P&G scrambles for damage control after Gillette’s “We Believe” ad flops

Marc Pritchard, a chief brand officer at P&G (the corporate home of the Gillette brand) certainly knows that Gillette’s “We Believe” ad was a colossal flop.

But when you’re hauling down a few hundred thousand dollars as a marketing manager at Procter & Gamble, you don’t back down from your mistakes–you double down on them. That’s exactly what Mr. Pritchard did in a recent op-ed on CNN.

Pritchard asserts that the Gillette ad was intended to “stop bullying and harassment and demonstrate how to treat people with respect.”

All fine and good. But we’re talking about a shaving products commercial. People are sick of being preached to at inappropriate moments by big corporations. We’re sick of big corporations taking political (always leftwing) stands.

As a mental exercise, let’s put the shoe on the other foot. Suppose, for example, that a feminine hygiene products company were to run an ad showing vignettes of caricatured female misbehavior–women cheating  on their husbands, abandoning their children, etc. (I know that most women don’t do those things, but some do.)

Now imagine that the same commercial showed vignettes of other women who were “doing better”…by not cheating on their husbands, abandoning their children, etc.

A commercial like that would meet with an immediate boycott by women throughout America–and for good reason. Women would (rightly) perceive  such a commercial as preachy and condescending.

The real problem with the Gillette commercial wasn’t its explicit message that bullying and sexual harassment are wrong. Approximately 99.99% of American men would agree with that.

The problem was the tone and the timing: The ad was set up as a kind of “men, you need a scolding” message (and you need a scolding from Procter & Gamble, specifically.)

I’m not sure if Marc Pritchard was pressured into producing this disaster, or if he simply doesn’t grasp the basic principles of marketing. Either way, this was a debacle for the Gillette brand.

And just to make sure that the commercial was as condescending and annoying as possible, it prominently featured Ana Kasparian, that shrill, leftwing harpy of The Young Turks. Who thought that one up? (Hopefully not you, Mr. Pritchard.)

The “We Believe” ad was set up to fail, and it failed brilliantly.