I admit #MeToo has had me thinking a lot about how, as a man, to best help and make positive progress on the movement.

Procter & Gamble, with its Gillette brand, has just sparked a firestorm of discussion on the issue, along with bringing bullying and toxic masculinity to the forefront as well.

I worked at Procter & Gamble in marketing for more than two decades. I've been to the Gillette facilities and know some of their employees. I've watched the brand struggle through tough times in recent years, including taking a beating from the likes of Dollar Shave Club. I've seen Gillette try to build the brand behind its "Best a Man Can Get" tagline for years.

So when I saw the ad for the first time, it was with informed interest--and that's before considering the fact that I'm also a man on a journey of trying to be the best a man can get.

 

And what do I think of the ad? I guarantee about half of you will disagree if the current torrent of debate going on in social is any indication. So here's what I think.

At least it makes me feel something.

Fine. Call me a "homer." Say that I'm biased and simply supporting my alma mater. But here's why I say this.

An analysis from an advertising and social statement perspective

So much of advertising, in general, is wallpaper. Jammed with claims, comparisons, boasts, or inane drama. So much of it feels the same. In the hand-to-hand combat that's waged for our attention among the multitude of media channels, so many advertisers are losing.  

I successfully ran the marketing for multiple billion-dollar brands at P&G and evaluated more advertising than I can remember. The criteria I always started with when reviewing a new ad was, does it make me feel something? Does it make me think? Laugh? Cry? Make me angry?

The poison to me was when it made me feel indifferent.

What I think this new ad does well is make you feel something. 

It's impossible not to feel some sort of emotion after watching. It's impossible not to have a point of view. I guarantee the creators knew this ad would be polarizing. I guarantee they moved forward feeling it was time to imbue the brand with a real voice. Brands that stand for something, anything, of relevance today are the brands that will still be here tomorrow.

Advertising purists will say the ad never shows the product, that it doesn't spell out specific brand attributes that compel you to place it in your cart over another brand. I hope these purists realize that a campaign isn't just one ad. I'm sure other parts of the marketing plan will reinforce important benefits and attributes. I know because I ran that play.

Now, despite my POV or that of purists, of course only time will tell if the ad works. But, in the meantime, I think it will help effect the toughest marketing challenge of all, inciting behavior change. And perhaps, along with it, people will support the brand to further support the cause and the behavioral changes they're going to undertake themselves. At a minimum, that's more meaningful than a new shaver with the seventh blade or heated handle.

From a social statement standpoint, I can say it made me feel a bit ashamed as a man (in a necessary way), wondering if women would see the atrocities of man in the same way, and, most important of all, determined to do better, be better, however I can. To help advance the issues addressed as positively as I can.

I'm sure some will see the ad as pandering. Some as insincere or an off the mark expression of the underlying social issues. I see it as an effort to elevate a brand's relevance and spark action and debate on an intensely relevant topic. It's a call to action.

At least it makes us do something.  

Published on: Jan 16, 2019
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.