The Best A Man — You Know The Rest

I rather like the Gillette ad, and as it would appear to be a legal requirement for everyone in the industry to have a point of view, and to make sure that everyone else knows what it is, here’s mine.

Actually let me start over. I like the strategic thought behind the Gillette ad. Maybe the execution is rather heavy-handed for some geographies, a bit, well American (it’s an American ad for goodness sake) but how can you not like the notion that men should behave better towards women, and towards those less fortunate or simply weaker than themselves?

Is it somehow appropriate for Gillette or indeed anyone else to jump on this particular bandwagon? Why not? Why is it so dreadful for brands to stand for something, or to espouse a cause?

What I find missing from much of the commentary is any sense that strategically this surely has to be a long-term endeavour. Aren’t we all calling for brands to think about long-term benefits and effects and not just today’s execution and tomorrow’s sales?

Gillette has for decades been one of the most traditional advertisers on the planet. Their ads have been boring in the extreme – the sort of boring you can only get away with when you’re in a hugely dominant position in a market where switching to a competitor cut from the same cloth must be rare.

Take the use of Roger Federer. When I see Federer on court am I likely to think: ‘There’s a guy with a great shave. He really epitomises shaving excellence to me.’ I think not.

But now there are new competitors, both those in the shaving business and nature (beards seem to be in fashion). Gillette must be under the sort of unaccustomed pressure that leads to questions on budgets and generates a discussion about changing tack.

Why not make the brand stand for something? Naturally they’re going to continue with the product messages (anyone else seen the monstrosity looming over Platform 17 at Waterloo Station?) but why not underpin them with a sense that as a business Gillette espouses certain values.

Those laughing at Gillette’s executional pomposity might have a point but you have to give the strategy time, surely.

Let’s assume that Gillette follows up this first salvo with other activities that fit with the theme of this first commercial. Maybe become seriously involved in the likes of anti-bullying charities (they’ve made a commitment in this direction already).

It’s true as Dominic Mills has calculated that $3m is miniscule as a proportion of Gillette sales but I bet the organisations benefiting don’t do that calculation and welcome the cash.

I can imagine Gillette sponsoring events, education, courses, promoting appropriate role models, playing a role in fund-raising, getting involved in various activities at a grass-roots level, running more ads and so on.

If they do this well, in a few years’ time we will subconsciously associate Gillette with good behaviour in men.

If they get it wrong, they’ll be forever associated with some of the most tedious ads in history to set alongside one of the most tedious activities known to man.

They’ll be fewer reasons to buy their over-priced cartridges housing increasingly absurd numbers of blades and extraneous bits of plastic. Alternatives and alternative models will flourish.

But if we feel we’re supporting a brand that does some good? That’s another matter.

Must be worth a punt, surely.

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