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What does the new Gillette advert say about brands’ willingness to make a political statement?

6 min read

Back to Insight

6 min read

What does the new Gillette advert say about brands’ willingness to make a political statement?

Author: Phil Birss
Posted in Brand Strategy on 15th January 2019 12:00 am

Gillette has come under fire after releasing a new advert that raises awareness of the #MeToo movement and calls on men to stand up to sexism, bullying and harassment.

In a turn of events that should come as a surprise to absolutely no one, men’s rights activists, perpetual man-babies and incels are terribly upset.

James Woods, who’s been accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct, said: “So nice to see Gillette jumping on the “men are horrible campaign permeating mainstream media and Hollywood entertainment. I for one will never use your product again.”

Thankfully, #NotAllMen are taking the advert as a personal attack, so if the abundance of tweets from MRAs makes you want to climb into a rocket and blast yourself into space, put your expedition on hold for now.

I’m not sure why I’m surprised by the abundance of men taking to social media to express their anger at an advert that, when looked at objectively, doesn’t for a second suggest that all men are bullies, abusers or sex offenders. Sure, it does hint at some of the negative consequences of toxic masculinity, which, by the way, isn’t an attack on masculinity itself. But it also shows a number of men ‘doing the right thing’ by stepping in and calling out harmful behaviour. I guess people see what they want to see and when someone sees their own traits reflected back at them in a negative light, it’s easy to get defensive.

In a statement on the Gillette website, the shaving brand says: “It’s time we acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture. And 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. With that in mind, we have spent the last few months taking a hard look at our past and coming communication and reflecting on the types of men and behaviors we want to celebrate. We’re inviting all men along this journey with us – to strive to be better, to make us better, and to help each other be better.”

In light of this campaign, some have argued that brands should stick to selling their products and services without tying themselves into a certain political ideology, but I think it speaks volumes that ‘doing the right thing’ by standing up to bullies and harassers is something people associate with one side of the political spectrum.

I mean, even those on the far right care about violence against women, right? Tommy Robinson’s certainly vocal about it when it suits him.

Brands have long felt under pressure to avoid sharing divisive opinions or political stances but in recent years this seems to have changed. Last year, Nike teamed up with NFL player Colin Kaepernick for a campaign honouring the 30th anniversary of its ‘Just Do It’ slogan. The ad featured a black and white close up of Kaepernick’s face along with the statement: ‘Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.’ The words hinted at Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the national anthem in protest of racial injustice and police brutality.

Both Kaepernick’s protest and the Nike campaign caused uproar, predominantly amongst right-wing voters. Donald Trump denounced the player as a ‘traitor’ and hundreds took to social media to dramatically show themselves cutting the Swooshes off clothing that they’d already purchased with their own hard-earned dollars.

Oh what I would have given to be in Nike’s marketing department on that fateful day.

Despite protests from disgruntled consumers, Nike’s sales surged by 31% in the days after the Kaepernick ad was unveiled, suggesting that even if you take a stance that goes against the beliefs of your nation’s leader, there are still opportunities for you to thrive.

We live in an age where it’s pretty hard for brands, celebrities and political figures to kill their success by expressing political opinions. I mean, even a leaked recording of Donald Trump admitting to grabbing women ‘by the pussy’ wasn’t enough to halt his quest for political power.

When Louis C.K was accused of sexual misconduct, many raised concern about the number of men whose careers are allegedly ruined by false accusations. C.K has since admitted that the accusations were in fact true and, after a brief break from the public eye, his career is still intact and people are still buying tickets to see his shows.

We’re quick to forget our controversial political and social leanings when it suits us and I find it hard to believe that those threatening to boycott Gillette will spend the rest of their lives avoiding one of the leading shaving brands simply because of this one campaign.

It seems that in this day and age, believing in something doesn’t mean sacrificing everything. Success will still be there for you even after you’ve shared your divisive opinions and no matter which stance you take, there’ll always be plenty of people on your side.

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