Three PR Pros Respond to Gillette’s Controversial Ad


Bold, Beautiful or Just Plain Bad? Three PR Pros Respond to Gillette’s Controversial Ad


If the aim of Gillette’s latest campaign was to cause widespread controversy, the razor firm’s PR team is surely congratulating itself. If you haven’t seen it by now, the only possible explanation is that you’ve forgotten how to use your phone. And laptop. And how to talk.

The two-minute film, produced by Grey New York and supported by Ketchum, features a montage of stereotypically naughty male behaviour, calling on men everywhere to hold their peers to account in treating other men—and women—with a respect worthy of a modern society.

“We Believe: The Best Men Can Be”, Gillette claims, with the brand now seemingly determined to inspire the next generation of men, and future Gillette customers, to combat so-called toxic masculinity. But are people convinced? “Personally, I think the sentiment is spot on, but find the execution incredibly clunky,” says Taylor Herring creative director Peter Mountstevens, “[though this] is hardly surprising since any attempt to unpack toxic masculinity in a 90-second ‘TV spot’ is always going to be so reductive.”

The real test now, according to Mountstevens, is whether Gillette builds on the current controversy surrounding the film’s release to make sure consumers are engaged on a “more meaningful level”. Other PR pros aren’t as easily convinced. The ad “features a cast of Everybody Loves Raymond-type male stereotypes so two-dimensional they are parodies of themselves,” slams Fever PR creative director Jo Chappell.

“There is no argument the message is one that needs to be told,” she continues, “but does it feel authentic that the brand telling it has played a huge role in creating the visual lexicon that has historically promoted the very same narrow set of alpha-male archetypes it is now confronting?”

Nor is Chappell alone in her damning review of Gillette’s pitch to the public. “It was clearly assembled by a group of men largely out of touch on what these contemporary issues of sexual harassment and bullying actually are,” says Tony Keller, principal at Walker, “I don’t think they really have a grasp on what #MeToo is aiming to accomplish.”

If Gillette truly has missed the mark, the firm may only the first of many to do so this year. Chappell predicts that 2019 is going to be a year of “Cause Above Creative,” where the ambition to make work of creative merit is superseded by the drive to make a point, especially given the rising trend of brands making a social or political stand on hot button issues.

At the same time, consumers are savvier than ever, revealing a worrying perception gap between Corporation and Customer. “Thanks for the moral advice, multi-national company that was recently caught profiting off forced child labour and price fixing,” responded one viewer of the YouTube video.

The internet mob has spoken, but is Gillette listening?

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