Parenting

Gay dads in ad: Controversial or progressive?

J.C. Penney's recent Father's Day ad has stirred up a lot of discussion.

Photo: J.C. Penney

What do you notice in this J.C. Penney ad? A happy family, sharing time together? Adopted kids? Gay dads? All three?

What I notice is that I actually notice this ad. The retail sector is highly competitive, and its advertising collectively suffers from the disease of “sameness”. A sameness I often can’t identify with and a sameness that makes it hard for me to tell one retailer from the other.

This Father’s Day ad on the other hand stands out to me for all the right reasons. It features real-life couple and dads, Todd Koch and Cooper Smith, with their two children, Claire and Mason. This isn’t the first time the retailer has featured an ad with gay parents. It ran a Mother’s Day ad last month that included a lesbian couple and their daughter.

I applaud J.C. Penney for finding a positive way to stand apart and reflect our changing society. I am a single parent and I often don’t see myself in advertising directed at moms and their families. I don’t have a wedding ring yet (I am getting married in August) or 2.2 kids or a white picket fence or a dog. But how many of us do?

We live in a country where the proportion of married couples is declining, while common-law relationships and lone-parent families are increasing. I’m not saying we should do away with images of happily married couples and their kids. But I’d love to see more ads like this one that reflect our changing society, blended families, single moms and dads, gay parents, adoptions and all.

There’s always a cost to going against the flow, though. And maybe that’s what’s holding retailers back. J.C. Penney is taking a hit from a group called One Million Moms, which tried getting people to boycott J.C. Penney back in February when it signed Ellen DeGeneres as a spokesperson. The retailer didn’t back away from DeGeneres and ran these ads shortly after. 

But I think the backlash has worked in J.C. Penney’s favour. They’re getting a lot of press and people are siding with their decision. On Twitter, one person tweeted:: “JCPenny, I salute you. You’ve turned me into a fan. #NoH8”

I’m a fan, too. I hope to see more retailers get the courage to include some diversity in their advertising. It’s about time their branding reflects those of us who shop in the stores.

Does advertising reflect your family dynamic?

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