This morning, after about the nineteenth time I yelled up to my daughter that it was time to get out of bed and come have breakfast, I finally realized what my life is all about. I am a role model for all that is right and proper and good. I am Dad, the boring ad for decency, truth, and clean underwear.
Just like any business, I have to convince my customers to buy my products. But, face it, parents make the worst ads in the history of advertising. Start with our messages. We just say the same things over and over and over again: “Get up. Get dressed. Clean your room. Do your homework. Wash your laundry. Put away the milk. Turn off the TV. Go to bed.” What if you were channel surfing and came across a disheveled looking, bearded man in a bathrobe, who kept saying, “Hurry up, you’ll be late for school,” over and over again, while reading his newspaper. How long do you think you’d watch that ad?
It finally dawned on me that this is why our children are so good at ignoring us. They’ve been raised in a culture where they’re constantly bombarded with advertising that tries to convince them to buy or do something. Parents’ messages, pleas, and enticements just blend in with all the hundreds of others they hear everyday. Worse yet, ours are boring. Parents make lousy ad salesmen.
We parents even bore ourselves with our messages. How many times can you say “Eat your vegetables,” and still have it seem important? “Stop burping at the table. Tie your shoes before you trip over them. Take out the garbage.” Who wrote this script? Almost any third-rate actor shooting a low-budget local cable ad gets better material than this to work with.
So I’ve started to use better production values to make my Dad character more interesting and convincing. I bought a megaphone to help amplify my messages. “This is your Dad speaking on behalf of the Get it While it’s Hot Foundation. Did you ever wonder why the food on your plate is always hard and cold when you eat it? Have you ever had a hot roll, fresh out of the oven, with the butter still melting on top? Now’s your chance to find out what you’ve been missing! As an added bonus, if you’re the first one to act on this special offer by coming to the table RIGHT NOW, we won’t make you wash the dishes tonight! So,C’mon Kids ‘N Get It While It’s Hot!”
Sure it’s tough to get my messages to have any impact on my target audience. I just don’t have the same budgets for scripts, costumes, sets, and editing as the big corporations who are competing with me. But I do have the keys to the car. So I walk into my 16 year old son’s room jangling them and say, “The weekend is almost here! Basketball games, parties, movies, friends. Almost anything is possible when you have the keys to Dad’s car! Yes, and these keys may be made available to you, for a limited time only, if you finish your homework and wash your stinking gym clothes!”
Or I might go into my daughter’s room carrying a boom-box and do The Dad Rap:
Now shake you booty real fast, and clean you floor,
Bounce and spin and work dat broom,
Stop dissin Ma and Pa, and do dat dance,
Make you knees touch you elbows, and put away you pants,
I know that you think that I’m a millionaire,
You like to cruise down the avenue and shop till you dizzy,
But in case you ain’t know and in case you ain’t heard,
You ain’t goin’ to the mall, unless you get busy,
And clean this room. Clean this room. You better clean this room. And clean it real soon.
I particularly like doing The Dad Rap when my daughter has company over. It makes her incredibly embarrassed, but then, pretty much everything I do embarrasses her, and at least when I overhear her talking with her friends about what an idiot I am I know I’ve been successful. She was paying attention to my ad!
Advertising isn’t what I thought I’d be doing when I became a parent, but now that I realize that I’ll never be a successful Dad unless I can create successful ads, I’m beginning to enjoy myself. I spam my teenage son with an e-mail whose subject line reads “HOT BABES IN BIKINIS”. When he opens it he finds out that he’s being summoned to shovel snow off the driveway. I create a coupon for a free TV program choice and hide it in my daughter’s math homework (if it’s completed before dinner). For my six-year-old I make videotapes of TV shows and splice in ads for old toys that his siblings have already discarded in the basement. Now he keeps demanding that we buy him things we already own. It’s probably terrible training, but it sure saves some cash.