Parenthood is a complex journey that comes in many forms

Intersectional representation and shared values are crucial to authentically depicting this

кем India Fizer , AdForum

ICF Next
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Michelle Ruiz-Ponce
Partner, Integrated Marketing + Communications ICF Next

In parenting, there is no "one size, fits all" and marketers have an opportunity to connect with this audience through meaningful inclusion and representation that is reflective of modern families' day-to-day realities. Checking in with Michelle Ruiz-Ponce, Partner/Integrated Marketing + Communications at ICF Next, we chat about the opportunity brands have to redefine what parenting is.


How has the depiction of parenthood in advertising evolved?

As a marketer and a parent of two young children, nothing makes me happier than seeing images and stories representative of real families — my own included. Today’s parent is no longer represented as a singular experience or voice. Parenting is a complex, multi-layered, and deeply personal experience that is impossible to define. The portrayal of the “traditional nuclear family” is no more. Today’s families are diverse in every sense of the word. They are multiracial, multicultural, and multigenerational. They are made up of single, same sex, blended or adopted families. Thankfully, the industry is recognizing these changes and helping redefine the narrative and portrayal of modern parenting.


How are agencies and brands adapting ad comms to inclusivity around parenting?

Parents are savvy consumers. For brands to really grab their attention and get them to participate, they need to develop programs and campaigns that include meaningful inclusion and shared values. This means developing strategies, programs, events, and content that have modern families at the center and represent key and desired customers. People are demanding representation from brands, so it is critical brands look at parenting beyond the surface, through an intersectional lens to ensure they are addressing relevant issues, tensions and experiences that are meaningful to all parents.


In what ways does your role as a parent inform your work?

One of my favorite things about my job is being able to identify the relevant “modern parent white space” — the space that allows brands to be strategic, creative, and personal in how we grab and hold parents’ attention. As a marketer, I know that to breakthrough with consumers, you need to understand the total parent and their values. As a So Cal Latina mom who speaks English, Spanish and Spanglish; loves to travel, listen to hip hop music, watch sports and TikTok videos; I try to share my authentic experiences and perspective to help bridge any gaps and misconceptions with understanding.


What are some areas regarding parenthood that you feel could use more visibility in advertising?

During the past decade, we have seen more children with disabilities represented in ads and marketing campaigns than ever before. However, this is still an area that we can continue to improve. Children and parents of children with disabilities are a highly diverse group. Today there are more than 240 million children in the world that are living with some form of a disability. Whether its physical, neurological, a sustained serious injury, nutritional deficiency, or an infection that resulted in long-term functional consequences; parents are looking for representation. But beyond representation, parents are looking for information, communities, resources, and groups that showcase the intersectionality of their children and themselves. Spaces where they can talk openly about their experiences and form connections to reflect their family’s day-to-day realities. This is a segment that marketers cannot discount and should continue to find ways to prioritize and promote.


Legal guardians can play a significant role in the lives of children who are no longer with their birth parents. How can brands balance the importance placed on these other parental figures in their messaging?

There is no “one size, fits all” in parenting. To me, brands have an opportunity to redefine what parenting is by spotlighting all caregivers and providing them with a platform to share their experiences and stories in their own words. As I have mentioned above, parenting comes in many forms, and true intersectional representation is a powerful tool to empower communities and highlight stories that would otherwise not be told. Brands have the opportunity to meaningfully connect with parents and caregivers by allowing them to share their own experiences and values in authentic ways.