In the latest installment of our 'Modern Parenting' series, we had the opportunity to chat with Kevin Bautista, Associate Director of Connections at TBWA\Chiat\Day LA, about the unique challenges modern parents face and ways the industry can diversify how we portray and connect with parents. As the Associate Director of Connections, he bridges media insight and consumer data to unlock full brand ecosystems, as well as leading Chiat’s Asian employee cohort.
How has the depiction of parenthood in advertising evolved?
As a new dad, I don’t think the advertising has evolved quite as much as I would hope. Although it has improved to include more culturally diverse talent, I still can’t say that I necessarily see myself within it. The parenting experience is still depicted as somewhat idyllic and a little too perfect to feel relatable.
Parenting is messy and it opened up my own range of emotions to multiplicities I didn't even know were possible. Yet, the category is still over-indexing on depictions of parenthood that are warm and sentimental. Yes, giggles are an important part of the parenting experience, but they are not the only part that makes it beautiful or worthwhile. I think there is an opportunity for advertisers that are able to better communicate that they understand some of that complexity.
How are agencies and brands adapting ad comms to inclusivity around parenting?
One area I am seeing the category expand to be more inclusive is around the subject of neurodiversity — representing more families with neurodivergent kids and providing resources to parents of kids at different ends of the spectrum.
The pandemic had a major impact on the neurodiverse community, the consequences of which were undoubtedly brought to light afterward. Myself included, young parents are coming out of the pandemic more hyper-focused on how their child is developing, wondering where their kid stands or how they might make up for lost time socializing, playing outside, participating in organized sports, etc.
Knowing that this new generation of parents is consulting tools that they know and use everyday, like Instagram, TikTok and YouTube, to search for parenting tips and resources is forcing a reprioritization of these channels within comms. Where some subjects may have historically been considered taboo on social media, social has become the new Google for parents seeking advice from real people.
In what ways does your role as a parent inform your work?
I definitely feel more of a responsibility to express the modern parenting experience through our work and to ensure it ultimately gets translated through modern channels.
Parenthood is complex (for lack of a better word), so I fully understand why the category so often falls into these same depictions and conventions. However, I do know what it feels like to be served an ad at 2AM, after my kid’s finally gone back to sleep, or at 6PM, while listening to KIDZ BOP and trying to dance away her pent-up energy after a long day’s work. I know what kinds of messages I have the time and energy for and try to be sensitive to that filter when looking at the work.
What are some areas regarding parenthood that you feel could use more visibility in advertising?
Mom still holds the limelight, a spot well deserved(!), when it comes to most parent depictions in advertising. But I think we can be better about recognizing and celebrating how much family dynamics have changed. More depictions of caregivers, stay-at-home dads (Goals!), and partners, please.
To that same end, the kids and baby category continues to be hyper-gendered in how the product and advertising are brought to market. This only continues to add more expectation and rigidity to the already high pressure parenting experience and around how your child is expected to behave.
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?
In line with my previous note about diversifying family dynamics, I would expect the category as a whole to expand beyond a sole focus on birth mom and start appealing to/resonating more closely with different types of parent communities. For brands open to being more inclusive, it could actually help to amplify reach and encourage engagement as different parent types feel seen.