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Meguiar’s Polish. A 30-car-pileup-of-offensiveness in one :15 ad.

There’s two kinds of unsuccessful attempts at humor when it comes to advertising. Spots that try to be funny and fall flat, and spots that try to be funny and come off as completely tone deaf, insulting everyone involved. The newest Meguiar’s Polish spot is the latter.

If you haven’t caught it during one of the many times it’s aired during the NBA Playoffs, let me give you a synopsis. Pregnant wife is in labor, peeks into garage to tell car-obsessed husband that the baby’s coming — which makes him opt for the “faster” Meguiar’s polish, while she looks on lovingly (because that’s the look of a woman in labor). He looks lovingly at the polish, not wife, while the announcer says, “We know sometimes other things come first.”

Which thing is coming first here, exactly? Is it supposed to be the wife and the baby? Because it seems like it’s the husband and his CAR. Hospital scene concludes with new Dad chomping on a cigar while he and the male doctor look out at his recently polished car through the hospital window.

It’s impressive how many insulting stereotypes this brand has managed to cram into 15 seconds. Dad-to-be comes off as an idiot because he has a baby literally on the way and his first concern is the mirror-like finish of his vehicle. Mom-to-be comes off as an idiot because she also appears to be in adoring support of her husband’s skewed priorities. And Meguiar’s swoops in as the “hero” of this scenario?

Now I KNOW this was designed to be an over-the-top way to make a point — Meguiar’s has an Ultimate Quik Wax that you can use in 15 minutes or less. But when I’m so turned off by the brand, it doesn’t matter that I got the product message. When I see these kinds of ads, I wonder who saw this concept and approved it. Marketers and ad agencies need to hold themselves to a higher standard than just delivering the product benefit in a “creative” way. And remember that every piece of communication is an opportunity to elevate the brand. Or damage it.

Humor can be very effective for a brand. Humor works well when it taps into a truth, sometimes taking that truth and pushing it to the extreme. This brand decided to tap into a tired cliché (men neglect their families and love their cars) and push that to the extreme instead. NOT FUNNY. NOT WORKING.

It takes a lot of people to make an ad. This 15-second kebab skewer of bad decisions should never have happened. We started June Cleaver is Dead because we believe brands can do better when it comes to marketing to moms. But that goes for marketing to dads too — drop the worn-out stereotypes already and give us all a bit more credit. Because no one in this ad looks good — least of all, Meguiar’s.

I give this ad a ...


Update: from what we can tell, it looks like Meguiar’s pulled this ad within days of this post being published– from broadcast TV, their YouTube channel, and as their pinned tweet on Twitter. So thankfully you won’t be seeing this ad anymore, unless you choose to, right here. 

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AD/JUDICATED: Congratulations! It’s a trick.

I was recently sent a link to this super-smart sounding new Volvo XC40 campaign featuring pregnant women and I was thrilled. Pregnant women are seriously underrepresented in advertising, and if they’re included at all, as a 2017 PopSugar article pointed out, “pregnancy is either used as part of a punchline, to sell something related to babies, or to convey a feeling of wholesome family goodness.” So a campaign for a car brand built around safety, featuring only pregnant women, seemed a step in the right direction.

Then I read further. The agency worked with Volvo of North Miami to hold a casting call for pregnant women to be in their ads, with the goal of SUBTLY SELLING THEM THE CARS AS THEY MEMORIZED THE LINES FOR THE ADS.

So you’re bringing in pregnant women to be in a commercial — okay, I’m with you so far — and then you prey on their fears and discomfort and possibly even hot flashes to persuade them into taking a test drive?

Are you meconium-ing me? (I’ll let you look that one up, non-parents.)

To quote the CCO of the highly awarded agency responsible for the stunt, “We didn’t know if the ‘experiment’ would work because it was all about waiting for the future moms to react and think about getting a Volvo as a result of exposing them to the cars, the sales agents and most importantly, the safety features.” 

Wait. Did you say “sales agents?” So, you put sales pressure on pregnant women who came in to audition for an ad? What level of agent “exposure” are we talking here? “Take a look around!” exposure, or “Keep on her till she starts having Braxton-Hicks contractions” exposure? 

Yes, we’re in the business of connecting with people to sell things that will help solve their unique problems. (In this case, safe cars for safety-conscious, pregnant moms.) But this stunt seems like the definition of bait and switch.

