By now you have seen — and doubtless have a strong opinion about — Gillette’s two-minute advertisement that tells men to “say the right thing” and “act the right way,” featuring a montage of male bullying, harassment and sexist behavior with other (more enlightened, or sensitive) men intervening to stop the behavior.
Since Gillette lost my business years ago to one of the myriads of D2C shave clubs, I couldn’t care less if the spot generates sales or angry protests that drive down P&G’s stock price.
But clearly, the company hit a hot button with those who agree that a razor company should call out men for historically boorish behavior — AND, at the same time, with those who have had just about enough of being stereotyped as “one of the boys.”
One might view all of this as a play by Gillette to appeal to younger men who presumably have been sensitized by the #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter, sexual and gender identity, stay in your lane, let’s-rip-down-General-Lee’s-statue, and the Just Say No movements. (If I missed your particular oppression, I apologize). This might be a hard nut to crack, since most guys I see about that age tend not to shave at all, or just enough to look like they haven’t.
Those who seem most offended by the spot remind me of Congressmen who condemn their colleague’s misbehavior until they too are discovered to have committed the same sins. From where I sit, there isn’t a man among us who doesn’t live in a glass house, so you might as well put down that rock, pal.
Does it benefit a company to tell its clients (or prospects) that they should know better, and shame on you for poisoning the next generation by not acting more respectfully? It feels like the kind of admonition you expect from significant others, teachers, preachers or “that guy” at the office whom no one can stand because he is that guy.
What’s next? My car company telling me to slow down and let that guy coming down the on-ramp merge into traffic? Or my donut company telling me to grab a yogurt instead if I want to live to see my grandkids?
Better yet, have my streaming music company text me to say that if I tap my toes to hardcore hip-hop music, I will be helping to perpetuate negative black stereotypes?
No one is arguing that times have changed, and there is no excuse for men to talk and act like misogynistic, racist xenophobes — unless, of course, we follow that sterling example of enlightenment occupying the Oval Office. (How about an ad from the Republican Party apologizing to the nation and promising to do better next time around?)
But I’m not entirely certain it’s up to consumer products companies to deliver that message. A new poll reports that two-thirds of consumers call the Super Bowl an inappropriate place for advertisers to make political statements.
Sounds like Gillette is walking on some pretty thin ice.