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Uncles and Other Amusing Relatives

by Diane Crispell , 30.05.2012

I can’t remember what I was looking for at the time, of course, but I recently came across a humorous commercial from Clorox wherein a bemused teen girl takes issue with her less-than-hygienic Uncle Steve wearing her bathrobe. And I know that two points don’t make a trend, but when I came across another funny uncle-related ad shortly after, I sensed a theme and started to dig a little more. What I discovered is that uncles may be a viable replacement for fathers as comedic commercial fodder.

Humor in advertising can be risky business. A couple of months ago, a Huggies ad in the US was pulled and revamped almost immediately after its release because of an outcry by offended fathers and others who felt it depicted men as incompetent parents (the tagline was “Diapers so easy that even dads can’t make a mistake”).

Maybe uncles are still fair game, though, and in fact, it’s not a bad idea to incorporate them and other family members into marketing campaigns. For starters, extended family relationships are important in many consumers’ lives. Two-thirds of Americans feel a strong connection to their extended family, more than feel this way about connections to colleagues, religious groups, neighborhoods, or local, online, professional , or social groups, according to a recent Roper Reports® US study.

Extended family is also related to marketplace behavior. Fully 43% of global consumers have recommended a product or service to a relative who doesn’t live with them in the past year, ranking ahead of all other types of people in 19 of 25 countries covered in the Roper Reports Worldwide 2011 study.

Of course, it’s always important to be sensitive to the portrayal of any kind of relationship in an ad. But uncles appear to have universal acceptability as a way to showcase product benefits – especially when they’re visiting. Check out the Danish commercial featuring an apprehensive child lying in a lower bunk as hefty Uncle Bob clambers into the upper bunk. Of course, it’s an IKEA bed “tested by everyday life”, so it holds together.