How you see the Gillette ad is like how you see Ferris Bueller. Kind of.

I love an online furore, me.

Have you see the new Gillette advert? Boys will be boys? It’s been hard to miss.

After all the campaigns empowering our mothers, sisters, and daughters – from This girl can to Like a girl to Blood normal us chaps finally have our own bonafide ‘purpose’ campaign.

Except this one is for Gillette and the other campaigns were for um…bodyform? I dunno.

But let’s leave aside whether purpose based campaigns are worthwhile for now. In Healthcare we take a brands purpose as a given, improving lives, saving lives, but in consumer it’s still a point of contention.

Either way, Gillette has 50% of the razor market, which ordinarily would make this kind of decision – to get stuck in to a political arena – unthinkable, because why risk that massive brand leadership position to virtue signal?

Which makes their decision all the more brave, stupid or smart, depending on whether you see the ad as half full or half empty.

Because whether you identify with the men being ‘corrected’ or the men doing the ‘correcting’ determines how you see the film.

If you don’t see how identifying with characters makes a difference to your interpretation (of anything) try watching a favourite film from your youth, thirty years later. When I first saw it I, like you I dare say, thought Ferris Bueller was the coolest kid ever. Thirty years on and all I can feel is the horror of a father whose precious Ferrari is trashed by some spoilt kids who aren’t taking their education seriously.

I was first made aware of this new Gillette campaign over my porridge when an incensed Piers Morgan had a tantrum on ITV, here on UK breakfast TV.

It’s my own fault, but BBC breakfast is quite the snore-fest.

Of course, Piers spectacularly missed the point of the commercial and thought it was about not being masculine. He was in the glass half empty camp and only saw men being corrected. How very dare they.

In terms of identifying, make of that what you will.

Because Piers (and quite a lot of other online-people too apparently) clearly thinks evolving from a pre #metoo male in to any kind of aware human being means being all weedy and not beating up softy types and not being able to pinch girls bottoms, catcall and mansplain all over the place.

Clearly some of his favourite things to do and a definitive mark of a man* (*Old Spice strapline 1970’s BTW)

I quickly started scanning twitter responses. The anger was pretty substantial, it must be said.

“I will never use Gillette products again!”

“it’s an attack on manhood and masculinity”

Were just some of the comments I’ve made up, but accurately sum up the reaction.

But does that mean it was universally hated?

Have you been on twitter recently? As someone in my office pointed out, the kind of people who get incensed about this kind of thing all live on Twitter and the comment section of Youtube.

So is there a silent majority who would actually champion this kind of brave and purpose driven marketing – or at least the message at its heart – but who just don’t tend to bother shouting in to the internet’s infinite void about it?

Maybe.

Going online this morning (the day after) and the tide seems to have changed. The supporters have come out in force. Yesterday it was 10 attackers to every 1 defender in terms of thumbs up or down on Youtube. This morning it’s down to 2:1.

Not a knock out punch but a definite bounce back. (assuming there’s not been any shenanigans with the numbers)

So, call me controversial, but I want to show Gillette some love.

They’ve taken a sensitive issue and been brave enough to nail their colours to its mast. Good for them. What better brand to do this?

And what better time?

Three years ago this campaign would have been unthinkable. Today it’s controversial, in twenty years time it will seem quaint.

I mean think of how far we’ve come since the 50s.

Advertising has always reflected our society. Always made semi political statements, even without knowing. After all, there was a time when these ads were perfectly acceptable and seen as funny even.

When brands realised they were out of step, they changed. Perhaps this is what Piers thinks appeals to real men and mourns these campaigns?

I doubt it.

Okay, the Gillette ad is a little cheesy for my British palette, it looks a little like the agency presented the mood reel for the strategy and the client pointed at the screen and said let’s run it!

And I found parts of it a little patronising. Plus I wish it had been handled with a lighter touch. It is quite a blunt instrument with no nuance or subtlety.

But I must admit I identified with the men trying to do the right thing more than the men who weren’t.

But it wasn’t always so.

In my youth I’m not sure I was as aware of what I said and did as I am today, more through ignorance than malice. Age, experience and this whole movement has made some of us question our actions, but more importantly see what we hadn’t seen before.

