dove men+care bowtie

Good dadvertising includes fathers in their natural roles without the brand explicitly pointing out that you’re watching a dad that is made better by the advertised product. That’s why the Dove Men+Care “Real Moments” campaign has been a great tent pole in the circus of NCAA March Madness beer advertising.

Starring NBA all-star Dwayne Wade and ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas, the commercials show day-to-day moments of parenthood, told by these two dads.

First, my disclosure: I speak directly with Dove Men+Care PR people and they’ve sent me products in the past as well as including me in on their “Play-by-Play on Fatherhood.” My analysis of the commercials is not affected in any way other than the knowledge that Dove Men+Care’s parent company Unilever is father-conscious and has actually studied fathers through PR company Edelman. Otherwise, this isn’t a discussion or review of products, but I thought y’all should know.

All four commercials are great images of fatherhood, and as mentioned, don’t explicitly say “here are dads and they’re using so-and-so shampoo, which helps them play with their kids.” When commercials try to be too explicit, or draw too many connections between the subject and their product, the message becomes distracting. Dove Men+Care doesn’t even mention their product; we see them at the end, but there’s no explicit arrow drawn between Dwayne Wade and Dove Men+Care. More on this later.

Here are the four commercials:

“How to Stay in Shape With Dwayne Wade”

In this commercial, Dwayne Wade is playing with his kids – in the pool, in a bounce-house and carrying them through his home. These are great everyday images of fatherhood (okay, not everyone has a bounce-house, but hey), and knowing Wade’s custody battle with his wife, it’s even better. I wouldn’t suggest you actually use this as a workout routine, however, because you will pull a back muscle.

“How to Play Defense With Dwayne Wade”

This spot is more of Wade playing with his kids – but this time, a little living room basketball. It’s another great image of Wade spending time with his kids.

One thing: Wade says you shouldn’t be afraid to foul – then commits an obvious flagrant foul grabbing his sons – which upon replay, looks to be a reaction to a possible offensive charge and/or illegal pick by his sons. Either way, Wade commits a flagrant 2, which is grounds for immediate ejection.

Also, arguably, Wade is committing a defensive three-in-the-key violation for basically the whole commercial. If this is all-star gameplay, I weep for the league.

“How To Master The Drive With Jay Bilas”

(NOTE: This video is currently set to “private” by Dove Men+Care. I have an inquiry into them about it.)

In this commercial, Bilas is teaching his daughter how to drive. The basic task of backing out of the driveway becomes a hazard on all sides, as Bilas folds in his passenger side rearview mirror to avoid it hitting a pole. The tagline in the commercial “care for what matters” really means something in this commercial – Bilas doesn’t yell at his daughter when he has to fold in the mirror or even when she backs into the trash can. They have a good laugh. I only hope I’m that calm and humored when my son starts driving.

“How To Prep For The Big Dance® With Jay Bilas”

(NOTE: This video is currently set to “private” by Dove Men+Care. I have an inquiry into them about it.)

First of all, really with the registered trademark on Big Dance? Ugh.

This commercial shows Bilas helping his son prepare for a big dance (no capital letters, no registered trademark). We think we’re about to see the “buffoon dad” trope shine through when Bilas isn’t able to tie his son’s tie, but it’s saved when Bilas and his son sit down and watch a tutorial together on YouTube – both learning how to tie their bowties themselves. Because sometimes in fatherhood, it’s not about simply showing your kid something, but learning how right alongside of them.

No Products…Problematic?

The only argument I could muster against the commercials would be that there isn’t, as I mentioned, a direct line drawn between Dwayne Wade and a Dove Men+Care product. Strip away the final frames with the shampoos and body washes and you could have any commercial from any brand. Is this a good or a bad move?

Ultimately for me, it’s a good move. I don’t need products shoved in my face. I don’t need a spokesperson to say “I’m Dwayne Wade and I use Dove Men+Care.” I especially don’t need that if someone’s going to try to convince me that their shampoo helps them play with their kids, or that a face wash helps them teach their daughter to drive. This is the difficult thing about a grooming item with spokespeople; if this commercial was for Li-Ning (Wade’s – ahem, interesting – shoe partner), we’d literally see him in the shoe. How do we know that Jay Bilas washed his bits with Dove Men+Care this morning? How do we know if Dwayne Wade used Dove Men+Care shampoo? Do we need the awkward scene of a man lathering down his delicious body (I’m lookin’ at you, Bilas) in a shower before or after seeing a scene of him spending time with his family?

dove men+care site

A little more direct?

We don’t. We’ll make the connection, even if it’s worked for Dove Men+Care in the past (seen at right). The images of these fathers in the commercial, tied to the product shot says enough – without overstating a relationship between fatherhood and body wash. From their press release: “This year during the tournament Dove Men+Care will showcase moments in men’s lives that really matter,” said Rob Candelino, Vice President for Unilever Skincare. “When fans learn that playing ‘Defense’ for Dwyane Wade means teaching his sons how to guard a mini-hoop in his living room, instead of a fellow player during a professional game, it hits home where men today place priority — caring for their family comes first.”

Well, we appreciate it. In the circus of beer commercials, it’s good to see a real man spending time with family, without being oversold on a product. Some may find the product placement in the campaign understated, but it’s refreshing to see fathers’ “real moments” without having them unrealistically tied to products.

Thank you, Dove Men+Care.