In 1973, a postage stamp cost 8 cents, “The Brady Bunch” was in its fourth year of production and I was in kindergarten.
My teacher, Ms. Rahn, was a tall, thin woman with overly teased, brassy blond hair. We kids walked to school—where we read “Dick and Jane” books, ate cookies and drank whole milk before taking 20-minute naps. We sat cross-legged, in circles, on the floor while learning the virtues of sharing and waiting your turn. And nearly everyone’s parents were still married, as far as we knew.
We live in a different world today. And Honey Maid knows it.
Earlier this year, the graham cracker arm of Nabisco (owned by Mondelez Int’l.) launched an ad campaign designed to appeal to a generation that values diversity. Honey Maid’s “This is Wholesome” line of advertisements features same sex couples, interracial couples and now? Drumroll, please: stepfamilies.
It seems that the marketing folks at Honey Maid did some demographic research and learned what stepfamily advocates have known all along—stepfamilies are becoming the norm.
- 40% of all adults in America belong to a stepfamily1
- 1 out of every 3 weddings in the U.S. results in a stepfamily2
- 1300 new stepfamilies are formed every day3
Despite its repeat use of the heavily-contested term “blended,” it’s commendable for Honey Maid to reach out to this enormous, growing segment of the population. *
Kudos to them for being brave enough to shine a light on divorce and remarriage while other retailers, greeting card companies and primetime talk shows ignore the fact that less than half their audience lives in the white-picket, 2.5-child, black-lab-owning, suburban dream world they perpetuate.
There’s only one snafu (and it pains me to say this, because I love s’mores as much as the next stepmom): Their newest commercial doesn’t truly speak to stepfamilies, because it doesn’t paint a realistic picture of the average stepfamily.
Don’t believe me? Ask almost any child of divorce if they agree with Isaac—the little boy in Honey Maid’s latest ad (curiously labeled a documentary), who declares “I have two moms and I’ve got two dads,” and you’ll see what I mean. Better yet, ask any biological mom if their child’s stepmother is a second mom. Then duck and run!
Do divorced couples happily celebrate at joint birthday parties and shared holidays? Some do. Are there kids who can love their stepparents freely, without fear of hurting their biological parents’ feelings? A few. But, the truth is? The vast majority of stepfamilies simply don’t look, or act, anything like Isaac’s family.
In fact, this ad may do more harm than good.
Because, despite its intentions, Isaac and his extended and “blended” family have the potential to make the rest of us feel as if we’re doing something terribly wrong. Or worse, as if we’ve failed to “blend” when we’re unable to successfully cohabitate with one another and/or amicably co-parent with our exes.
Here’s the ad I wish Honey Maid had created:
Kids. Sitting around a campfire. As they talk, the camera pans between their faces and the individual ingredients of the s’mores they’re building. They swap stories about how long their parents have been divorced. They agree that dual birthday and Christmas celebrations are a perk. They confess that their stepparents, in reality, are pretty cool.
They joke about how annoying their stepsiblings’ behaviors are. They confide that, while they sometimes wish their parents were still together, they realize they’re lucky to be surrounded by lots of people who care about them—even if they don’t show it. The camera cuts to a dad and his wife who, overhearing the conversation as they approach with another tray of s’more ingredients, smile at one another.
It’s obvious to them—and to the viewing audience—that these kids are #NotBroken.
IT’S YOUR TURN! Share you thoughts with me in the comments below.
* Blending and blended are terms marketers love, but stepfamily experts dislike for its implication that melding together—looking and/or acting like a first family—is the only way to actually be a family. And there is no single, right way to be a successful stepfamily.