A Tale of Two Ads: Bumble vs. Gillette in the Age of #MeToo
Two #MeToo-themed spots, one starring Serena Williams, sparked very different reactions.
It was the best of the internet, it was the worst of the internet.
Earlier this week, two advertisements — one from Gillette, “the best a man can get” as far as shaving is concerned, and one from a dating app called Bumble — hit the World Wide Web.
Though their content is not quite the same, both spots were clearly made with the “MeToo” movement in mind and contain messages of change and refusing to accept the status quo with regard to female empowerment and traditional, albeit largely sexist, gender roles.
Though similar, both ads garnered very different reactions in the kangaroo court of public opinion.
Here’s the Gillette ad …
… and the spot from Bumble.
Just days after the Gillette ad aired, articles condemning it flooded the internet. Many had similar themes, like one entitled “The celebrated new Gillette ad proves even MeToo can be co-opted by the male-dominated capitalist machine,” that ran in The Independent. Another called “Capitalism is co-opting, & ruining, the feminist movement” posted in Huck Magazine, and one Associated Press story included a negative take from a Pace University marketing professor.
“Treating people with respect, who can argue with that, but they’re kind of late to the party here, that’s the biggest problem,” Pace’s Larry Chiagouris told the AP. “It’s gratuitous and self-serving.”
In contrast, the ad from Bumble, which markets itself as a dating and networking app where women “make the first move — in life, in love, in business,” has spent its first few days in internet bliss; without any semblance of the negativity Gillette faced after its commercial launched.
It’s likely, of course, that the Bumble spot has been so well-received because the company has always branded itself as empowering for women. But is that reason enough to basically allow Bumble to do the same thing that Gillette was so widely slammed for —co-opting #MeToo in order to push its product?
Not that there’s anything wrong with being on the right side of history and making a buck or two in the process, as Andy Richter pointed out.
And to the people saying that it’s inappropriate for a corporation to do this, I actually think it just makes it all the more striking and meaningful. I don’t have a problem with a company thinking an ad for decency that will be seen by millions is good for their business.
— Andy Richter (@AndyRichter) January 15, 2019
If Gillette is going to be criticized for using #MeToo to market to men, shouldn’t Bumble also face criticism for using the movement in a marketing campaign directed at women?
To be clear, no one should be shedding tears for Gillette because they got exactly what they wanted with the campaign as well as the criticism — a national conversation about the brand.
“In launching this effort, our goal was to spark a discussion – and we’ve done just that,” a Gillette spokesperson told RealClearLife. “If we get people to pause, reflect and to challenge themselves and others to ensure that their actions reflect who they really are, then this campaign will be a success. I can share anecdotally that we’ve seen many examples of incredible positive conversation happening around this — this includes celebrities engaging, moms and dads saying they heard about the spot from their children because their children liked it or couldn’t understand why people wouldn’t like it, and even schools sharing the spot and discussing it in classrooms.”
But when the Hollywood-based leaders of the #MeToo movement call on men in their industry and in others to be allies to the women in their lives, isn’t the central message of Gillette’s widely-maligned ad exactly what they want to see?
In the razor company’s commercial, there are several admittedly low-key instances where men stick up for women and other scenes of fathers teaching their sons to be good men — both key factors in promoting gender parity now and in the future.
But to say the commercial arrived too late and is using #MeToo as a springboard to sell its products is a criticism that could — and maybe should — be put on the shoulders of Bumble as well. If it’s helping the greater good for women to uplift other women, isn’t it also productive for men to take responsibility in teaching their boys how to be good men? The two sentiments go hand in hand.
For Bumble, Williams will serve as its global ambassador to reinforce the company’s “mission to end misogyny and empower women around the world.”
It should be noted, then, that Gillette is taking a proactive approach as well, and not simply having a female-written and directed ad that talks the talk without walking the walk.
“It’s also important to note that as a brand, we’re taking action to make a difference,” the Gillette spokesperson told RCL, “by setting a new standard for our brand communications and actively working with strong non-profit partners like the Boys and Girls Club of America to encourage and inspire the next generation to be its best.”