Have you seen the Gillette ad everyone is talking about? Well, you don’t have to have seen it to understand this entry – I’m not actually writing about toxic masculinity like a lot of people who are discussing this ad. I’m writing about advertising in general. But – if you want a little background first, here it is:
I want to talk about something that rattles around in my head every time a BIG CORPORATION does a FEEL GOOD advertisement. People like me share it out and say: “I LOVE IT! Go Gillette!” I’ve done it dozens of times over the years because I’m a SUCKER for a commercial that makes me cry. I LOVE ALL OF THEM. When Dove was doing their “real beauty” campaign and had kids describing their Moms? OMG. I DIED. I love it whenever Nike sponsors a non-traditionally branded athlete like the runner with Cerebral Palsy. I’m always the friend on your feed sharing out these “commercials with purpose” because I LOVE ALL OF THEM.
And inevitably. EVERY SINGLE TIME. Someone posts something to remind us all that these commercials are done with FINANCIAL GAIN in mind – not social justice, or cultural change, or gender imbalances. There’s always the people who are like, “That company who did that commercial you love also has sweat shops!” Or, “None of the stockholders in that company actually give a shit about systemic racism, they’re all benefitting from it!” Or even this time when one of my favorite people on the internet – Hank Green – referred to it as “manufactured commodization of social progress.”
These comments are always the second wave after after a commercial with a purpose goes viral. And I’d like to FINALLY take the time to rant about that second wave of responses.
First and foremost? You are yucking my yums. I see a commercial that I like – that makes me cry – so I share it and maybe offer a note of support to the brand and you think it’s 100% necessary to respond with something negative about the company? WHY? Do you really think I’ve put this brand on a pedestal now where IT IS PERFECT IN EVERY FORM? No. I just might buy a few gillette razors this week just to lend my support for a commercial that made me cry. I KNOW HOW CAPITALISM WORKS. I’m not dumb or naive, I just found a small bit of joy in the chaos and I wanted to spotlight it.
But also? THESE COMMERCIALS ARE NOT MADE BY STOCKHOLDERS. If you’ve ever worked in advertising or marketing you know that there is anywhere from 10 to 100 people involved in the idea and then there are dozens of others involved in the execution from scheduling the filming days to casting the actors to editing the final video. None of those people who voiced their opinions or thoughts or ideas throughout the creation of this advertisement are getting big stock dividend checks at the end of the day.
So, yeah, the corporation is motivated by profits, but not everyone involved in the process of creating an ad has the same motivation. Is it so bad to imagine the room where this idea was first tossed out and consider that maybe some of those people in that room were ACTUALLY thinking about trying to deliver an anti-toxic masculinity message? Why can’t I think of THOSE people when I praise a brand/commercial? Those REAL humans who maybe took a risk to suggest or support something that has ended up creating a lot of (insane) negative backlash?
I mean, if you see me selling everything I own to put all of my own personal finances behind a big corporations just because of a cute ad? PLEASE SHAKE ME AND HELP REMIND ME HOW THERE ARE A LOT OF EVIL PEOPLE ASSOCIATED WITH THESE GIANT CORPORATIONS. But if I’m just sharing out a lovely ad and maybe mentioning I’m going to lend a few dollars to their brand this week – that kind of “reminder” is not necessary. Big companies do profit off the vulnerable every day – this is a painful truth I can’t escape – but sometimes they also profit off a message I can support and it’s okay for me to find a little bit of joy in that.