The short videos of the pregnant women trying to memorize their lines and making color commentary on the Volvo XC40 features are actually charming and effective. And if that was the concept, it would be a smart and compelling campaign. But knowing the ulterior motive was to trick these women into test-driving and buying the cars seems to reinforce the stereotype that advertisers are no better than car salesmen (sorry, salespeople.)

That’s why I give this campaign/stunt a 1 for Offensive. The concept of featuring real pregnant women is smart and inclusive. Secretly taking advantage of them as a captive audience is dishonest and icky.

Of course, all that is subjective. The real issue with this campaign is a simple fact. When you look at the credits, there isn’t a single female creative (pregnant or otherwise) on the team.

And that alone should have given everyone involved in this project — both client and agency side — pause. A big ol’ pregnant one.

Making lists is a lifestyle shift

Ask a mom how she tackles motherhood today and she’ll probably mention efficiencies. It’s not like she got the title CHO (Chief Household Officer) for nothing. Understanding the shifts in women’s lives from pre-child to parent is an important thing for marketers to acknowledge. According to recent reports by Mintel, women feel a shift in their lifestyle more acutely than men after having a child. No matter the amount of preparation, insanity ensues once their child arrives. Managing their time becomes a priority, so they start to adopt new behaviors to survive the hectic nature of new motherhood. Things like making a grocery list, meal planning, coupon clipping, and making schedules are all behaviors that marketers could acknowledge and help them create efficiencies.

The Reality of Moms as Breadwinners

Women’s earnings and economic contributions to their families continue to grow in importance, and black women in particular tend to take on a huge amount of their households’ financial burden. For instance, three-quarters of black women holding breadwinner status are doing it alone. Black moms are more likely than other moms to say that providing for their families makes them feel like a “super-mom.” This reality should be reflected in how motherhood is portrayed in advertising. Simply casting black women in ads is not enough. Marketers must go further to faithfully represent their reality, showing the full scope of their dual role as breadwinner and caregiver.

The Atlantic
Mintel, 2017

Single moms are the new norm. What does that mean for your "mom" target?


single-mom image.jpg

If your marketing targets moms, then what you don’t know could hurt your bottom line.

Here’s an eye-opening stat: 57% of millennial moms are single moms. That’s more than 16 million of the women in the U.S. making 100% of household purchases. The math is undeniable!

Here are four insights that could unlock massive opportunities for marketers who take them to heart:

Stereotypes about single moms are NOT reality.

The sweeping stereotype that single moms are broken, can’t make ends meet, and desperate because they don’t have a wedded partner is FALSE. Turns out that single moms are more like married and partnered moms than they are different. In fact, 58% of single moms have attended college or have at least a bachelor’s degree. Many choose single motherhood, are co-parenting, and kicking butt at being a mom. They are powerful consumers who demand your brand’s attention and want to see themselves accurately represented in your advertising.

“I feel very aware of the perceptions of single moms and I feel they are overwhelmingly negative.” (Faith, mother of 3)

“When people think single moms, they think working three or four jobs and not making ends meet. I have a great career, I can afford a house.” (Lori, mother of 1)

Stereotypes alienate people. When a brand portrays single moms in ways that don’t reflect their lives, they turn away from it. Research the single moms in your target audience, find out how they actually live, and write that into your briefs. Then go a step further and make sure that your work shows single moms working, having fun with their kids, and living full lives. If every mom in your advertising is married, white and wearing a cardigan, then you’re missing something.

Single moms have an identity outside of “mom”.

The single moms we talked to have interests outside of raising children. They work hard at their jobs, they’re involved in their communities, and they take time for themselves. They indulge with beauty treatments, make time for hobbies, eat meals out alone, and go out with friends. Any experience they can have without their children can become a treat.

“We make time for ourselves, we do things for ourselves. It’s about balancing life …. You have to have time for yourself and your own identity.” (Lori, mother of 1)

“My mother taught me that a happy mom is a happy house. So, if you’re not happy, that is something that should take priority and it’s ok to take priority.” (Faith, mother of 3)

Your brand should add value to their busy lives.

Single moms don’t have time to shop, compare prices, or read labels, so they stick with brands they trust for consistent quality and value. They’re creative in making the most of their time and money, and they appreciate brands that help them with that. And while they watch their spending, they still often prioritize convenience, quality, healthy choices, and style. They’re loyal to brands that provide these because it gives them much-needed short cuts when shopping.

