Product ads are a guide to the zeitgeist

It is hard to gauge where public sentiment lies on social issues. But one indicator is the commercials that big companies put out. These companies are seeking to maximize their customer base and so anything they do has to have taken into consideration its impact in terms of sales. When they take a stance on hot-button issues, they have likely calculated that the people who will respond favorably to it will be greater than the people who are offended. That Nike’s ad featuring Colin Kaeprnick ended up boosting sales for its product showed that they gauged the zeitgeist correctly even though Donald Trump had been whipping up anti-kneeling sentiment among his base.

Now Gillette has come out with an ad that takes aim at traditional notions of masculinity, adding the tagline “The best men can be” to the familiar “The best a man can get”.

Companies realize that their customers want to feel good about buying a product. As Gillette said on its website:

“It’s time we acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture,” it wrote on its website. “From today on, we pledge to actively challenge the stereotypes and expectations of what it means to be a man everywhere you see Gillette. In the ads we run, the images we publish to social media, the words we choose, and so much more.”

PR expert Mark Borkowski called the advert part of a “fantastically well-thought through campaign”, adding that it appealed to a younger generation that were very aware of the power of advertising and marketing on society.

“It is no longer enough for brands to simply sell a product, customers are demanding that they have a purpose – that they stand for something,” he said. “Masculinity is a huge part of Gillette’s brand, and there is a recognition in this ad that the new generation is reworking that concept of masculinity, and it is no longer the cliche is once was.”

Of course, some men’s rights advocates hate the ad and have vented on Twitter.

The Emmy-award winning actor and prominent Donald Trump supporter James Woods meanwhile accused Gillette of “jumping on the ‘men are horrible’ campaign” and pledged to boycott its products.

Far-right magazine The New American attacked the advertisement’s message, saying it “reflects many false suppositions”, adding that: “Men are the wilder sex, which accounts for their dangerousness – but also their dynamism.”

That Gillette guessed right on the zeitgeist is confirmed by the fact that the ad gave Smarmy Piers Morgan apoplexy and he vowed to boycott the product.

Responding to Morgan’s angry tweets, American broadcast journalist Soledad O’Brien simply tweeted: “Oh shut up Piers,” while Canadian comedian Deven Green, as her character Mrs Betty Bowers imagined Gillette’s response to Morgan’s rage, tweeting: “Piers Morgan thinking he is a spokesperson for rampant masculinity is adorable.”

You can never go wrong taking a position opposite to Morgan. He is the anti-zeitgeist barometer.


  1. DonDueed says

    There’s another ad in circulation that reflects a less positive aspect of the current zeitgeist. The ad shows a family being called home for a pizza dinner. The mom is a college math prof; when she gets the message, she runs out of the class she’s teaching, telling her students, “You’ll never use this anyway.”

    Great message, Domino’s.

  2. sonofrojblake says

    i quite liked the posting on my Facebook feed that said: “Men offended by the Gillette advert: you should smile more. You’re so much prettier when you smile.”

  3. John Morales says

    The headline is misleading; it’s not an advertisement and it mentions no product, instead it’s a public relations exercise for the brand.
    Also, the brand “Gillette” is owned by Procter & Gamble — note that Gillette is now merely a brand, not a company, much less a corporation.

    But the thesis is persuasive.

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