The Gillette advert represents a wider issue with 'woke capitalism'


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The new Gillette advert has taken the world by storm and people are picking sides. But, companies' consistent use of progressive issues to appear 'woke' and increase sales is still being ignored.

Love it or hate it, the advert has been all over Bristruths and students are riled up. At the time of writing, the video now has 20 million views, 550,000 likes and almost a million dislikes.

In the advert, Gillette distance themselves from their previous advertising, show news of the #MeToo campaign, show bullying and fighting, and in the end, men taking a stance against these problems.

However, this is not an isolated incident and we will only continue to see more adverts like this.

We cannot really believe that Gillette has now taken a moral stance and decided to do right in the world.

Take Pepsi’s 2017 advert showing Kendall Jenner stop tension between protesters and police by simply handing a can of Pepsi to a police officer. This fell completely flat. People critiqued and mocked Pepsi for turning the latest news around Black Lives Matter and police tensions in America into selling cans of their products. Pepsi took down the advert and apologised on Twitter, but people continued to mock them.

The Pepsi advert was laughably bad, but the Gillette is even worse.

I am not talking about the actual content - I think we need to have a long conversation about masculinity in the 21st century and men’s responsibilities in the world.

Where this advert is divisive is that it is so vapid and devoid of any real conversation that people are projecting whatever they want on to it. For example, one person may see two boys having fun and play fighting or one boy trying beat the other up in an act of bullying. This only continues the polarisation of people in our society. We must constantly pick sides when picking products which are never good when you want to have constructive relationships with people that disagree with you.

We cannot really believe that Gillette has now taken a moral stance and decided to do right in the world.

They were accused of knowingly profiting from child labour in 2016, convicted in 2012 of price fixing, massively used animal testing before 2000, and have one of the worst CEO to average worker pay ratios in the entire S&P 500 company listings. They even charge, on average 20% more, for the women’s version of the basically the same male razors, contributing to the so called ‘pink tax’. If Gillette really cared about morals, would they make an ad denouncing these too?

Where this advert is divisive is that it is so vapid and devoid of any real conversation that people are projecting whatever they want on to it.

Gary Coombe, president of ‘global grooming’ at Procter and Gamble, Gillette’s parent company, says ‘the decision to publicly assert our beliefs while celebrating men who are doing things right was an easy choice that makes a difference’.

I do not buy it, but maybe you are optimistic. Maybe this is Gillette reforming.

In a new statement on their website, they state that they will be donating $1 million dollars to ‘…programmes in the United States designed to inspire, educate and help men of all ages achieve their personal "best" and become role models for the next generation.’

I am not convinced. The only thing massive companies care about is their profit and their shareholders. With the amount of money spent on advertising and the advertising experts they had behind this, they knew that this would work. Despite the backlash, their stock has remained consistent and they are sticking to their guns.

This advert completely split the Bristol community as a quick look at Bristruths will show you.

People posting their issues with the advert were quickly told to shut up in the comments or insulted in counter-Bristruths posts. One stated that men offended must be making up for certain other deficiencies with their anger and another said that 'maybe Gillette isn't for sensitive skin after all'.

I do not necessarily agree with people’s concerns about the advert, but devolving into name calling does not help anyone.

With so much pressure from men’s mental health campaigns for men to open to talk about their feelings, insulting people that voice feelings or opinions don't exactly help. Questioning the size of a man's genitalia when he voices concern is similar to the traditional 'man up'.

We want more men to talk about their feelings but how can they when society rejects them when they do? Looking at Twitter and it is largely the same story with both sides trying to see who can be the angriest at each other.

Gillette knew this would be divisive, and it has worked wonders for their advertising.

They have had over a four times increase in Google searches, according to google trends. Just based on Bristruths, hundreds of Bristol students are having arguments about the advert. This is the new form of advertising where idealism sells, and it works.

Why spend loads of money putting it on TV when you could make it annoy Piers Morgan and get him to show it to people for you?

Featured image: YouTube/Gillette

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Isaac Haigh

Chemistry PGR, News Investigations Correspondent 19/20