“The pace of being a single mom … is mania. It’s constant.” (Faith, mother of 3)

“Time is not on your side when you are the only income in the household, things have to run as smooth as possible.” (Mara, mother of 3)

Single moms are fiercely passionate and dedicated to raising good humans.

We also talked to the kids of single moms. We found that they are independent, well-adjusted, and financially and personally responsible. They’re proud of their mothers and respect what they do. And single moms are very intentional about giving their children the tools to become successful adults. They invite other adults into their children’s lives from family and the community. They think about parenting, they’re self-aware, and they seek information about being better parents. They’re also honest and they want spaces where they can talk with other moms about the real-life experiences and difficulties they face.

“I honestly can’t really tell you what it feels like to be raised by a single mom because my mom, she really filled both positions (of mom and dad), flawlessly. There’s a lot to my mom that even I didn’t see because that’s how she carries herself because she’s not dependent on anyone.” (Mara’s teenaged son)

“I wanted Ella to have an equal playing field with kids in her school when she started kindergarten. So, I scrimped and saved to buy us a house.” (Lori, mother of 1)

Single moms are a major economic force. Marketers who ask them about their lives, listen to their answers, offer solutions to their problems, and move past stereotypes can win their long-term loyalty — and a lot of their hard-earned dollars. 


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32 and Trying



Women spend years trying to avoid getting “knocked up.” Thanks to shows like MTV’s 16 and Pregnant, my generation was scared shitless of becoming a teen-mom statistic. But due to (formerly) open access to birth control and family planning, prevention wasn’t difficult. In fact, in the 2000s it was so accessible that 99% of sexually active women used a contraceptive at some point in that decade.

Now fast forward 10–15 years. You’re in your mid 20s to early 30s — the prime target for anyone trying to market to moms, as the average age of a first-time mother is around 26. Every statistic ladders up to the fact that it’s the right time for you to be thinking about starting a family. You live a healthy lifestyle, you’ve established a good career, and you’re in a healthy relationship. You have the perfect starter home and an adorable dog running around in the backyard. Every weekend is filled with another wedding or baby shower celebrating another amazing person starting a new chapter in their life. You’re watching your friends have their first kid. Then their second. Sometimes even their third. Sounds amazing, right? Why not join in on the fun? You and your partner have thought about having a family, so pull the trigger and do it (literally)! 

So what happens now that you actually want to get pregnant? When you’ve made the conscious decision to bring a human being into the world? Shouldn’t be hard, right? 


It was hard for me. And I’m not alone. According to the CDC, 10% of women in the U.S. struggle with infertility. At first pass, that 10% doesn’t seem significant, but when you do the math, that’s almost 6.1 million women affected.

And just because I wasn’t pregnant didn’t mean I wasn’t bombarded on a daily basis with reminders from advertisers that I should be. Early on I welcomed ads reminding me how much I wanted a baby, but they soon became painful reminders of my struggle to conceive.

Don’t get me wrong, the marketer side of me wasn’t upset these brands were targeting me, because on paper, I fit their perfect-mom profile. But it left me wondering. If one misinterpreted detail of my life can completely skew the type of advertising that would be relevant to me, what other ways are marketers getting it wrong with women and probably wasting a lot of their media budget?

Spoiler alert! It turns out that women are more complex than marketers give them credit for — with or without children.

From a targeting standpoint, women of “childrearing” age have a high propensity to be moms, but as the trend for women choosing to be childless rises, almost half of the women in this age group aren’t your target. As societal norms continue to change, so should ad targeting. Being efficient can save you a lot of money, so it’s imperative — and not just for all the women who roll their eyes when they see your diaper ad — that you look more closely at the quality of the impressions your ads are getting, not just the quantity.

You should be asking the following questions to ensure your ad spend is more than just well-intentioned: How much do you know about the impressions your ads are getting? How are behavioral considerations applied to your targeting? Where can your ad spend get smarter?

Just 10 years ago many of the targeting tactics that brands employ today weren’t available, but now the tools and the people are so much smarter. Now we can connect behavioral searches and retargeting and we can layer on behaviors to get so incredibly specific that if I had googled “why am I having trouble getting pregnant”, many brands would quickly remove me from the retargeting list because they’d know I wasn’t with child. Searching online for an adorable onesie shouldn’t make me a bullseye for your baby formula display ads — I bought it for my nephew!

