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"A step too far" - adland bosses on Gillette's divisive campaign

16 Jan 2019  |  Michaela Jefferson 
"A step too far" - adland bosses on Gillette's divisive campaign

This week in brand hysteria: the launch of Gillette's new advertising campaign, "The Best Men Can Be".

The new slogan is a play on the men's shaving company's traditional slogan - "The Best a Man Can Get", which it has used for 30 years - to engage with the ongoing #MeToo movement and to encourage a new kind of masculinity that rejects violence, sexual harassment and sexism.

The short film gained over four million YouTube views in two days and set Twitter alight, with responses ranging from high praise to promises never to buy from the P&G-owned brand again.

Gillette is far from the first brand to be met with controversy when releasing a campaign weighing in on political and social issues. Pepsi, Skittles, Nike, and most recently HSBC, have divided opinion with advertising campaigns - both with consumers and within the advertising industry.

According to Tim Whatley, planning account director at Goodstuff, it may be time that the industry takes a step back from its "brand onions" and returns to its central purpose - "creatively communicating product truths."

"Gillette is not your mate. It's not even a stranger. It's a gigantic corporation which ultimately wants to sell you razors," he told Mediatel.

Even for those who agree with Gillette's message, "nobody likes being moralised to - especially by large faceless businesses with a sales agenda."

"Ecover flying the flag for environmental issues fits their brand, but HSBC talking about social unity, or Gillette talking about sexual harassment is arguably a step too far."

Similarly, Dan Hojnik, strategy director at The Specialist Works, said the ad straddles the "dangerous" line between authentically supporting a cause and exploiting one for profit - though he allowed Gillette "the benefit of the doubt."

"It won't change the world, but, hopefully, it had the best intentions to. At the very least, the ad - and more notably the response - puts the spotlight on some serious issues which are still happening (and considered social norms)," he added.

"Whether or not you think Gillette is the right company to say it, the message is a good one."

In a statement accompanying the release of the campaign, Gillette argues that brands must acknowledge the role they play in influencing culture. "As a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man."

As part of the campaign, Gillette has committed to donate $1million each year for the next three years to US charities designed to inspire and educate men to become role models for the next generation.

For Kathryn Jacob OBE, CEO of Pearl & Dean, the ad is an "encouraging sign" of the rise of purpose driven marketing, which is to be "applauded."

She compared the ad to Nike's campaign last year with Colin Kaepernick, which also split opinions. Interestingly, despite boycott threats, Nike's short-term sales reportedly surged 31% in the days after the campaign's release - though the long-term effects on the brand have yet to be seen.

"The fact [Gillette's campaign] has incited so much heated commentary is proof of how timely the execution of this campaign is," Jacob said, adding that it is "unfortunate" that critics see it as an attack on manhood, as she thinks it reflects a "more nuanced picture of the role men play in society."

"At a time when the biggest killer of men under the age of 35 is suicide, we shouldn't be afraid or ashamed to encourage men to be more vulnerable, reach out beyond traditional 'strong' and 'macho' role modelling and to fully embrace their pivotal role in creating a more equal and diverse society."

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MarkThompson, Engineer, Greysill consulting on 18 Jan 2019
“Testosterone produces my beard Gillette needs it but they want to do away with it....”