Mario Almonte, President, Herman & Almonte Public Relations
Gillette’s new ad has already done its job of generating tremendous buzz for the company and, therefore, of promoting the brand in a way that sells the product. The old adage, “I don’t care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right,” applies to this case. But the “success” of the ad came as a result of inadvertent controversy and, therefore, it presents several new challenges for the company to prevent the situation from backfiring on them. The problem with the ad is that, instead of addressing sexism and the #MeToo movement correctly, it appears to accomplish just the opposite. Women feel as if they have just been “man-splained” again. The narrator’s voice and situations presented appear patronizing toward women. They depict women as the “weaker” sex who must be protected, suggesting that, if men don’t protect them, they are helpless and defenseless to do it themselves.
What saves Gillette from “failure” with the ad is that people recognize they were sincere in their effort to address the heated social issues, with a call for men to “behave more respectfully toward women.” Though not in the way they intended,Gillette now has the world’s attention. How they respond to the controversy could further elevate their brand or prove a debacle on the scale of Pepsi-Cola’s Kendall Jenner ad that minimized the Black Lives Matter movement.
The first thing Gillette must do is “own it.” Admit publicly that they – though having good intentions – made the same mistake other men have made in addressing the complex issue of sexual harassment and sexism our society. They then announce that they will be doing another commercial, but this time giving the reigns completely to an all-female team. Not a single man will be involved anywhere in the production or approval chain of the commercial. This will create a sense of anticipation for the new ad, with its “world premiere” becoming a major event that people will eagerly look forward to and write about.