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Look beyond Brexit and there has been another hotly debated issue this week.
Yes, Gillette’s new advertising campaign which aims to tackle ‘toxic masculinity’ has got a lot of people talking.
The short video, which asks whether it is time we stop excusing bad male behaviour, has been viewed more than 19 million times on YouTube, gaining 500,000 likes and more than 900,000 dislikes.
When the shaving giant decided to make this subject the focus of its campaign it would have known it would be triggering debate and would have been braced for some form of backlash.
It will have been aware that other companies which have tried to take stand on important issues through their advertising campaigns have provoked the keyboard warriors.
But what it does not appear to have anticipated are allegations of ‘hypocrisy’ and being ‘part of the problem’.
A number of social media users have been quick to point out that while the company is encouraging men to treat women better, it charges women more for its razors and forces them to pay the so-called ‘pink tax’.
Look, I like the @Gillette ad. It sends a great message that a lot of men obviously need to hear. But the message rings a little hollow when coming from a company that profits from the #PinkTax. It’s time for Gillette to put their money where their mouth is and end the pink tax.— Ryanne Allison (@TheGirlRyanne) January 16, 2019
And that social media reaction has been picked up by the traditional media:
Gillette accused of sexism over ‘pink tax’ after company praised for tackling toxic masculinity Independent
'Woke' Gillette's 'pink tax' on women: Razor firm slammed for hypocrisy for charging women more for the same products as men - while bashing sexism in controversial ad Daily Mail
Gillette called out for #PinkTax hypocrisy days after advert backlash Yahoo
The accusation has also which has featured in many stories than those that have raised it in the headline.
The interesting thing about the coverage is that Gillette, and its parent company Procter & Gamble, have not responded to the stories. They end by saying that the firm has been ‘contacted for a comment’.
But this feels like a question the firm should have anticipated and prepared for before launching its digital campaign. The ‘pink tax’ question is, after all, not a new one.
It also feels like these are allegations the brand should want to tackle. Would you let allegations of ‘hypocrisy’ and ‘sexism’ go unanswered against your organisation?
Gillette could and should have drawn up responses for social media and mainstream media, explaining why there are differences in prices for razors aimed at men and women and what it is doing (if it is taking any action) to tackle that discrepancy. That would be a far better approach than remaining silent when legitimate questions are asked about its latest advertisement.
In a way it is a bit like preparing for a media interview: You need to know the message you want to get across, but you also need to anticipate the wider – and potentially more negative - issues that could be raised, and have a clear idea of how you will respond.
Like ‘no comment’ in a media interview, the ‘no response’ is often the most damaging one an organisation can give. It can make them appear defensive and unwilling to address particular issues. Silence is rarely golden when it comes to dealing with negative reactions or potential crisis media management issues and it is something which can easily be avoided.
Gillette is unlikely to be the last brand to try to tackle important issues through advertising campaigns. Hopefully, the next one to make this move will know how it will respond if difficult questions are asked about its own activities.
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