It's time to lose the stereotypes

Talking about the difficult side of parenthood is crucial

da India Fizer , AdForum

Dark Horses
London, Regno Unito
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Steve Howell
Executive Creative Director Dark Horses

In the latest installment of our 'Modern Parenting' series, we chat with Steve Howell, ECD at Dark Horses, about the much-needed shift to depicting more diverse family narratives, and areas that still need greater visibility.


How has the depiction of parenthood in advertising evolved? 

The traditional representation of mom and dad has obviously evolved as the industry challenges itself to show more diversity and inclusion. In any montage of parents, you will now see same sex couples, multi-racial couples, single parents and the broad spectrum of what the reality of modern society looks like.

With that, the archetypal roles of parents have changed too. Dad coming home from work just as Mom serves up the McCain oven chips along with the rest of dinner hasn’t been seen for years. John Lewis showed us another side of fatherhood last Christmas. And McDonald’s has shown us other beautiful insights in recent years.


How are agencies and brands adapting ad comms to inclusivity around parenting?

By losing the stereotypes and being more insightful about what parenting is actually like.


In what ways does your role as a parent inform your work?

Only in the way it informs general life and the empathy you have for everyone. You can see everyone as a child and think of everyone having parents somewhere thinking of them and wishing the best. 

You want your children to be proud of you and the work you do, so when a brief lands on your desk that might help influence the world to be a better place it has even more significance.

And of course, gathering insights for any baby-related brands is a lot easier too.


What are some areas regarding parenthood that you feel could use more visibility in advertising?

The post-maternity leave phase needs far more visibility. Returning to work, especially for first-time moms, can be an extremely difficult transition. Your life has been turned upside down as it is, then you’re expected to align to the atypical day in the life of someone in advertising with the unpredictable diary of a new-born baby.

The balance of career and motherhood is something far too many people struggle with yet far too few of us talk about. There are a lot of parents that work at Dark Horses, many being first-timers, so there’s a precedent that’s been set that kids come first. We block out our diaries around sensitive times, there’s a parents slack channel and we try to ensure everyone has the support they need to balance work and parenthood, whilst making it a welcoming environment for anyone thinking of having kids.


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? 

 As long as they do it with insight and authenticity, they should be able to do it easily.