Maybe I won’t comment on what she’s wearing. Maybe I won’t make a dick joke. Maybe I will listen more and not interrupt.

Most men try to do the right thing. But also most men are a product of their upbringing.

I grew up in the seventies, when it really was a man’s world, admen were men, clients were men, and so were the women (to paraphrase an 80’s Leagas Delaney Timberland ad). Today’s young men have the benefit of a somewhat more balanced media world and have been exposed to opinions and messages that emanate from a more diverse range of voices.

The seventies and eighties style Gillette ad, glossy women fawning over square-jawboned men would simply not resonate with our sons today. They’re as outdated as those 50s print ads.

And literally nobody ever talked about Gillette ads back then. They were sometimes parodied or spoofed, but as advertising campaigns they were like toilet roll or cat food, just something glossy to reassure you they worked well enough.

Now suddenly Gillette is relevant. Topical and has purpose.

Suddenly it’s the number one trending topic on Twitter.

As any adman will tell you, getting noticed is the first and most important thing any ad has to do. Without that, everything else is meaningless.

So are the predictions of brand suicide without merit?

Mark Ritson in Marketing week:

“…But in Gillette’s case there is a bigger price to pay. There is a special place in marketing hell for companies that not only waste their marketing budgets but actually invest that money into things that ultimately make their situation much worse. That’s going to be the cost of this foray into brand purpose for Gillette.

It has spent its own money to make its still excellent commercial situation indelibly less positive at a time when it can ill afford the misstep, given the many alternatives vying for its sales. And for that we should stand back and appreciate what might turn out to be the worst marketing move of the whole year.”

It’s an interesting article and I can see his point, but I for one will be renewing my purchase of their blades. They work well enough, so what’s not to like?

We’ll see how Gillette sales do over the coming weeks and months.

But bear in mind this:

People always hate change, when Heineken famously dropped doing beer campaigns with ‘busty barmaids’ ( a phrase that’s all but died out it’s just occurred to me) their research groups were up in arms. Heineken refreshes the parts that other beers cannot reach??? what a load of bollocks, they said, bring back our barmaids!

And yet, it became one of the greatest ad campaigns of all time – at least in the UK.

So, if the Gillette ad makes someone think twice before saying or acting inappropriately and link that action back to the brand, then all well and good.

And so what that it’s a mere razor brand who is doing that. Their brand relies on ‘The best a man can get’ and if that meaning has to change from adoring women and fast cars to a higher standard of behaviour, then that’s moving positively with the times.

And I suspect that the customer base that Mark Ritson worries will desert Gillette on point of principle will un-ruffle their feathers soon enough when they realise that not being an asshole is actually an ok thing to be.

Apart from Piers Morgan obviously.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you avoid offending anyone, you offend everyone.

One of the things that separates creatives from mere mortals, (I jest) is the ability to finally accept that your idea didn’t fly with good grace and resilience.

Nobody understood it.

Nobody liked it.

You could never afford to do it.

It had been done before.

”Don’t worry I’ll think of something else.”

All those things are hard to accept but they pale in comparison to having got your idea through and produced and then hating it.

The worst disappointment is having spent a year on a project, done three rounds of pitching, two rounds of research, fought tooth and nail for the right budget and director, photographer or animator – tried to accommodate everyone’s opinions and then when you see it you just go, ‘oh crap’.

Your heart sinks, maybe not because its awful, maybe just because it’s okay. But mostly because it really wasn’t what you started out believing it could be.

You thought it would be funnier, you thought it would be cooler. You thought, you thought, you thought.

You just hope no one notices it and it passes without incident or damage to your career.

That’s why I just feel rather sorry for the makers of the now infamous Pepsi ad. Most of us in advertising have made a turkey, myself more than most but this one was the ‘Heavens gate’ of cock-ups.

This Saturday Night Live skit, summed it up perfectly. The initial enthusiasm of the creative ( here they lump the director and creatives in to one easy to digest character) being thumped down to earth when the reality of the purile concept and all the compromises he’s allowed to happen hits him.