Luckily for me and my husband, I did eventually get pregnant, but what about the rest of the women who were in the same shoes? In a world where brands pride themselves on connecting emotionally with their consumers, we should put just as much effort into where that message shows up and who’s receiving it. Brands can do better, and should. It’s good for business.


Women's Health


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AD/JUDICATED: My Little Pony Social Experiment Gone Right




I’ll be honest, I don’t love most “social experiment” commercials. I don’t love them because I often feel like they’re pandering. I don’t love them because, coming from a production background, I know that even “real” people have been cast, directed, edited, etc., and they make my authenticity bells and whistles LIGHT UP. (I’m looking at YOU, Dove “Real Beauty” campaign). And most of all, I don’t love them because besides pushing product, they don’t seem to have a point.

Remember that Heineken commercial, “Open Your World,” where they brought together two people with opposing ideologies for a chat to see if they could find common ground? I didn’t love that because it felt like this beer company was simplifying a social movement of inclusion and acceptance TO SELL BEER.

Maybe it’s my mom-brain talking, but for me, social experiments work when the participants are authentic and viewers LEARN from them. We should come out of a social experiment enlightened — like when Always asked kids what it meant to them to #throwlikeagirl.

And it’s for this reason that I actually really LIKED Hasbro’s My Little Pony “Friendship is Magic” social experiment spot. The crux is that parents (both dads AND moms) went to their kids’ elementary school for parent-teacher conferences, but instead of talking to their kids’ teachers, they talk to their kids’ best friends.

A lot of the time, success as a parent is determined by our kids’ achievements, e.g., the number of languages they speak by the age of five, how early they learned to walk and talk — and you get extra parental points if your kid can pee in the toilet BEFORE he or she can walk or talk. Is that gross? My kid is three and we just finished potty training. It’s tragically top of mind.

I digress.

We live in an age where grades are more important than kindness to most parents, and it’s wildly refreshing to see a toy brand (that used to only target girls, extra points for gender equality!) turn that paradigm inside out by not only removing test scores from the conversation, but replacing them with achievements in empathy and kindness — from the mouths of our babes.

This commercial resonated with me. It made me feel good, and even better, it made me feel like a good PARENT — because kindness and respect are BIG deals in my house. I loved that both dads and moms were represented in the conferences. I loved that the spot cast pairs of boys and girls, girls and girls, and boys and boys all as best friends. I loved the subtle messages of girls telling their parents that they were running for school president (shatter that glass ceiling, girlfriend!) mixed in with the larger message of being a good sport. I loved that a boy was talking about his friend’s empathy. I loved that this was a My Little Pony commercial that included boys at all (my son is pretty obsessed with My Little Ponies and told us he wants a blue-haired unicorn for his birthday and NOT a plastic one, mind you, a REAL ONE).

And I loved that Hasbro didn’t fill the social experiment spot with branding. There’s just an end card featuring the ponies with the caption “Friendship is Magic.” It’s a simple correlation that aligns really well with the message of the spot (friendship IS magic!). And besides making me feel like I just might be doing something right as a parent, it made a great point about what we should be learning in school — and from good advertising.  


Middle Ageless

I hit the big "5-0" this year. In the 6-month lead-up to the birthday, a continuous stream of pressure came from my mom friends to do something EPIC. Like a gang of genies wanting to activate my biggest bucket-listy wishes, they wouldn’t just let me quietly contemplate the meaning of life. They demanded action.

As I look around me at the behavior of middle-aged moms, I’m witnessing a youthful-like spontaneity and spike in creativity that continues well after the 50th birthday.

Society has pegged middle age as a marker for decline. And a generation ago, moms’ attitudes toward middle age was rooted in the fear of being irrelevant, invisible, frumpy, and no longer physically strong or sexy.

But as women are having children later and have gained more control over life choices compared to a generation ago, are attitudes toward middle-aging changing? Is there an attitudinal rebirth going on?

I look at the data. An observational, anthropological study of my Facebook feed reveals mom friends crushing middle-age stereotypes. Physical, spiritual, and give-back activities and epic experiences abound. My feed is a barrage of moms running Icelandic Ultra 50Ks, hiking R2R (rim-to-rim) in the Grand Canyon, doing downward-facing dog on amazing Costa Rican beaches, marching loudly in the streets of their cities with their daughters and sons, or going on international volunteer missions to bring clean water to third world countries. Meanwhile, skincare brands clog the feed with “age-defying” claims about their creams and serums — society’s negative reminder (buzzkill) that AGE is something to be conquered.

