Nice Ad – Where’s the PR campaign

As one YouTube comment had it, Gillette’s marketing team clearly sat around and decided that their next advertising campaign should be “Let’s blame everything that’s wrong with society on our target market – men!”

Faced with a 5% decline in razor sales, Gillette’s latest TV advertisement shifted from product marketing to advising men to end ‘toxic masculinity’. Playing on its famous strapline ‘The Best A Man Can Get’ it now demands ‘The Best Men Can Be’ with an ad challenging bad behaviour by males.

Cue the backlash condemning the company for preaching to and demonising men. The YouTube video ‘dislike/ like’ counter is running 10:1 against it and the ‘Have Your Say’ comments even more so. You can watch the advert here and make your own judgment; we’ve discussed it in detail during our recent media training.

Gillette said: “As the world’s largest marketer to men, we knew that joining the dialogue on ‘Modern Manhood’ would mean changing how we think about and portray men at every turn … 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.”

Leaving aside whether the advert demonises all men (it doesn’t), the challenge to PR and marketing people from this has been whether brands should ‘moralise’ to or at their audiences and how authentic this campaign really is.

The moralising tone is nothing new in advertising, which has been proclaiming its socially-responsible conscience for many a year. It is backed by research that shows people generally and millennials in particular (marketing message from Gillette: ‘please ditch the hipster beard and shave!’) want to understand how companies are good citizens. Substituting claims about the desirability of a product for claims about the desirability of a new world is the new norm.

So a nice piece of advertising, if tactical, and an initial slew of media coverage. But where now?

As part of the campaign, Gillette said that it was donating $1 million per year for the next three years to charities that help men to change to be their best (but only in the United States – the rest of the world can go hang it would seem). But this feels like contracting out the responsibility for the issue. Where is the hard evidence for the campaign? What’s the measure of success? Who is taking ownership of this at Gillette and what will they be doing to push this agenda? What third party will validate the results? Essentially, I understand that the ad people needn’t care anymore but where is the PR-led campaign?

More interestingly, Gillette said that “As a starting point, and effective immediately, Gillette will review all public-facing content against a set of defined standards meant to ensure we fully reflect the ideals of Respect, Accountability and Role Modelling in the ads we run, the images we publish to social media, the words we choose, and more. For us, the decision to publicly assert our beliefs while celebrating men who are doing things right was an easy choice that makes a difference.”

And where is the evidence for this? Have a look at Gillette’s Facebook page – it’s still just product marketing. Look at their website – nothing about ‘who we are as a company’ reflecting this stance. Just a holding home page statement about the campaign that one feels will disappear before long. You are encouraged to visit a new website – – which turns out to be the aforementioned holding statement on the company’s home page.

Leveraging great PR off inventive advertising and other marketing initiatives is a mainstay of integrated comms for consumer brands. But if this has been set in a broader PR-led narrative, I don’t see it.

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