Because making a good commercial is hard.  That’s why agencies fight to get the best talent. It’s why good creatives can be seemingly unreasonable. Contrary to popular sentiment that ‘everyone is a creative’  making a spot that captures the imagination of the public is about more than just heaping a bunch of lame socially current imagery in to a nicely shot film and hoping for the best.

I’m not really sure in this day and age of multiple research rounds etc how no one commented that this was a pile of shit?

Maybe in the concept stage it was easier to fudge and promise this arguably noble ambition of ‘bringing together of cultures and world peace’ in a storyboard.

A bit like when you have a really funny story in your head and when you start to tell it out loud to your friends they stare at you non plussed and all you have to offer is a meek ‘well…er…you had to be there’.

Being unreasonable stops this kind of disaster.

Maybe it even started out as a black lives matter script.

Maybe it featured a black woman, perhaps the real Leisha Evans from the Jonathan Bachman photo taken at the Baton Rouge protest, maybe they envisioned it as gritty and urban but also simple and genuine.

It would still have been on dodgy ground because appropriation of serious issues by a soft drink (and not even the one that is best placed to make this kind of ad) is a minefield, obviously.

Then, after the first presentation, all sorts of people from clients to consumers to consultants started commenting:

Does it have to be an angry march?

We think it’s too much black lives matter? 

Can’t we have smiley faces? make it about ‘the conversation’?

What about some cool dancers to appeal to the kids?

And we want to be inclusive, one of the heroins should be a muslim girl.

I think a Cello could add some class, it’s all rather street isn’t it?

Just so many deaths by a thousand cuts that it ended up being a long way from that first idea.

And no amount of money or celebrities could save it.

But the final film was just so fake, so contrived and emasculated to avoid offending anyone, it offended everyone.

In my experience being polarising can be a good thing, if you aren’t upsetting the applecart a little then you’re doing something wrong.

Just don’t destroy the whole orchard.

I’m being generous of course, it could have just been this God-awful crap from start to finish.

The only consolation is that there’s always another brief and a chance to redeem yourself.

You hope.

 

Cecil the cyber Lion.

So, whatever you think about Cecil’s tragic and untimely demise, one thing is for sure, so-called ‘hunters’ might now think twice about loading up the old crossbow and rifle and heading off to needlessly slaughter our finest and most magnificent species for their own amusement.

Lord knows something needed to be done to stop the constant outraged social media posts featuring men and women sitting on endangered species with a gun and a stupid grin.

So, ironically, it might even be a positive thing.

In fact it’s the kind of thing some Zimbabwean ad agency could submit as a case history at next years Cannes. (Animal health section).

Imagine the case study.

The problem? Rich American businessmen were totally ignoring the plight of endangered species and continuing to shoot much loved wild animals for their own amusement and trophy cabinet in the mistaken belief it was still 1908.

Our strategy? make hunting African wildlife seem not worth the risk.

So we took hidden cameras and a team of ‘actors’ disguised as gamekeepers and agreed to lure a lion from it’s protected park to a place where our ‘mark’ would shoot him, manfully, with a crossbow.

But it wasn’t just any old lion, this was Cecil, the most famous lion in Zimbabwe!

But we didn’t tell our hunter that…one lion looks much like another and what did he care?

Only one day later and we posted the death of Cecil on social media sites.

Twitter and Facebook exploded with outrage!

Next we released the name of the American dentist who we duped in to killing this beautiful creature.

Walter Palmer.

Twitter went through the roof, and our dentist went in to hiding when we organised a demonstration outside his dental practice. Worldwide coverage followed on all the major TV channels.

There’s nothing like a death threat to encourage behaviour change.

Next we started a petition to have our ‘hunter’ deported to Zimbabwe to face trial. 140,000 online signatures and the President has to make a response.

Now ‘hunters’ are thinking twice before considering mercilessly killing endangered species for their own fun.

The case history film finishes to a standing ovation, and the CD & MD from the agency in Harare head for the stage to pick up their trophy.

Those Cannes juries love nothing more than an idea that changes behaviour.

Especially those over-paid, mindless, cowardly dentists.

 

 

Every brand has the same issues.

Target markets really are a pain in the arse.

