Parenthood is one of the most challenging, but rewarding jobs

Ogilvy Chicago's Head of Strategy delineates their inclusive approach to depicting parents beyond one-dimensional tropes

by India Fizer , AdForum

Ogilvy Chicago
Full Service
Chicago, United States
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Piper Dolan
Head of Strategy, Chicago Ogilvy Chicago

Piper Dolan, Head of Strategy at Ogilvy Chicago, firmly believes in fusing brands with culture to create authentic and creative experiences. This honest approach cultivates continuous learning and development, and allows them to better connect with the target audience. 


How has the depiction of parenthood in advertising evolved? 

Advertising has evolved beyond one-dimension in the way it depicts the way we look, the way we live, the way we parent. Perfectly-styled hetero moms and dads in pristine homes with adorable kids frolicking across manicured yards doesn’t look much like reality. Parenthood in advertising now embraces a more diverse and authentic approach. Advertisers have woken up to the fact that families come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. We’ve realized that we aren’t just selling products or services, we’re owning our responsibility to avoid lazy tropes and focus on painting honest narratives people can actually relate to. And while we’ve come a long way in the way we portray parenthood, let’s not break out the champagne just yet. Advertisers need to keep pushing and challenging the status-quo and keep up with the ever-changing face of what it means to be a family.  


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

Representing diverse families, challenging gender stereotypes, embracing non-traditional parenting roles, celebrating parenting challenges and triumphs – are all ways agencies and brands are starting to do this. But here’s the thing, it’s not just about how we’re doing it, it’s about why. As strategists, we're the ones responsible…for being responsible. This applies to how we represent parents and kiddos and the messages we send them. Parenting is not one-size fits all. We’ve brought more inclusive learning and thinking further upstream in the strategic process so that we aren’t just checking an optics box.


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

A whole heck of a lot. Being a parent gives me a ton of first-hand experience to draw from, but oh, do I have to check myself sometimes to avoid being my own focus group of one. That said, I’m a big believer in the power of empathy and having a deep understanding of who our audience is when it comes to developing creative strategies. Being a parent has upped my game in a few areas: Practical problem-solving, emotional understanding, multitasking, even using humor as a tool. Parenting is one of the most challenging jobs in the world, but the joy, personal growth, and new purpose it uncovers makes it one of the most rewarding.


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

Stay-at-home dads, co-parenting, blended families, families with members who have disabilities - we must continue to broaden how we represent families in advertising. If I had to single out one area it would be the role of mental health in families. Broadly, we’ve started to destigmatize it, but we need to show its importance within the household. Parents have plenty to worry about, but we must reinforce that prioritizing their own mental health is an act of caring for their family. Then, of course, their kids’ mental health. We know the negative impacts social media can have on kids. Ogilvy recently worked with Dove to illustrate them in the Cost of Beauty campaign. Parents need to be better equipped to deal with these issues, especially since many of us are navigating an experience we didn’t have growing up.


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?

It’s not enough to toss these roles into the messaging, we must consider them from the outset of the strategic process. For me as a strategist, that means being inclusive of their world in the research we conduct, the insights we craft and the strategy we ultimately develop. That way, the creative ideas that emerge includes them from the beginning versus simply featuring them in the work. We should be celebrating parenting in all its many forms and see legal guardians and other parental figures for the parents they truly are.