The representation of Mothers in advertising

For mother’s day I thought I’d write about how the representation of mothers has changed in advertising. It’s a very interesting topic and I’ll cover how the representation of women has changed in another article but for now, I want to write about mothers specifically. So what has been the change?

Let’s start where I usually start, the ‘50s and ‘60s. Most women were full-time housewives with society thinking that for them, their family should come first and their own goals/ambitions should not really come at all. In ads they’re almost all white, middle/upper class, skinny and doting. Let’s face it, nobody is this simple, that’s the problem. 

They’re cliché, one dimensional but also harmful, a mother back then could have seen this ad and may have felt bad that they aren’t this idealistic mother. Nobody’s perfect and we all have our shortcomings. That’s what they fail to mention, they’re trying to sell through false promises and a good ad should never have to do that.

Ah the 1980’s, Consumerism was in, Greed was good and it was a great time to be in advertising, or so I’ve been told. A lot had changed from the ’60s but some things had not. When doing my research I actually couldn’t find too many ads directed at mothers but the one I did find that seems very well known, it’s the Oxo Lynda Bellingham ad from 1983. In this ad a mother brings her family together through a dinner made with Oxo, it does a lot of good things like make the mother and family more realistic in the way they look and talk to one another. It’s less aspirational and more relatable. The only place where I think it slips up is it still presents the mother as taking care of her family and home as her only role.

However, one print ad I saw that I really liked was this ad Johnson and Johnson ad. I think it’s more diverse than past ads while keeping its authenticity.

The 2000s really weren’t too long ago now, well we’re still in them but I’m talking specifically about the early 2000s. When I was doing my research I found something interesting which is whatever I searched for I couldn’t find many examples. I’m sure they exist but I couldn’t find any, it’s interesting as maybe it signifies a social shift in advertising? Moving away from targeting a specific demographic and targeting a broader and more diverse audience. Whether this is true or not I don’t know, it’s just a thought, and whether you think ads should be specific or broad is a topic for another time.

Finally, we have recent mothers in ads, and what do they look like? Well, more like real mothers to be honest. The ones that have stuck in my mind have been P&G’s legendary Olympic ads celebrating the mothers of Olympians and the World’s Toughest Job campaign from Cardstore.

The reason I love the P&G ads is because of the realistic depiction that being a mother isn’t always easy or glamorous as it was suggested in the ’50s/’60s Another reason is it shows just how much of an impact our mothers have on our lives all the way from childhood to adulthood, deep right? A concept that I don’t think could have or would have been explored in previous decades.

The Cardstore ad is along the same lines where it talks about the truth of being a mother and really puts all their hard work in perspective.

In conclusion, I think the shift in mothers’ representation has been looking at them honestly, showing that it’s not always easy or glamorous, but that it’s worth it. I think this honesty is spreading throughout advertising and it’s truly great to see. Despite the troubling times we currently find ourselves in, I’m still optimistic about what the future will bring, everyone stay safe, stay positive, and I hope you enjoy mother’s day.

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