You would think that you could just come out and tell people the facts about your product, drug or treatment and they would weigh up the benefits and then make a decision based on the facts presented.

No flim or flam, no marketing baloney. No manipulation.

Just data.

The thing is, we have reason to suspect that medical people are much like ordinary people. That is, their perception of certain drugs etc differ from reality as much as it might in the real world with consumer products.

It doesn’t really matter if your glucose meter is more accurate than the most popular one. If it’s more expensive people will just hear more expensive.

It doesn’t matter if your pill is as fast working as an injection. People just hear pill.

It doesn’t matter if your drug is more efficacious than the best selling one but the side effects make you grow horns on your forehead. Those stupid, petty, pedantic, twatting, people just hear horns, it’s so frustrating.

But the good news is they are also as easily manipulated by spin, media tricks and perception as anyone else.

Hurrah!

Luckily for we evil admen the task of persuasion is made considerably easier by the use of clever ideas, imagery, film and even words, (when we’re allowed them) because most of the time we are battling not to get the facts across but to manipulate people’s perception of the facts.

In recent weeks I have been amused how this is just as much a problem for personality brands.

Take Russell Brand, (coincidentally) who seems a particularly well meaning sort of a chap. You probably think of him as the comedian and whacko political campaigner who has told people not to vote.

He did let that slip in the Newsnight interview with Paxman in a certain context but what he more keenly urges is ‘give us something to vote for’.

This is from his Spectator article that started it all.

I have never voted. Like most people I am utterly disenchanted by politics. Like most people I regard politicians as frauds and liars and the current political system as nothing more than a bureaucratic means for furthering the augmentation and advantages of economic elites. Billy Connolly said: “Don’t vote, it encourages them,” and, “The desire to be a politician should bar you for life from ever being one.”

I’ll grant you it may well amount to the same thing but ‘don’t vote’ isn’t particularly what he is trying to get across.

What he mostly tries to communicate is The system is broken.

With Russell, the right wing media don’t have that hard a job in manipulating his brand-image to be a radical idiot that’s not worth listening to, based on that one quote alone.

In the interest of balance it’s not just Russell Brand who struggles with this perception vs what he actually means issue.

Take Brand’s Question Time nemesis: Nigel Farage.

In the league of misrepresentation Nigel is rather more like Russell than either of them would be comfortable with, I am sure.

The headlines of ‘Nigel Farage says breastfeeding mothers should be put in a corner’ makes him out to be a horrendous chauvinist boob-Nazi.

Take a look at the twitter backlash that followed after his LBC radio interview, particularly the last comment.

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 18.41.57

But the actual interview on LBC from which the storm erupted was a perfectly reasonable suggestion ( to my mind anyway) that each establishment should decide for themselves- ‘he has no problem with it’ – (yes folks he actually said ‘I have no problem with it’) but if a particular establishment does – as freedom is a two way street – then maybe set aside a room or ask mums to sit in a corner because some people get embarrassed by it. (The context was lost on the Guardian but hey, they have an agenda just like the Sun or Daily Mail.)

Decide for yourself and watch Nigel Farage on LBC

For the left wing media the job is just as easy to paint him as a fascist idiot. Pick out that one line and the job is done whether you think anything he says is worthy or not. It’s hard to be taken seriously on border control if mothers, who hate being in corners, hate you.

However, as political brands they both have their art direction correct.

Saying dumb things in a smart suit will always get you taken more seriously than saying smart things in a ripped T-shirt.

But then, if you want to encourage a revolution don’t wear a tweed suit and have sensible hair.

In the end, if you are in the public eye your brand stewardship has the same problems as any other brand. Misrepresentation, poor PR, superiority or inferiority to competitor brands, price and image.

And we, the great unwashed, are constantly being manipulated and marketed to whether we like it or not and whether we are aware of it or not. From expensive ad campaigns to your ‘friends’ on Facebook who constantly provide evidence for you to think a certain way because they do.

The only way to not be manipulated is to look at the data and make up your own mind.

And what a terrible idea that would be.

 

 

(Happy Christmas dear reader and thanks to all of you have read my ramblings and kept me encouraged to continue, since I started this lark. Until January then….)