New study states advertising is failing to represent modern Irish household

Pictured are Laura Daley, managing director; Abi Moran, CEO; Kim Comiskey, strategic planning director and Eimear Fitzmaurice, head of planning at Folk Wunderman Thompson as the agency launches The Family Fallacy study

Research reveals growth opportunity for brands by thinking beyond the nuclear Irish family structure



10 November 2023

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FINDINGS AT A GLANCE: Advertising is failing to represent modern Irish household

  • The traditional family structure only accounts for 36% of Irish households
  • Only 38% of Irish people feel brands and companies are in touch with their family life and needs
  • More than half of people in Ireland believe brands should help to normalise non-traditional family structures
  • 68% of mothers in Ireland feel that the portrayal of family structures in advertising and marketing is stereotypical while more than half of fathers in Ireland are of the same view

The Family Fallacy, a new research study from creative agency Folk Wunderman Thompson, has highlighted the need for brands in Ireland to adapt and accurately represent the evolving concept of ‘family’ to resonate with audiences, stay relevant and be more effective in an ever-changing world. In a rapidly changing social landscape, the typical Irish family has evolved into a dynamic and contemporary structure but brands and advertising have been slow to follow, as seen in public sentiment towards family representation.

The study explores several core themes including emerging family structures and evolving perspectives on parenthood, all of which evidence the enormous opportunity that lies ahead to cater for and talk to a much broader audience pool in a more meaningful way. Embracing diversity and challenging traditional stereotypes in advertising and marketing is not just a matter of social responsibility but also key to building stronger engagement and lasting connections with audiences.

Speaking on the report findings, Laura Daley, managing director, Folk Wunderman Thompson said: “This study has unequivocally shown that embracing diversity in advertising and marketing is not only good for society but also excellent for business. True, accurate representation opens doors to new markets, fosters consumer loyalty, and drives growth like never before.”

Ireland’s shifting family landscape

The traditional Irish family structure, which once dominated, now accounts for only 36% of Irish households, according to the new study. In its place, a rich tapestry of diverse family structures has emerged, including childfree couples, same-sex families, step-families, divorced parents, single parents, and more. Families in Ireland are no longer defined solely by blood or marriage.

  • Over half of adults consider some of their close friends as family.
  • Nearly 80% of people consider their pets as part of their family
  • Unfortunately, over 40% of respondents believe families are poorly represented in marketing and advertising with this figure jumping to two-thirds of same-sex families and nearly half of divorced and blended families.
  • Only 38% of single parents feel that society recognises and appreciates their family role.

Breaking stereotypes

The Family Fallacy also revealed that more than 6 in 10 (64%) of people in Ireland believe the portrayal of family structures in advertising and marketing is stereotypical and we see this percentage increase for childfree families and same-sex families. More than half of respondents (63%) believe brands should play a role in normalising non-traditional family structures, with this number climbing to 68% for single parent families.

Brands and companies need to recognise that the conventional portrayal of family structures in advertising and marketing campaigns no longer resonates with today’s diverse society. For example, in Ireland, 1 in 4 families with children is a one-parent family. It is clear that a disconnect exists between the way brands depict family life and the reality experienced by their audience.

The war on home 

One of the most pervasive narratives in Ireland, and across Europe, is the rise of multigenerational living and co-living, a result of crippling housing prices and changing social dynamics and relationships. Ireland’s young adults and young families are currently suffering the realities of our housing crisis with rent and housing prices almost doubling in the last 10 years. With the average age of a homebuyer in Ireland now 39 years old, co-living and renting until late 30’s has now become the norm, causing a whole realm of new tensions and challenges about who runs the household and what the shared priorities are.

The role of motherhood

For mothers today, while the family shape changes the role of the mother in within a family has not yet evolved. According to this research, 63% of mothers feel that it is difficult to be a mother today, with 1 in 5 reporting feelings of burnout. The unequal distribution of household chores and parenting responsibilities remains a persistent issue, causing tension for over half of mothers. Unsurprisingly, 73% of people in Ireland believe that becoming a mother makes career progression harder, while only 24% feel the same for men.

Changing role of fatherhood

Fathers in Ireland are emerging with a desire to challenge traditional gender roles. Over half of them believe that the portrayal of family structures in advertising and marketing is stereotypical. Furthermore, 75% of people agree that fathers today are more involved in their children’s lives, breaking free from traditional stereotypes and taking on more active parenting roles.

A change is required

The study also highlights that a significant portion of Irish families are seeking change. For example, 61% of blended and divorced families believe brands should help normalise non-traditional family structures. Single parents (60%) prefer brands and companies that understand their family life and needs. Over two-thirds of respondents appreciate brands and businesses that advocate for diversity and inclusion. Embracing a new normal for what and how Irish family looks and acts should be a no-brainer.



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