WaterWipes upends 'rosy' babycare ads with '#ThisIsParenthood' documentary

Film follows new parents around the world to start more honest conversations.

WaterWipes has launched a global campaign aimed at breaking taboos in the babycare category and starting honest conversations about parenthood.

"#ThisIsParenthood", created by The Brooklyn Brothers, pushes back against "saccharine" and unrealistic images often found in ad campaigns targeted at parents, Cathy Kidd, vice-president of marketing at WaterWipes, said. At the centre of the campaign is a 16-minute documentary and 13 short films, shot by Bafta-nominated director Lucy Cohen, that capture intimate moments and conversations among new parents around the world.

The brand conducted a study of 13,000 parents that found more than half of them feel as if they are failing in their first year. In response to the findings, the project collected the stories of 86 real parents across eight countries, including the UK and China, during their first year of parenting. Covering topics such as bonding with the baby, early days and changing relationships, the films give a more candid and realistic account of the highs and lows of parenting.

"Parents around the world are looking for something different and feeling frustrated that they’re seeing the same types of imagery and tonality around parenting – that the second you become a parent, everything is rosy and saccharine sweet. That insight is a human truth," Kidd said.

Activity will include 36 spots for Instagram Stories and outdoor executions, including posters in UK stations and a billboard in Times Square. The photography, shot by Kristin Vicari and Felicia Chang, shows unfiltered images of real parenting experiences.

Pulse Films’ Cohen, known for her 2017 documentary Kingdom of Us about a family reeling from their father’s suicide, shot the documentary over two months in China, the US and the UK.

"Through the stories, we asked ourselves: will this inspire self-belief in a parent? Even if it was a difficult story, we wanted to show that they will come out the other side of it," Cali Oliver, creative director at The Brooklyn Brothers, said. "If the perfect world shown to them in culture is disempowering, we wanted to inspire self-belief through the honesty of the campaign."

Kidd, Cohen and Oliver are all new mothers.

Cohen added: "As a new parent, this project really resonated with me. It can feel as though there are a whole host of expectations from the outside world, as well as the pressure a new parent inevitably puts on themselves to get it right the first time.

"I hope the conversation extends far beyond the films themselves."

WaterWipes is an Irish brand that makes baby wipes with just two ingredients: 99.9% water and a drop of fruit extract. Now sold in 51 countries, it was founded by Edward McCloskey after his newborn daughter suffered from nappy rash.

Because of McCloskey’s "straightforward" approach and the fact that the brand has grown through word of mouth, the brand saw this as "an opportunity to translate that to the campaign and be honest about parenthood", Kidd explained.

"We’re just playing a small part in starting conversations about different parenting experiences," she added. "The fact that so many parents were not just open and honest about their own situations, but also proud to be involved in this initiative, reinforced to me that this will make a difference to people."