A TV ad showing a computer-illiterate father getting chided for trying to help his Internet-savvy daughter with her homework has roused the anger of fatherhood activists (search), who are calling on Verizon to take it off the air.
"Leave her alone," says the wife/mother in the Verizon DSL ad, ordering her befuddled husband to go wash the dog as the daughter, doing research on the computer, conveys a look of exasperation with her father.
"It's really outrageous," said Joe Kelly, executive director of the national advocacy group Dads and Daughters (search).
"It's reflective of some deeply entrenched cultural attitudes — that fathers are second-class parents, that they're not really necessary," Kelly said. "To operate from the assumption that dad is a dolt is harmful to fathers, harmful to children, and harmful to mothers."
John Bonomo, a Verizon spokesman, said Tuesday the ad has been running for several months. But only a few days ago did it come to the attention of Glenn Sacks (search), a commentator who hosts a weekly radio show aired in Los Angeles and Seattle that is sympathetic to the fathers' rights movement.
After watching the ad, Sacks began urging listeners of "His Side" to protest to Verizon — contending that the company would not have commissioned a comparable ad with the parents' genders reversed. He said more than 1,100 protest e-mails had been sent through his show's Web site to Verizon within the first two days of the campaign.
"By denigrating that guy, not simply with his wife but to show him to be useless with his little daughter, I know that made a lot of people see red," said Sacks, who has a school-age daughter of his own.
Bonomo said Verizon had received numerous calls and e-mails in the past couple of days about the ad, but had not yet decided on what sort of response might be made.
"All we can say at this point is we're looking at it," he said. "We take our feedback and customer comments quite seriously. We're obviously dismayed that some customers find one of our commercials offensive."
Kelly, who has engaged Dads and Daughters in several campaigns protesting ads, said corporate executives should try to imagine their own families being portrayed in their company's commercials.
"If you get the powers-that-be to put their own child's face in the picture, you've accomplished something." he said. "You can't stop being a father when you go out the front door."
Both Sacks and Kelly believe fathers have become easy targets for mockery from ad agencies that are now wary of offending women and racial minorities.
Jenny Thalheimer, a spokeswoman for the National Organization for Women, said NOW still receives many complaints about ads denigrating women.
"These Madison Avenue companies are under the gun," she said. "To even out their disparagement of women, they have to take on the men now and then."