The Month in Marketing: the Worst an Ad can get?

Tim Focas argues that Gillette made a seismic mistake when they decided to be “woke” and create a distance between the brand and consumer. This is especially ignorant of the company, given a shaving razor is one of the most intimate products a person can own.

There are certain moments in life that live with you forever. Personally speaking, my father teaching me how to shave is right at the top of the list. For that moment, all his ridiculous hours slaving away on a City brokerage floor were forgiven for just a few humbling minutes of father and son bonding. Over 20-years on and I still remember the moment like it was yesterday. Amid all the “don’t go over the same spot you will end up with a rash” and the “that is how the blade goes blunt these are expensive ” quips, I recall the chapped lips of my overworked father whistling a simple but catchy tune. That’s right you know the one – “Gillette, the best a man can get.” Go on, I can almost hear you wanting to hum along to it right now – even the pretentious, sandal wearing, lentil eating lefty’s.

“Isn’t that what you were whistling earlier Dad?” as the infamous advert appeared on our screens later that day. Now keep in mind that, as a grunge loving teenager, anything mainstream was crap. But like most intelligent people at the time but sadly not today, even I could look past my oversized Nirvana hoodie to see the vein of late 80’s irony running through story. It is what, along with the connection with my father, made it such a memorable advert. I even recall it triggering a razor-sharp gag (pun intended) of “oh look, it’s your mistress running into that guys arms Dad.” To which he simply replied “good one” through gritted teeth. However, it is only now as a 33-year old home owning, six-figure earning, free-market loving workaholic that I truly appreciate the adverts core message and values. Values, that for whatever reason, seem to be chronically lacking in today’s limp and lackluster socialist leaning society.

Unrivalled work ethic, a sense of purpose in life, the thrill of competition – when did these things become so abhorrent that a brand like Gillette feels the need to turn out this snort worth lefty nausea. “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be” is enough to make any man run his Gillette Mach 3 blades across his entire body and dive head-first into a bath of malt Vinegar. One could write a dissertation dissecting everything that is wrong with this commercial shot by shot. But unlike the sappy self-righteous do-gooder in the white t-shirt trying to step in at the hearing of “come on sweetie”, I actually have proper work to be getting on with to justify my salary.  Before doing that, I could not write this piece without pulling the producers of this tripe up on “oh look how women are so undermined” boardroom clip. As someone that has built a career in the hard-nosed commercial world over the past decade – the idea that this is somehow representative of reality is truly laughable. I would love to think this particular scene was Gillette’s modern-day vein of irony to rival that of its cheesy 80s classic. Sadly, in this offence riddled culture, it seems that even the brands we know are losing a sense of humour.

So, in conclusion I say to Gillette, get off this ridiculous “me too” bandwagon and get back to the core principles that entrenched the brand in all our soles in such a positive, influential and entertaining way. If this advert is a sign of the future, Gillette’s brand will be a far cry from “looking sharp and looking good”, it certainly won’t be “going very far”, and will not be “making the most” of what the company once represented – “the best a man can get.”

Tim Focas is Director of Financial Services and the City of London for Parliament Street

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