Oct 302012
Same-sex Mamas and Papas adverts

The nursery chain Mamas & Papas has launched an advertising campaign which includes pictures of single- and same-sex parents alongside the standard image of a heterosexual couple with their baby. It said the adverts – for a pushchair – “celebrate the diversity and individualism that form the makeup of the British modern family”.

The campaign, which features photos next to the slogan “How we roll” is being launched in the UK and overseas at the weekend and will run online, on billboards and in stores. Olivia Robinson, creative director and youngest daughter of the Scacchetti family which owns the firm, said it was not just a bid to bring attention to the brand.

“It is certainly not just a publicity stunt – it comes from a belief that parents are changing,” she said. “We haven’t done much advertising recently, but prior to this our adverts tended to feature the beautiful Italian woman with the beautiful Italian man and the beautiful child.” Robinson said the new adverts were not just a one-off and that modern family set-ups would be informing the company’s marketing in the future.

Figures from the ONS underline the fact UK families are not all made up of a mum, dad and 2.4 children. In 2011 there were 8,000 families with a same-sex couple at the helm, either in a civil partnership or co-habiting, and almost 2 million families with a lone parent. The number of heterosexual couples with a family came in at 5.5 million.

Robinson said she wanted the Mamas & Papas brand to reflect modern life, but the company was “sensitive to the views of everybody”. The adverts are not being run in every country the company trades in – the one featuring a gay couple won’t be used in Saudi Arabia, for instance – but she said “the UK is quite modern and progressive.”

A survey by Mamas & Papas found that 65% of 18-34-year-olds were indifferent or positive towards same-sex parenting, and only 20% were particularly unfavourable. Of those questioned, 5% of 18-34-year-olds claimed to be in homosexual relationships and have children, compared to only 0.2% of the 35+ age range.

The chief executive of the single parenting charity Gingerbread, Fiona Weir, said: “Single-parent families are a normal part of modern family life, with one in four households with dependent children in the UK headed by a single parent.

“Reflecting this reality is not only an important way of tackling some of the stigma and stereotypes that still exist about single parents, but is also a way for businesses to ensure they recognise and reach out to all families.”

Mamas & Papas is not the first brand to move away from the traditional nuclear family in its advertising. In 2006 an Ikea campaign in the US featured a gay couple with their daughter and dog, and this year Amtrak, Gap and the department store JC Penney have all run adverts with same-sex couples. However, in the world of baby products advertising has tended to be fairly traditional and Mamas & Papas said this is the “first time a national nursery brand in the UK has used these types of images”.

Hilary Osborne