Don’t give Gillette credit unless it does a lot more than making an ad, Fast Company, Philip Haid, January 18, 2019
Calling It Out
“My concern is that all this attention and controversy is focused in the wrong place. Regardless of how you respond to a piece of creative advertising, we should all be asking Gillette: Where can we find your authentic commitment and action to changing this problem?
If brands are going to lean in to social purpose to sell product, we have to expect them to do so with substance. Raising awareness is not enough. There needs to be a genuine, informed, long-term commitment to the issue with a clear plan to achieve the change the company is seeking to create.”
Through the WI Lens
Gillette has taken on a socio-political issue with its latest ad campaign, riding on the back of the #MeToo movement to subvert its “best a man can get” line to “the best men can be”. It’s urging men to become better role models, to be less macho and to stop excusing sexist and predatory behaviour towards women. On the face of it, what’s not to like? After all, it’s not the first brand to have picked up a serious issue and run with it: Sport England’s “This Girl Can” campaign, and Always’ ‘Like a Girl’ – from a brand owned by the same parent, Procter & Gamble – are just two recent examples that were generally well received.
So what’s gone wrong here, why has Gillette run into a storm of criticism and been accused of “woke washing”? The simple answer is that Gillette has never shown any sign of being awake to feminism previously, instead being a source of macho stereotyping, if not sexist behaviour. Therefore, to pivot in this way inevitably leads to the suspicion that it’s doing so for profit motives – perhaps because its business model is being severely challenged by current grooming fashions. To be able to use this kind of message in a credible way, you have to build consistent values over a longer period. The tone is also accusatory, confrontational, and has antagonized quite a few male commentators, where it could have focused on being more positive and supportive. Brands can play a part in fostering progressive social change, but only as part of a long-term commitment – it’s not an instant fix.
“On such fragile foundations are built the first steps towards a more ethical kind of business, and who knows what virtuous circles might result?”
“Scientific evidence recently emerged that, contrary to earlier beliefs, Covid-19 can be spread by tiny droplets that we breathe out when we respire, called aerosols.”
“Economic wellbeing is part of the story, but it is also about finding less stressful lifestyles, in which healthy diet figures as a meaningful measure of success.”
“The industry has every asset needed to be a guiding light in the shift toward personal health priority. Will that become a prevention legacy, a ‘phoenix rising’ from the Covid-19 ashes?”
“Looking at the bigger picture, putting the measures in this order represents a lost opportunity that the pandemic could have offered for a cultural pivot pivot towards getting people more focused on their health, a powerful statement of intent.”
“Employment is necessary to fulfil our most basic human needs such as food and shelter. Any significant increase in long-term unemployment will spell a retrograde step for human wellbeing like no other.”
“All roads lead to a wellbeing anchor, whether that be economic/financial, physical, mental or emotional: all contribute to a progressive and inclusive cosmopolitan world. The answer should not be a choice of one or the other but of a joined up and compassionate solution for society, business and individuals.”
“The paradox is that we continue to do this in spite of recognising that striving to become ever-more productive is an intrinsically unhealthy behaviour, leading to stress and too often, a sense of failure.”
“The same broad-sweeping structural racism that enables police brutality against black Americans is also responsible for higher mortality among black Americans with Covid-19,” Maimuna Majumder, a Harvard epidemiologist working on the Covid-19 response, tells Vox.
The take-out from this? Wellbeing cannot exist at a more elevated level without our basic needs being met.