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Profits not progress

Illustration: Alex Gomez· The Sentry

Gillette’s ‘We Believe’ advertisement misses the point

The P&G company Gillette, which specializes in men’s and women’s safety razors as well as other personal care products, released an advertisement titled, “We Believe” as part of their The Best A Man Can Be campaign.

Instead of stating what their razors can do, the advertisement addresses bullying, sexism, sexual misconduct, and toxic masculinity.  None of these things have anything to do with the act of shaving, yet it is an advertisement for razors. The imagery throughout the ad reflects the issues above and concludes with the message that the boys growing up today will be the men of tomorrow and that men need to step up and do better.

Gillette took serious issues about equality and how people treat each other and turned the importance of having these conversations into a marketing ploy to up their sales. While the overall message of raising a better generation of people is one that should be addressed, it should not be done through a commercial that, in the end, is simply advertising a product.

This is not the first time P&G, whose purpose relies on consumers buying their products, have used a social or political movement to achieve sales. Last year, the company released an advertisement titled, ‘The Talk,” which addressed the topic of racism in African-American families. Despite the company winning an Emmy for the advertisement, there are many that felt it was inappropriate and pandered to those invested in identity politics and the issues surrounding race.

And this isn’t just a P&G issue. In 2017, PepsiCo released the now infamous, “Live for Now” advertisement featuring Kendall Jenner, who notices a protest happening outside a studio she is being photographed in and decides to join the cheerful crowd. Dancing through the street ensues and culminates with her handing a can of Pepsi to a police officer who is monitoring the protest. This imagery implies that racial tensions and protests can be solved by the simple act of sharing a Pepsi rather than having difficult conversations or changing outdated laws.

The issues these advertisements address are important, but none were released of their own volition. All of them followed a large public outcry for change. Both “The Talk” and “Live for Now” came after the formation of the Black Lives Matter movement and the numerous instances of racial inequality covered by national media outlets. Gillette’s “We Believe” advertisement follows the women of the #MeToo movement speaking out against the abuse and gender inequality they have suffered for decades. 

These companies say they want to spur social change, but none of them are brave enough to do it alone. All these advertisements do is capitalize on the current social movement, created by the people—not companies—in order to sell their products and make more money. It seems these companies only support social change if it gives the company a profit.

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