Meet advertising’s new domesticated dad: He puts his crying newborn in an Acura Legend and drives around the block until the infant falls asleep; he shaves with a Gillette razor, then cradles his babe against his well-defined chest; he rocks his 10-month-old for Gold MasterCard as he walks through their half-built house. He’s Michael Steadman meets Phil Donahue, a modern — day Father Knows Best-but is he real or just wishful thinking on Madison Avenue’s part? ”I think with the working mother, the at-home dad is a very contemporary situation,” says Charles Gennarelli of the ad agency J. Walter Thompson. Gennarelli is the brain behind a current spot for Bell Atlantic, which has a young father crooning ”Oh, Pretty Woman” to his wailing newborn while the phone rings in the background. His wife, we soon learn, is toiling at the office. ”What reinforces [this image] is what has happened in Iraq with the armed forces,” Gennarelli adds. ”Women were over there doing things that a few years ago they would not have done. Now men are doing things that they’ve never done before.”
Well, some might challenge the assumption that men never changed diapers, but there’s a larger question: Will men in ads soon be sporting aprons and pondering the effects of dishwashing detergent on their hands? Not likely. According to ad exec Barbara Durham of Foote, Cone & Belding, ”The roles are changing, but it’s important not to rob men of their masculinity completely.” So if you were looking forward to Stormin’ Norman’s Fabric Softener, don’t.