Mad Men and Cabana Boys


To the ad agency who created this ad:


I came across your ad pictured above in an elevator at a resort I was staying at in Hawaii. I just had to send you a thank you for perfectly capturing the essence of all my family vacations. Realism often is absent in advertising, and I commend you and your creative team for accurately portraying how today’s American families spend their vacations.

First, let’s start with the mom in your ad. If there is one color I love wearing around my children, it’s white. It allows everyone I pass or meet to see which markers my kids played with and what they ate for lunch but could not keep it on their plates (usually a vibrant orange mac and cheese). Plus, the delicate jewels on her bathing suit cover-up are still in their complete and original pattern because why would her kids pick at the beading on their mother’s clothing like monkeys picking lice off their mates? And there is nothing I hate more than seeing a mom with her hair pulled up in a sloppy bun because she couldn’t get up extra early to do her hair before heading to the pool. Good thing she remembered to pack the important things, like a curling iron or her hair stylist.

Let’s move on to the dad. That’s the dad right, not one of the cabana boys there to attend to them? Well, kudos again for finding a model that looks just like all the dads at my children’s schools. It is fortunate that he’s independently wealthy so that his job doesn’t interfere with his gym schedule. Plus, that sexy “come-hither” stare as his son is hanging off him- not creepy at all! If anything, it tells me that the couple has a fulfilling and rewarding sex life after he comes back from working out.

And good for you for choosing not to show the little boy’s face! I know that when we travel as a family we too prefer not to see the kids. It’s like they disappear and are barely a bother when they are thrown off their schedules and away from home. I am also going to assume that the other children in this family are just as well behaved, but you just chose to keep them off camera. That’s a good thing because mommy wants to just lounge around in a totally natural pose. Or perhaps the other children are in the pool with the nanny since daddy is too busy to watch them while he is eye-boning whoever he is looking at (e.g. the nanny or a cabana boy).

I am going to look for more of your reality-based advertising, whoever you are. Perhaps you have a food ad where all the children are happily eating the healthy dinner their mother (or personal chef) prepared for them and not daring to ask for something else. Or a clothing ad in which the person is pulling on a clean pair of jeans from the closet and not the ones they dropped on the ground the night before, having collapsed into bed from exhaustion.



2 thoughts on “Mad Men and Cabana Boys

  1. Huzzah, well done! Our family just returned from what I’m betting is the same resort in Hawaii (the Grand Wailea) , and I also took a picture of that ad in the elevator. The thing just creeped me out! Now, back home, I dropped that photo into Google Image to see what’s being said about it, and I found your page.

    We can agree that the scene is utterly unnatural and has no basis in reality in any world that I know of. Beyond that, I had a different take on it than you, however. But what I saw is this: “Mom” is lounging seductively in her hundred smacker cabana in that negligee-like beach gear. Meanwhile, “Dad” has his baser instincts frustrated by having his rug rat draped around his neck. “Mom”‘s expression clearly indicates that she is enjoying the spectacle, as in the Waitresses’ “I Know What Boys Like”, teasing with what he cannot have.

    You know, it summed up the Grand Wailea itself: all show over substance. The GW desperately wants to LOOK impressive, alas, it’s only a veneer. Forced valet parking resulting in frustrating waits, a wedding chapel with pagan gods, a cheesy luau, $50 entrees while far better and less expensive meals are readily available “off campus”, a largely Filipino vibe which the GW assumes its rarefied clientele will find indistinguishable from Hawaiian, a status-feeding Napua section (no, we didn’t pay for it, we were given an “upgrade” because the place was half-empty) with less of a view but serving up mediocre appetizers in a corridor with funeral home decor, and connected water areas not much used by adults but clearly designed to convince the swells this is all for the kids when the actuality is they’d be happier at water parks in Wisconsin Dells and Sandusky, Ohio.

    • Kevin- That was at the GW on Maui! I am glad to hear it resonated so strongly with someone who agreed with me that the ad was just plain creepy. I have yet to visit Wisconsin Dells or anywhere in Ohio but I hope that, should they happen to have ads, those ads contained a stressed out mother, an angry father, and kids who have absolutely no sense of civility.

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