Friends and Fathers

This “Pals” advert is a beautifully crafted advertisement. There’s a great 70s vibe about it – that reminds me of my youth. It evokes powerful nostalgic images of better times when mates were mates and life was less complicated. It’s a clever marketting strategy that plays on Robinson’s historic brand tradition. It follows the trend set by brands like John Lewis, Sony and Hovis who aimed to bring trust to a brand by incepting the idea that they have shaped our life history.

But this evocative ad has a twist in the tale. The two boys sharing a summer’s day of play are actually a father and son. The strapline at the end

[quote_simple]”Its good to be a dad, its better to be a friend.”[/quote_simple]

What does it mean? Perhaps its a challenge to a distant austere parenting that kept children at arm’s length. Perhaps it is an assault on the growing number absentee fathers – who widow their wives and orphan their children on the golf course or in the board room? Perhaps it is a critique of those biological fathers who decide to have no contact with the children they father? Admirable though these motives may be. I still struggle with this ad.

I have been struggling to find out why? Perhaps it sentimentalises parenting by collapsing it into friendship.

Is the role of a father less than the role of a friend?
Are friends to be valued more than fathers?
Is the ideal father just another mate you can play about with?
Is a father just another friend whose advice and lifestyle you can pick and chose from?

Fathers have a key role alongside Mothers to love their children enough to help form them morally, socially, economically. Parents cannot be replaced by friends or peers, there is a responsibility, authority and commitment that parents are called to provide that friends do not have. I am grateful that my father was approachable when I was a young lad, I am grateful that he was faithful and strong with me when he needed to be. I am grateful for his guidance and wisdom that helped me navigate life when my friends were making dubious decisions. Am I over reacting? Let me know what you think…

Its good to be a friend, its great being a dad.

(See also who’s the daddy?)


4 thoughts on “Friends and Fathers

  1. Tore Jåtun says:

    With thanks for the message at Fjellhaug, Oslo June 19.-20.

  2. Paul Morriss says:

    I think the meaning isn’t too hard to find, it’s “buy our squash”. However the strapline does raise the interesting questions that you mention. I think a parent can take part in activities like that with their children without it being collapsed into friendship, as you say. I like your strapline better.

    As a sideline, next time you watch the advert, see if you can spot the clue in the middle that the friend is really a grown-up!

  3. Nick Framcis says:

    Glad I’m not the only one who spotted this and felt uncomfortable. I think the two are very different. I don’t think I’m to be a friend to my children, I’m to be a parent and that is a very different thing. It doesn’t mean that all those things in the advert can’t take place, it doesn’t mean there can’t be friendship, but the root of our relationship is father-child, not friend-friend.

    I prefer your version…

  4. NickF says:

    Glad I’m not the only one who felt uncomfortable about this strap line. I am to be a parent to my children, not a friend, they are two very different things. It doesn’t mean those things in the ad can’t happen, it doesn’t mean there can’t be friendship but the root of the relationship is parent-child not friend-friend.

    I prefer your version…

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