Note: An updated version of this post was published on The Good Men Project on 3/6/2013. This blog has been amended to reflect those slight changes.
On Monday, I found myself front-and-center in a Huffington Post story about an "offensive" (their word - not mine) tweet that came from the Playskool twitter account last Friday. While the tweet in question certainly didn't "offend" me, I found it to be curious and out-of-character coming from a public mouthpiece of a brand beloved by children and parents alike for generations. The public lashing that has followed deserves a little clarity to prevent it from becoming more overblown than it's already become.
The tweet from Playskool asked: "Does Dad ever have a day where he's in charge?" A screenshot of the tweet and the first few responses can be found below...
My response (quoted in the Huffington Post Parents article - which I sincerely appreciate) was : "Not sure where the question is coming from, but as a work-at-home Dad, I'd say every day - unless the kids are actually 'in charge.'"
There was no real context surrounding the tweet, so I was just curious what was actually being asked. After dealing with brands and social media for quite some time, I could see an opening for a storm of criticism, and that's exactly what they got. Indeed, the poor soul that happened to be running the Playskool twitter on Friday had unknowingly opened the gates to twitter Hell. I asked some fellow "Dad Bloggers" what they made of the tweet, and also fired off a quick email to my Playskool contact over at the PR firm who often handles the brand. I asked if they were handling the twitter account, and let them know that the tweet was starting to stir "Parent Bloggers" (Moms and Dads alike) in the wrong direction. They responded - thanking me for the alert - but also informing me that they "don't handle social media for Playskool."
The reality: The tweet from Playskool wasn't/isn't that big a deal.
If anyone was genuinely "offended" by it, they fall into that "overly sensitive" category that I've mentioned here in the past. At the same time, brands need to start addressing "PARENTS" and do away with this "Mom" and "Dad" stuff. All types of parents are involved with their kids, and all types of parents buy toys. I mentioned this previously when looking over some marketing materials from CRAYOLA out of Toy Fair, and I actually do have a response from CRAYOLA that I still need to post. The big difference here is that what I found from Crayola arrived in an official press release - what came from Playskool was a simple tweet. It wasn't part of a larger ad campaign, nor was there some "Anti-Dad" company stance. Playskool has been good to Dads in the past, just as Canadian Dad pointed out when he linked to the image displayed to the right of this text. That was posted on the Playskool Facebook Page the day before the infamous tweet.
Where did Playskool's social media folks fail? It was in how they responded to questions and criticism of the tweet.
In the circles of "Dad Bloggers" which I currently travel, the overwhelming thought is that Playskool should've just owned up to the fact that the tweet was weird, and said they're sorry on twitter. One more simple tweet to put the audience at ease. Instead, what followed was a barrage of individual responses to a few dozen twitter followers, each giving a slightly different, and most certainly unfocused response. It was sloppy, and in some cases hastily tossed-out with typos in place. Some users were being asked to DM Playskool, while others were not. Instead of issuing one well-thought tweet to end it all, they allowed their public timeline to be consumed in an apologetic mess. Go back to the original tweet, and look at the first response, followed by a chipper retort by someone at Playskool. It just doesn't make sense. What also doesn't make a lot of sense is the reaction by some folks shaking their virtual fists while chanting "We're never buying your toys again!" As soon as their little ones want a Sit 'N Spin, they'll be buying.
I've interacted with folks from Playskool via The Rock Father on Facebook on several occasions, and all of my dealings have been pleasant. Even looking at both of their profiles today, how they handle FB vs. twitter seems like two different "voices" entirely.
Playskool is a division of Hasbro, and they know better. There's larger and far more important battles out there to be fought, and the Playskool tweet is a prime example of how something small (that was probably supposed to be silly) can be pushed to a totally different level. Sure, Parent Bloggers responded via twitter, but none of them took the time to write any kind of "outraged" blog about the situation. It happened on a Friday and would've been a memory by Monday had it not gotten a big media push to put it in front of an audience that would've otherwise missed it. It even got a segment on the Huffington Post Live Show today:
The internet trolls are having a field day while poking at the pseudo fiasco, and this probably isn’t the last we’ll hear about this situation. Five days out and other sites and blogs have started picking up on it. Meanwhile, an odd silence took place on the Playskool twitter account. They started off the week in a “business as usual” fashion, but went ominously silent after the story made headlines. By Tuesday night, the silence had broken and normal tweets started slowly rolling out once more. Then, a DM from Playskool arrived in my inbox: “Hi James, we’d like to apologize for our tweet on Friday. Could you please send us your mailing address so that we can get in touch?” I shared my contact information, and added that I thought the entire situation had escalated far beyond what it ever should have. On the other end, the person represented by the bright red oval typed two words and a smiley: “Thank You :)“
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About James: A work-from-home Dad with a pair of daughters (Released in 2009 and 2012) - James Zahn is THE ROCK FATHER™.
Bringing over two decades of experience in the entertainment industry into the family realm, Zahn is an Illinois-based Entertainment Writer, Media Personality, Commentator, Adventurer and Raconteur.
Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as co-manager and video director for Napalm Records' PRODUCT OF HATE.
James and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, G4, The Chicago Tribune, Blogcritics, Fangoria, Starlog, The River Cities' Reader. Slowfish, Oil, and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360, has been quoted in BusinessWire, CNN and Babble, in addition to making appearances on ABC News, WGN and more. In the past he served as a PBS KIDS VIP (Very Involved Parent), penned articles for Sprout, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.
Learn more here.