How brands are revising narratives on fatherhood in content

Khushi Rolania and Hamsini Shivakumar of Leapfrog Strategy Consulting write about how brands are pushing for more expression from fathers and families in their content, especially around Father’s Day.

Hamsini Shivakumar
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New Delhi: Ira: Hi papa! Happy Father’s day! 

Papa: Thanks, Ira. Indians do not traditionally celebrate this, you know that, right? Indian society has been extremely role-bound- which means that the father is looked at as the patriarchal provider, who is considered to be responsible for decision-making for the family as a whole in line with societal norms and customs. But, times change, and so has this notion. I guess now I have begun to look forward to this day. 

Ira: Yes papa, I know. The celebration of Father’s Day points to the humanisation of this relationship, wherein these roles are loosened slightly, and feelings of love and bonding emerge- even though some traditional aspects such as the father as provider and advisor remain. Just like in our relationship, I suppose? I do expect you to be there for me, and take care of me. Although, I do have to convince you sometimes, about going on holidays, etc 

Papa: It’s not like you are asking for my permission, it’s mostly us trying to reach a common decision. Rather than having this hierarchical and dominating relationship with them, fathers have an open and empathetic relationship with their children. Dads don’t tell them what to do, they also listen to their point of view. Many ads and films show this. You would know this, you work in advertising and media.

Ira: You’re right. Campaigns do represent and feed into cultural shifts. The ground reality might not have completely caught up with these new-age conceptualisations of fatherhood, but the campaigns definitely showcase these as the dominant way of being. They are trying to encourage these shifts. This reminds me of the Father’s Day Tanishq campaign. They used a father-daughter relationship to show how the father is a champion of the daughter- keeping in line with the changes in women’s position in society in the last few decades. Rather than forcing his point of view on her, he tries to understand his daughter’s needs and even stands up for her when others put her down. 

Papa: I think several Hindi films like Gunjan Saxena also showcase this father-daughter bond. Remember we went to watch Angrezi Medium together? Both of these films show how the father will do everything to support his daughter and her dreams. 

Ira: I think there is an emphasis not only on supporting your children but also on expressing your love for them. There is a short reel by Zomato, where they show a father flaunting his son’s achievements in front of all his friends, but doesn’t say it to his son. I quite enjoyed that one. Indian culture is not permissive in terms of the expression of emotions, and the brand campaigns are trying to push fathers or do their job by letting children know that their fathers are proud of them, but fail to tell them. 

Papa: There is a new-age definition of fathers- dads who are more involved in all aspects of their children’s lives, apart from simply standing at a distance and letting the mother do all the parenting. 

Ira: There is a depiction of more responsibility, you’re right. The Father’s Day content by Metro Shoes shows how pregnancy is not just the woman’s responsibility or journey as men can be involved in it too- which goes on to show that men too learn to care for a baby as much as women are expected to. The expression of gratitude from women and children is centred around this. 

Papa: In our generation, this expectation wasn’t present actually, we were simply expected to be providers and bring money, to put it simply. But just like you’ve grown up, I have too. Besides, it has become slightly more normative to be closer to your children.


Ira: That’s true, the absent father who is toiling away at work isn’t glorified. Father’s Day campaign by Upstox for example, shows, through photographs, the presence of the father in all milestone events of the young man’s life. From the day of his birth, the beginning of his college life, and his first job, the father has always been there. They extend this further to say how the father is the man’s first financial advisor too. 

Papa: Many of these content pieces show the father participating in a child’s life through fairly masculine activities, don’t you think? The one by Upstox focuses on finances, and the one by Tanishq shows the father as the person with whom the daughter negotiates her autonomy because generally, the father is the decision-maker. There is another one I remember seeing, the one by Hyundai. They use the image of the trusty father, always ready to salvage emergencies by picking up children and driving them to destinations they need to be in. Men are traditionally supposed to be good at logistics and driving, so yeah. I’ve seen that mostly these ads show the mother in the background, I wonder what your mom thinks of them.

Ira: Correct. Some older Father’s Day content-led campaigns had featured fathers doing more nurturing activities, typically those that mothers do. I do not see too many of those now. I suppose that of late, there is a clear resurgence of celebrating traditional duties in fatherhood. 

Papa: I suppose men are being encouraged through these narratives to do more in the home, via an extension of typical masculine activities. Whether it be simply being present in their children’s lives, and taking care of them or in the case of daughters, supporting them as they navigate a patriarchal world. Campaigns are showing fathers that they could embrace more dimensions of fatherhood rather than just being a dominating force in the home.

Ira: Agreed. Campaigns showcase families expressing gratitude, for all of this that fathers do. There is an amazing one by Zepto, which highlights how difficult it is to express love to your father, because of how we are as a culture. Campaigns are pushing for more expression, both from fathers as well families. Oh, and on that note, thanks, papa. 

Papa: *smiles*

Father's Day