowen would want to point out (if their staff were present) is that dad actually gets to play parent (once) in this commercial. But aside from the scene where he’s denying an early 90’s Mark Wahlberg a date with his daughter, dad is still basically depicted as one of the children. Checking out another woman in a clothing store? Driving a ride-on lawnmower inside the hardware store? Asking if he can “stay out just a little bit longer” while out with friends? No, no, no. Even building a tree-fort for his kid proves to be too big a task for idiot-dad.

But where McGarryBowen lets its message that dads have no place in the decision-making process shine truest is at the end, when the daughter walks in to see dad unloading groceries. “Did mom say we can eat all that,” asks the daughter. This is the final reinforcement that dad is a powerless and ineffective parent; even his own daughter defers all power and decisions to mom.

The Meat of the Issue

Kat Gordon, Maternal Instinct

Kat Gordon, MaternalInstinct

Kat Gordon, Founder and Creative Director of Maternal Instinct, knows the value of speaking to both genders. Her agency is centered around creating campaigns for companies that target families. “This campaign is a great example of what I call the 80/20 rule,” Gordon told 8BitDad. “They got 80% of it right: great tagline, high production value, awesome casting – even the basic concept is sound,” continued Kat. “Yet the 20% Oscar Meyer blew was in the assumption that someone had to be the fall guy: Dad. He’s horny, irresponsible, childish, incompetent and spineless. Mom, meanwhile is the family buzzkill. No one wins here. You don’t win mom by dissing dad. And you definitely don’t win dad by dissing dad.

Huggies recently found out what happens when you diss dad. They had released a mal-worded campaign, challenging moms to “put [Huggies] to the Dad Test.” After every single father blogger came out against the idea that the “dad test” was a cutely-worded way of saying “see what happens when that idiot doesn’t change your kid for hours,” Huggies, with the help of their father-friendly PR agency Edelman, personally called father-bloggers, apologizing and pledging to change the campaign to their best ability.

“What if, instead, they’d expanded on the scene where the teenage daughter catches the parents making out in the minivan,” asked Gordon. “That was really funny. Suddenly you can showcase all the things parents have to jointly say no to, all of which are offset by the YES moments of hot dogs for dinner. That’s a direction everyone can get behind.” Oscar Mayer, you listening?

Ned Holstein says that we should be especially wary of this image in the coming month. “Get ready for more of this kind of thing in the print media: Fathers Day is getting close,” Holstein says. “Once you are attuned to dad-bashing, you will be amazed at how much of it there is on Dad’s Special Day.”

Keep Your Wieners To Yourself

Fathers, don’t buy Oscar Mayer until these commercials are stopped or corrected. Show Oscar Mayer that their depiction of the average American family is not a representation of you. There’s only one way that you, as a consumer, can take the power back – and that’s by taking your dollar to someone else. Until Oscar Mayer respects you, don’t respect them.

Mothers, is this what your family looks like? Is this what your husband is like? We didn’t think so. Oscar Mayer has not painted you as the smart decision-maker in the household. They’ve made you look like an uncaring buzzkill – one that regards her husband as one of the kids. If you’re as unhappy with your husband and his role in the home as this woman is, meat wieners is the least of your worries. Stand together with your husbands in spending your money on a brand that celebrates both parents as equals.

McGarryBowen – shame on you. You saw what happened with Huggies, when they put fathers under a microscope, right? What you’re showing is unacceptable and while it may have been cute 15 years ago, it doesn’t fly these days. You made dad look like a stupid child and you made mom look like a rigid helicopter parent. As Kat Gordon said, “no one wins here.”

Oscar Mayer, step one, ditch McGarryBowen. Step two, take that money and time, and reconnect with your audience: families. Mothers AND fathers.

Or, if you’d prefer, keep running the commercials and see how many beef franks you sell this summer calling your consumers idiots. Frankly, this grilling season – my money is on your competitor.