Wednesday, January 16, 2019


Gillette's new #MeToo-themed ad has not been particularly well received.

New York magazine's Josh Barro thinks he knows why:
Gillette’s message — that something has too often gone wrong in masculinity, and that men ought to evaluate whether they are doing enough to combat bullying and mistreatment of women — is correct. But the viewer is likely to ask: Who is Gillette to tell me this? I just came here for razors. And razors barely even feature in Gillette’s new campaign.

YouTube likes are running four-to-one against Gillette’s new ad; for comparison, the YouTube response to Nike’s controversial ad with Colin Kaepernick runs seven-to-one in favor. What should worry Gillette is not so much the rebukes from the set of commentators you might expect (like Piers Morgan and Brian Kilmeade) but the lack of an apparent groundswell of positive reaction that Nike got for its campaign with Kaepernick....

Nike’s campaign appeals to customers — and drives Nike’s sales — to the extent it reflects customers’ existing values back at them....
But is that true? The Kaepernick campaign reflected the values of some Nike customers, but conservatives buy sneakers too, and many of them were outraged by the ad.
Nike’s message to customers is uplifting rather than accusatory. It doesn’t urge them to interrogate their roles in societal structures that may cause oppression, let alone the roles played by corporations like Nike. It skips past that, looking toward a solution rather than a problem. The Gillette campaign, by comparison, is a downer.

The Nike ad is uplifting, but outside the confines of the ad, Kaepernick is accusatory (for good reason). Kaepernick does urge white Americans to interrogate their roles in societal structures that may cause oppression. Much of America despises him for that.

And yet the Kaepernick ad worked for Nike, while the Gillette ad, so far, has been a flop.

Apart from the tone of the ads, I think it's because Kaepernick is a hero -- a hero to people of color who are directly affected by the issues he addresses, and a hero to some whites because they also care about these issues. Or we can be cynical and say he's the guy many whites imagine as their hip black friend.

But there isn't a similar figure who's been embraced as a hero/shero/heroine of #MeToo -- not in the ad and not, unfortunately, in the wider culture. And I'm sure there are many men who consider themselves woke enough to embrace Kaepernick's message while they resent the message of #MeToo.

Hip whites' embrace of Kaepernick means that the Nike ad has a larger base of support. I worry that we see a similar skew in electoral politics. Hip whites were far more ready to embrace Barack Obama in 2008 than they were to back Hillary Clinton in 2016, and if you say that's because of her particular flaws, you have to explain why that seems to be true for female candidates considering presidential runs in 2020.

The Nike ad, gratifyingly, had crossover appeal. The Gillette ad, alas, apparently doesn't. That's not just bad for Gillette. It's bad for Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, and Kamala Harris.

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