Gillette Follow-Up: Why Did They Do It?

The Gillette anti-men ad that I wrote about here continues to spark controversy. Most in the advertising industry seem to think it was marvelous. This raises interesting questions: Why, exactly, do companies wade into the culture wars? Especially when they join a side that is either a minority or, at best, a bare majority? How does this make sense? Glenn Reynolds notes:

Adweek pronounced Gehrig’s group libel the “Ad of the Week.” Gehrig’s efforts were also recognized by Best Ads on TV.

Glenn’s comment is spot on, and explains much of what we see from our debilitated institutions:

[T]his is another example of how the people running American institutions now tend to perform for an audience of their peers rather than focus on doing their jobs.

Doing their jobs, and serving their alleged constituencies. Like men who need to shave.

Meanwhile, who is the Gehrig referred to in that quote? Not surprisingly, it is radical feminist Kim Gehrig:

“The guy at the ad agency” is actually philosophically unpleasant feminist Kim Gehrig. Hiring her to court the male market is like expecting to accrue impressive rainbow flag sale numbers with spiels from Farrakhan.
She’d previously made the bizarre “Viva La Vulva” spot for Swedish feminine hygiene company Libresse.

What better qualification to sell razors to American men?

Gehrig’s new Gillette effort states her bias boldly by intercutting allusions to abusive acts with images of romantic heterosexuality.

A black-and-white cartoon scene that flashes past shows men whistling at a woman. In another scant bit, a guy sees a pretty female pedestrian. He steps after her but is restrained by a companion. “Not cool,” the restrainer admonishes.

And so on. Here is the good news:

At this writing, Gillette’s YouTube posting of “We Believe” has received 40,000 “thumbs down” votes and only 4,300 positive ratings.

That still leaves the question, why did they do it? Glenn’s observation about the tendency of leaders of institutions (like CEOs) to play to their peer group rather than their customers is a big part of the answer. Beyond that, in this case, desperation may be a factor:

The uproar comes as Gillette battles upstarts like Harry’s, Dollar Shave Club and others for millennial dollars. Gillette controlled about 70 percent of the U.S. market a decade ago. Last year, its market share dropped to below 50 percent, according to Euromonitor.

Allen Adamson, co-founder of branding firm Metaforce, called the ad a “hail Mary” pass from the 117-year-old company.

Somehow I doubt that millennial shavers will be moved to buy overpriced razor blades by ignorant, stereotyped carping. That is what Schick thinks, too:

Schick’s ad refers to Gillette’s 14-year sponsorship of the Friday Night Fights, which I wrote about here. It is sad that Gillette has abandoned its long history of serving American men, but that is where free enterprise comes in: there is always someone ready to step into the market niche of a company that falters. In this case, Harry’s, Dollar Shave Club and Schick.

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