Data shows that 90% of middle-aged moms consider themselves to have a much younger attitude than their own mothers’ generation at the same age.

In a recent study done by the UK Telegraph, 96% of women over 40 don’t feel middle-aged at all. The study found that 80% felt society’s assumptions about middle-aged women do not represent how they live their lives. What does that mean for moms? Most women are moms by middle age, so it means a lot. Brands should pay attention to these new attitudes toward middle life. The majority report using products aimed at younger women!

Yet here is the chasm: Moms are feeling as vibrant and young as they ever have — in the prime of life, not defining themselves by age. But all those brands sitting upon their “Age-Defying” positioning aren’t up to speed with modern mom. She’s actively embracing age. Brands need to get on board with her or get out of her way.

I conveyed this concept of middle-agelessness to my 19-year-old daughter recently when a box from Urban Outfitters showed up at our door and she snagged it, assuming it was hers.  “That bomber jacket is for me,” I told her. “So cute,” she said, “but when did you start shopping at Urban?”

The truth is that she’s been dragging me and my Visa there for many years — for dances, holidays and birthdays. Little did she know I was so captivated by the whole bralette movement that, unbeknownst to her, I bought one for myself. But I stopped short of buying Urban Outfitter’s “premium high-rise jeans” aka mom jeans. Those never looked good on anyone and the irony would be lost on my daughter!

Moms and daughters seem to relate to and influence one another with regard to brands. My daughter and I both enjoy similar food, the same Netflix series, and we often discover and swap apps via iCloud like LimeBikes, car2go, Lyft. And we love to find the perfect AirBnB, sharing photos in our cart before booking.

So if a “youthful” brand like Urban is attractive to me, I wanted to know if other moms were shopping there. That could have implications for brands seeking to engage moms with an ageless mindset. I looked in Simmons’ syndicated research to see if I could challenge my daughter’s perceptions and validate my hunch. Urban radically over-indexes among 18–24-year-olds. No surprise there — they are 4X as likely to shop there. But support drops among 35–44-year-olds who are half as likely. While the brand shows a RALLY among moms ages 45–54. These middle-agers are 24% more likely to shop there. Hunch validated!

Moving beyond Urban Outfitters, I found that Spotify published something interesting they found in their data. Their great tracking metrics saw something unpredictable in their analysis of middle-agers. They found a specific point when middle-aged listeners drop their sophisticated singer-songwriters, their “best of the 80s, 90s and today,” and spontaneously start listening to teen pop. That age is 42.

Video game ads by Untitled Worldwide, show an array of middle-aged women, including a school mom and a female executive in a presentation, responding to a siren with some action-hero-style moves and joining forces to hunt down a criminal. The gaming brand’s research found that 80% of active players are women ages 30–55. It’s significant because the middle-aged female demographic is often left out of video game culture, often stereotyped as fans of puzzle games like Candy Crush rather than action games.

I also checked in on Hollywood middle-aged moms like Brooke Shields and Julia Roberts, both of whom seem to be giving middle age the middle finger. Calvin Klein just signed Brooke, proof that denim isn’t just for a clique of youthful models. And People magazine recently named Julia Roberts as the World’s Most Beautiful Woman 2017, 26 years after she first made the list! Julia also refused to get a facelift. She prefers more natural methods of feeling younger, including studying yoga and “decluttering” her life. “There’s a lightness to my life now — an airy quality of not taking things too seriously,” she said, “That's happiness.”

Youthful spirit. Sexy. Curious. Spontaneous. Health-and-wellness seeking. These are behaviors marketers often associate with millennials. But moms are both at their peak financial power and feeling in the prime of life, staying relevant to technology, fashion, culture. And recognizing that presents us with a great opportunity to relate to their optimism and help them rewrite the rules of middle-aging.

“Thirty years ago, there were clear-cut rules about how a woman should look after a certain age,” says Poupak Sionit, CMO of GlamSquad, an app that allows users to order hair and makeup services to their doors on short notice. “But those lines are very blurred right now.” It’s not about age anymore. It’s about what makes you feel good.

Moms are crushing the middle-age label and so should brands.


The Telegraph
Simmons Market Research

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