Campaign

Protest Anti-Father Verizon Commercial

Nov. 7, 2004–Nov. 30, 2004

Outcome

Over 300 media outlets covered our campaign, Verizon informed protesters that "Homework" will no longer be aired, and the ad went off the air within a few weeks of our protest.

In Verizon’s commercial "The Elliotts: Homework", a father makes a fool of himself while trying to help his young daughter with her homework. The daughter rolls her eyes at her dad’s stupidity, and her mother berates her father, ordering him to "Leave her alone" and "Go wash the dog."

We asked our supporters to call and write Verizon and ask them to stop running this ad.

Why This Campaign

The campaign began with a letter to my radio show from a Texas grandma named Betty Barker. Betty wrote:

Dear Glenn:

I was very busy on your campaign against the "Boys are Stupid" T-shirts earlier this year.

I want to call your attention to a new commercial for Verizon DSL. They have a little girl of about eight working at a computer. Her dad is looking over her shoulder, looking slightly amazed. He says something silly like, ’That’s like an encyclopedia thing.’

The child says, ’It IS an encyclopedia’ and in a look which could kill, looks at her mother as if to say ’get this idiot out of here.’

The mother is standing in the doorway and tells the father to go wash the dog. He says he’s helping his daughter with her homework and stays. The mother snaps "Leave her alone!" and, when he again hesitates, she yells at him. The father is humiliated and walks away looking like a whipped puppy.

It really made me furious when I saw it. I called Verizon Corporate offices and asked for Ms. Jerri DeVard, who is the VP in charge of marketing. Her secretary was a bulldog and finally gave me to Melinda Johnson who is in Executive Customer services.

I asked her if she thought Verizon would ever make the same commercial with the roles reversed and she said that she was quite sure that they would not.

She told me that they had not received a public outcry over the ad. I assured her that there would be, because I would be contacting you. She was not familiar with you so I gave her a brief clue in, and told her about your previous successful campaigns and all the media attention the campaigns received. I told her I was sure she would be well acquainted with you shortly.

I sure hope you look into this. Thanks for all you do.

Sincerely,

Betty Barker

I read Betty’s letter on the air and thousands of our listeners and supporters called and wrote Verizon Communications protesting the insulting portrayal of the father in its commercial "Homework." Our protest was covered by over 300 newspapers and media outlets. The Verizon ad’s message is clear, and it’s a common one on the TV screen—dad is dumb, dad is useless, mom is smarter than dad, hell, even an eight year-old girl is smarter than dad.

One ad would not elicit such fervent responses from so many men and women of all ages were it not symptomatic of a larger problem in our society—the denigration of males in popular culture, and the decline of fatherhood.

Some letters have been from boys as young as twelve who see and are disturbed by negative portrayals of males. One grandmother wrote of her seven year-old grandson, who announced one day that "mothers are smart, fathers are not." When the surprised grandmother asked him where he learned that, he replied "on TV."

Other supporters are men who shoulder a male double burden rarely mentioned—working long hours to be the family’s primary breadwinner, yet at the same time struggling to play a substantial role in their children’s day to day lives. One of these fathers told Verizon, "when I look around I see men working 50 hours a week or more to support their families, and still managing to help their children with their homework, read them bedtime stories, and be fine role models. Why can’t I see any men like that when I turn on the TV?"

Still other protests have come from divorced or separated fathers who have been pushed to the margins of their children’s lives. The image of a father being berated while trying to help his child with homework—and then of the child siding with the mother in their mutual contempt for dad—struck a chord with many of these dispossessed dads. Today one out of every three American children lives apart from his or her father.

The fact that the father is being humiliated by and in front of his daughter also fuels the fire. One father sent me his letter of protest to Verizon, adding "I never knew what love really was until I had a daughter." I understood. Of all the bonds between family members, those between fathers and daughters are often the most tender. Yet at the same time, these bonds can be the most tenuous. Many protesters have written to me of the father-daughter bond that was, but that didn’t survive divorce, separation, or time.

Some of my critics, such as radio personalities Tony Snow and Dori Munson, say that it’s only a commercial, and that we’re overreacting. Yet we all agree that it’s harmful to portray women as incapable of doing men’s jobs, or blacks as being unable to achieve what whites can achieve. Why would the same principles not apply to the denigration of fathers? It is with this in mind that many mental health professionals have publicly endorsed our campaign and condemned the ad.

Susan Lee of the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board accuses me of "working with a really outmoded notion of patriarchy." But is it "patriarchal" to respect a mother’s or father’s parental authority and dignity?

As I told listeners when I announced the campaign, I’m sure that Verizon does not mean any harm. Like many, they have developed a moral blind spot towards disparaging males. Our campaign seeks to change that.

Media Coverage

Our Campaign Against Verizon’s Anti-Father Ad ‘Homework’ ad was covered by over 300 media outlets, including:

  • CNN
  • Fox News
  • ABC
  • NBC
  • CBS News Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood
  • PBS
  • The Associated Press
  • UPI
  • The New York Times
  • USA Today
  • The Boston Globe
  • Newsday
  • The Dallas Morning News
  • The U.K. Guardian
  • Billboard magazine
  • Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
  • Author/leading blogger Glenn Reynolds (aka"Instapundit")
  • Sinclair Broadcasting
  • The Seattle Times
  • Town Hall

Watch Verizon’s Anti-Father Ad ‘Homework’

Watch Verizon’s "Homework"

Special Thanks to…

Mike McCormick and the American Coalition for Fathers & Children for their support of our campaign.