That new Gillette commercial that is roiling the internet is a sort of Super Bowl ad that won’t air on the Super Bowl.
“Gillette strategically released this ad just before the Super Bowl to benefit from the spotlight on advertisements, but without getting lost in the clutter of Super Bowl Sunday,” ad expert Spencer Gerrol said. He is chief executive officer of SPARK Neuro, a research firm that uses neuroscience to study how brains react to advertisements and entertainment.
“Now, not only does Gillette get all of the Super Bowl momentum,” Gerrol said by email, “they also set the bar by which all other advertisements coming out on and leading up to the big day will be judged.”
The commercial, called “We Believe,” has emerged as the latest battleground in the nation’s culture wars. The ad addresses issues such as sexual harassment, misogyny and bullying while playing off the brand’s familiar tagline, “The best a man can get.”
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The ad calls on men to do better, and be better, in the age of #MeToo as a voiceover intones: “Is this the best a man can get?”
Todd Starnes of Fox News wrote: “Enough with the gender shaming, Gillette. Before too long, they’ll be telling us to shave our legs.” Hollywood’s Jessica Chastain tweeted thanks to Gillette “for this reminder of the beauty of men. I’m so moved by your call to action.”
Benjamin Hordell, a partner at DXagency, a digital marketing and advertising firm, says socially conscious ads appeal to belief-driven buyers.
“Strategically Gillette realizes that they must stand for something or risk continuing losing market share to shaving upstarts like Dollar Shave Club, Harry’s and Bromley’s,” Hordell said by email. “It’s a calculated risk that will both attract new customers and alienate some current customers.”
Bryan Reber, professor in crisis communication leadership and public relations at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism, said by phone that he thinks the campaign will be a win for Gillette in the long run.
“I’m not in their heads, but I suspect that they’re thinking about what we who study this sort of thing know — that younger consumers are more loyal to brands that they perceive as willing to take a stand,” Reber said. “Young consumers will change brands, and even jobs, to align with an organization that they feel aligns with their values.”
The commercial clocks in at one minute, 48 seconds and the company styles it as a “short film.” The ad ends with scenes of men standing up for women and being good fathers.
As it happens, it carries some echoes from the 1989 ad in which the tagline “the best a man can get” was introduced. That ad showed men playing sports and getting married and being with their sons.
It ran on the Super Bowl 30 years ago. USA TODAY offered its first Ad Meter — a ranking of Super Bowl commercials based on consumer votes — that year. Gillette’s ad finished 11th. American Express was 1989’s winner for an ad starring Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz.