Father's Day Special: A look at some dads in TV ads

Jun 15, 2014, 09:24 IST | Urmimala Banerjee

From the bespectacled cantankerous man to the kind-hearted metrosexual, the portrayal of fathers in Indian commercials has seen a sea change

Papa, dad, pops or Sir, a father is perhaps the first person a child idolises or looks upto as his superhero. Remember the line from the Dhara cooking oil ad, ‘My daddy strongest’? While the honesty, strength and power of the Indian man, especially that of the father, has been highlighted time and again in advertisements; his human side or imperfection is also being used to drive home brand communication in recent times. An ad like the recent Bombay Dyeing one where the teen daughter buys trendy sheets for her newly divorced father, teasing him with the tagline, ‘Aapne divorce liya hai, sanyas nahi’. Irreverent, humorous and slice-of-life, it’s a story of many single fathers in the contemporary milieu. With leading male actors endorsing grooming products and the new age ‘sensitive’ man becoming sexier for women, the portrayal of fathers in commercials is also undergoing a radical transformation. On the occasion of Father’s Day, we take a look at this evolution:

Irrfan Khan plays a stressed out dad who does the moonwalk for his kids in the 7 Up commercial

Time and trends
There are all types of fathers in the ad world. The irritated dad in the Airtel TVC who feels his son is a good-for-nothing only to be outsmarted by him. Volkswagen’s new commercial shows a caring father who doesn’t mind coming across as an idiot before the car salesman as he buys a car for his daughter. We have Reliance insurance’s ad where a father is apprehensive about his son-in-law, who he feels is too childish to care for his pregnant daughter and her baby. Ad filmmaker Prahlad Kakkar says, “The projection of fathers as a grumpy, authoritarian and disciplinarian figure is changing. It is done keeping the changing times in mind. This is because of the fact that parents have become more understanding, they accept that they, too, made the same mistakes as their kids. Slowly, the concept of a father being a villain is fading away.” With greater understanding coming into parent-child relationships, TVCs too have moved in that direction. Marketing professional and ex-managing partner of JWT India, Tarun Singh Chauhan opines, “Advertising can’t be in conflict with what’s happening in society. The relationship of a father and child is not a passive one anymore. They are like friends who share jokes, play and negotiate together. The favourite ad that I have worked on is the Bajaj Calibre Hoodibaba that featured a father rushing to get home to his son.” While the bond between fathers and daughters has made for sentimental commercials, it’s the father-son equation that’s providing creative fodder. “The man-to-man idea is catching up,” opines Prahlad. A case in point is the Tata Docomo ad where the shy, but modern father wants to impart some knowledge ‘about girls’ to his quiet young son.

McCann’s new TVC featuring a recently divorced father and his teenage daughter is a statement on contemporary times

Image makeover
Veteran ad filmmaker Kailash Surendranath, says, “The father has become a romantic figure. He is soft at heart, well groomed and displays affection. I remember most of the ads I shot for in the ’80s and early ’90s had dads only in pyjama-kurtas. A father would never be seen cooking. He would only come at the end of the ad to appreciate the food. It was his approval that set the standard for the product.”

In the Airtel TVC, the dad Vishnu Sharma yells at the son Saqib Saleem only to feel foolish later on 

Reminiscing about his 1995 Raymond’s commercial, Surendranath says, “It had the father wiping a tear as his daughter’s doli goes away. In those days, it was considered disastrous to show a man crying.” In fact, with its brand positioning of A Complete Man, Raymond’s was one of the first brands to showcase dads and men in a different light. Likewise, it was not usual to see fathers buying gifts like cars or insurance for daughters. “A watch was always bought for a son,” states Surendranath. Compare that with today when a girl gifts a debit card to her dad as seen in the Big Bazaar ad.

The late Tiger Pataudi and daughter Soha in the Freedom Torch national integration ad in the late 1980’s

Talking about father-centric ads that made an impact, director Pradeep Sarkar recalls, “I made this ad for ICICI bank, where a young dad goes to drop his little girl to school. It’s her first day and she’s scared of the headmistress. Teary-eyed, she looks behind to see her dad still waiting.”

The 1995 Raymond ad showed a father crying at his daughter’s wedding. It was unusual to show men crying in
those days

Inspiration at home
Suraja Kishore, head-Planning, McCann Mumbai, which’s the agency behind the recent Bombay Dyeing ad tells us, “There were two main thoughts behind the ad. One was that it is no longer a married woman with kids who is a homemaker. A divorced father is also a homemaker as is his teenage daughter who looks after his house. In a sense, she is the woman of his house. The age-old concept of masculinity is vanishing. This is not a western concept at all. A man has both a masculine and feminine side. You must have heard about Ardhanarishwara, the half-man half-woman form of Lord Shiva. This is not a western concept at all.” While the cheeky attitude of the girl might raise eyebrows, Kishore feels that honest representation really works. He opines, “This ad might not be targetted at smaller cities or rural areas, but one has noticed that positive communication about social realities indeed leaves an impact. The Tanishq ad about remarriage got a fabulous response even in small town India. In fact, people relate to brands that are truthful and highlight realities.” Coming back to the parent-child connect, Kishore says the inspiration behind the ad is his own daughter. “We share a wonderful relationship where we discuss, crack jokes and negotiate. The era of rebellion is over. We live in the time of negotiation where even parents fathers are willing to let go of ideas that oppress or make their children unhappy,” he opines. Talking about children, Sarkar says, “I have two children and trust me, they are mature enough to advise me on matters that trouble me at times. Today, kids are knowledgeable, mature, confident and independent. You have to understand this before creating a marketing campaign for the youth. I could not have imagined the Tata Docomo commercial 10 years earlier. Nowadays, parents are considered as friends and this is coming across very strongly in TVCs.”

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