So I’m a couple weeks late with this Hot Take™
But trending SEO is for losers, amirite?
So. The Gillette commercial.
I’ve watched it. You’ve watched it. Everybody’s watched it. And there’s been a big ol’ ‘splosion of reactions around it. It’s got a helluva lot of dislikes on YouTube. But among a lot of the people I follow on social media, it’s been getting a lot of love.
I’m going to yak about it and it’s nuanced as fuck. I think.
To get it out of the way: I don’t particularly like this commercial, despite agreeing with the politics of it. But moreover, I refuse to applaud Gillette for having good politics.
There are two parts here: first, the commercial itself. Second, my larger gripes with the way marketing influences our culture.
So. The commercial itself.
Do I like the fact that Gillette is taking toxic masculinity to task? Yes. Yes, I like that a lot.
But that’s kind of the only thing the commercial has going for it.
I’m against preachy at the best of times. I understand that with two minutes to get something across, preachy is basically the only option you have if you want to send a message.
Doesn’t change the fact that I don’t like preachy very much.
And, because I’m immersed in this ideological world already, the several scenes depicted are pretty stock standard ones when it comes to calling out toxic masculinity. Boardroom guy doing a mansplain? Check. Guy doing a creepy whistle? Check. It’s a lot of talking points I’m already familiar with.
Which is fine. But it makes me wonder who this is for. Is it to change minds? Because that didn’t work - it’s got more dislikes than likes on Youtube. People who think the concept of toxic masculinity is bs are not going to be influenced by this. Is it for people who already agree with the sentiment? I suppose so, although I agree with it and still don’t like it because I feel like I’m being pandered too. I’m an outlier, possibly. A lot of people I respect were deeply affected by it. I suppose the goal could be that ever nebulous concept of “normalization.”
But do you know what the goal of this commercial really is?
The goal is this:
Gillette wants to sell razors.
So this brings me to the main thing I wanted to talk about.
Good Politics = $$$
Corporations only make stands of good politics for the same reason they make most other decisions: because it’s profitable.
Marketing teams have cottoned onto the fact that if you can make yourself look like the “good brand,” it’ll boost sales. I’m sure there are a lot of people at Gillette who genuinely do think that this whole toxic masculinity thing is bad and genuinely believe in the message they’ve created. I would also bet that there are a sizable number of people involved in the commercial’s making who don’t share the beliefs, but cynically think of it as what the commercial ultimately is - a sales boosting tactic.
Because that’s what commercials are. Period.
Whatever ideology they uphold, the one underlying it is: “buy our shit.”
Remember the whole Colin Kaepernick thing with Nike? Remember how it managed to get a bunch of us on the left to forget the fact that Nike uses sweatshops and a bunch of us bought their shoes because they supported a symbol of leftist revolt?
Same deal here with Gillette. Although I don’t know if they use sweatshops.
Moreover, it’s been well established that consumer boycotts often don’t work. Whatever sales they’re losing from a bunch of triggered MRA fuckwads, they are making way, way up in people who now don’t just see Gillette as that company that makes that thing I use on my face, but as the company that is doing GOOD THINGS™ and by buying GILLETTE BRAND RAZORS™, I too will be doing a GOOD THING™!
I kind of think myself in loops over this, because I know that in this country, voting with your dollar a reality. At the same time, I don’t want to reward any goddamn corporations with my dollar just because their marketing team decided to highlight a social issue I care about.
So. Fine. Am I glad the commercial exists? Sure. But that’s not going to stop me from bitching about how politics is just one more way for companies to influence your wallet. It’s a commercial first and foremost. It’s trying to sell you pricey razors. I don’t want people to lose sight of that, because I know it had quite an impact on people. There are friends of mine who had really deep personal connections to the commercial, who saw something beautiful in it. If that’s you, I don’t want to tell you you’re wrong. You had a reaction. It touched you deeply. That’s great. The creative people on the team wanted that.
But they also wanted to sell you razors.
In fact, they mostly wanted to sell you razors.
I’m that spoilsport who doesn’t even like Superbowl commercials anymore because I don’t want to humanize these multi-billion dollar corporations that had the good idea of making thirty seconds of video that was funny or poignant.
God, talking about marketing makes me sound like a cynical prick.
And I am, about this. I really, really loathe advertising. I loathe its all pervasiveness, I loathe the fact that anyone who’s on the internet is beholden to advertisers to make a living because people don’t want to pay for good quality “content” (god, fuck that word), I loathe the fact that, for centuries, advertising has shaped and molded people’s minds on ideals, desires, values, and standards because it’s all propaganda where the message is: “buy our shit.”
As a creative person, I loathe how necessary advertising is in order to get the word out on a great idea you’ve come up with. Relying on word of mouth is stupid. If you’ve created something, it’s got to be advertised. If you’re small and you don’t do it, you’ll disappear. There are exceptions, but it’s an extremely uphill battle.
I know I’m feeding into more of what Gillette wants - the controversy surrounding them, the millions of people merely talking about them - that’s a fantastic way to get your brand jammed into people’s heads. Me talking about it is giving them what they want. A small sliver, but that’s what it is.
All attention is good attention. If an ad campaign touches on a subject bound to provoke both strongly positive and negative reactions in people, they win. The positives are more likely to buy, the negatives will shout a bunch, but probably won’t change their consumer habits, and they both will be talk talk talking about the brand.
<big sigh></big sigh>
I think I’ve bitched until my throat has turned inside out. This is one of those topics I can rant on for hours, so I think it’s about time I bring it to a close.
Gillette made a commercial. It elicited strong reactions, both positive and negative.
It was exactly what they wanted.