It’s a very curious thing when advertising somehow finds itself located directly on our red-hot cultural dividing line.
As everyone knows, Grey’s Gillette ad, released more than ten days ago, was the talk of the chattering classes last week. Beyond the countless hashtags and boycott posts and talking head soundbites, it also inspired this awkward tweet, a right-wing rebuttal, a bunch of surveys and some videos of young people responding to the spot itself, like this one.
All the attention paid to this ad has been a mixed blessing, to say the least.
Most obviously, P&G has been defending its work, stating that the ad achieved its goal of “sparking a conversation” and will continue running. In response to a recent query, a company spokesperson wrote, “We too see and believe in the best of men, as is shown in the second half of the spot. As the Gillette campaign continues, the celebration of who we are at our best will become even more obvious.”
In other words, there’s more to come. For now, the responses have been more extreme than we initially thought.
Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke went so far as to remind his followers that Grey was co-founded by a Jewish man.
“The ad, created by the brand’s ad agency Grey”
Grey Global Group was founded by Lawrence Valenstein–😕 https://t.co/vmWZjc4sDi
— David Duke (@DrDavidDuke) January 15, 2019
Multiple parties also tell us that Grey executives have been receiving a fairly regular stream of hate mail.
We know this to be true because some of the messages have been forwarded to us anonymously, though the scale is unclear.
The writers of the emails we’ve seen appear to have found agency contacts in press materials and proceeded to blanket both parties with complaints, many of which unsurprisingly include the word “misandry.” Our sources also say some people involved in the project, including director Kim Gherig of “This Girl Can” fame, have received outright death threats.
Despite all of this, the campaign does not appear to be hurting the client. While P&G’s CFO told reporters this week that Gillette sales are currently “in-line with pre-campaign levels,” another marketing executive claimed they have been up roughly 10-15 percent.
In response to a request for further comment, a client representative said, “there have been emotions that run high on both ends of the spectrum as you can see from any sampling of comments on Twitter or YouTube. And in a sad testament to the ‘current state of play’ not all of that discussion has been kind or respectful, especially on channels where people can post anonymously.”
“We’re not the first brand to see some of this, and we’re not going to dignify it with a response,” he added. “We respect the broad range of opinions on the ad and the broader issue, but have no time or energy for those that cross the line.”
Regarding Gillette sales, the rep said it’s still too early to tell whether the campaign will have a significant impact, noting that razors have a particularly long sales cycle. “We continue to acquire new users via the Gillette Shave Club and have not seen any immediate softening of our broader retail business,” he said.
A Grey spokesperson deferred to the client. Now we are even more curious to see how the brand follows this one up.