Friday, October 10, 2008

Gillette: The worst an ad can get?

(I know an ad campaign can get much worse. The title is not to be taken very seriously).

* * *

We live in a time when we are fed ads disguising as news. We have got quite used to it over last four or five years, and many of us have even developed a skill to tell an ad from a news byte. Yet, we look at some of these ads and feel like throwing up.

This time it was Gillette.

On September 17, HT City carried a survey report that 91% of Delhi women were turned off by unshaven men, 82 percent of Delhi men are clean-shaven (I refuse to buy that), and across the metros most women found clean-shaven men more kissable.

It went on to add that 47% of the respondents thought clean shaven men are more likely to become millionaires (what if 53% thought otherwise), 47% thought mistakes are overlooked if they are made by clean-shaven men, and 50% think that your Visa application will be rejected if you have a stubbled look. The survey was conducted by -- no marks for guessing -- Gillette India.

The survey also gave details of how women liked their favourite stars -- Hritik Roshan, John Abraham, Abhiskek Bachchan and SRK among others -- whether clean-shaven, stubbled or full-bearded.

If you thought this was a subtle and tasteless campaign for selling blades, the worse was waiting to come.

Audio ads on Delhi FM stations said, "Bankers are more likely to reject your loan application if you have a stubble." Since there is no such thing as 'news' on most private FM channels, this had to be a "commercial". The rest of the ad was essentially "Buy Gillette Mach 3 and shave off that stubble" or something like that.

This series of ads seem to be taking us back in time in more ways than one.

This is not about being better than your competitor. Somewhere, these ads give me an impression that people don't know there is something called razors. One gets a deja vu of the 19th century "don't stay dirty, get Pears" kind of ads.

(Note that this one can not be compared to adversitements like that of Nokia Navigator phones, as it is not the case that a company is introducing shaving blades in the market for the first time.)

Two, these ads are plain racist.

Do the creators of this campaign really think it is hip to boast about cultural biases like mistakes being overlooked if you are clean-shaven and all that? If they really do, I think they need to take a lesson from another series of ads in town. "I am not fair but I am lovely -- I am not yesterday" -- say hoardings that carry an image of a beautiful dark model. "Is it true that women make bad drivers?" "Ask Sunita Williams", goes another ad on air. Advertising Mail Today newspaper, of India Today group.

Two days later, Delhi Times showed us clean shaven make-overs of Milind Soman and Kunal Kapoor. The news, of the launch of 'Gillette Mach 3 Turbo' in New Delhi, went like this:

"It was part of their macho appeal -- Milind Soman's rugged beard and wild, long locks, and Kunal Kapoor's urbane but sexy stubble. But the two hunks have recently shaved off their stubble and chosen to go for the smooth, clean look. What made them do it was Gillette Mach 3 Turbo."

The actors, however, had a different story to tell. They did not quite owe up to the 'stubbles are for losers' campaign. They refused to disown the stubbled/bearded looks that they were in for quite some time now.

"I've never had any problem playing with my looks. We're actors, and need to meet the demands of different characters. And with Gillette, the best thing is it doesn't scratch your skin. When I decided to go for a makeover, it's the only one I could think of," says Kunal.

Milind said, "I don't know if women like men clean-shaven or with a stubble, but one thing is for sure -- a guy has to be confident about his looks."

Thank god, it is not the end of the world. Even as Gillette is doing its bit to kill the confidence of the sexy stubbled men.

* * * *

[The Hoot carried this article, with a few modifications. I felt there was too much stress on "ads as news" in the way they presented it. It was initially titled as "Ads disguised as news" or something. Later they changed the title after my comment.]
[Image: from The Hoot]


Joe Athialy said...

great piece, Sudeep. Of late, one is witnessing more and more of such racist and absurd ads in TVs and newspapers. And unlike earlier, they are now part of all of us - not responded to or decried about. Ads as news are increasing as well. Disguising the front page with ad - something which only ToI dared to do so far - is done by HT as well these days. See today's ad on ICL.


princemyshkin said...

Well, Sameer Jain is rumoured to have said at an editorial meeting that he wanted to see ToI as an advert broadsheet in a decade. Looks like his vision was contagious.
Great piece Sudeep!!!!!

Megha said...

Wow.. for a change its men and their vanity we are talking about! I see a lot of parallel between the "Ponds fairness cream" ad and this Gillete campaign! Last time I remember the ponds ad was met with a strong opposition.. maybe the beauty market is starting to spread its tenterhooks to the males... time to rise up in arms and stubbles!

sudeep said...

Thanks Joe, Bobby and Megha for your comments. Bobby also commented over e-mail that he enjoyed it better in this "original" form than the "Hooted" version (he had read it on The Hoot first). Thanks.

Sharmila wrote in from Bombay: "nice one:) i had been quite disgusted too."

Arvind said...

I dont know if there is any point in reading so much into ad campaigns!! In the corporate world, everything is about making money - no matter how much they need to stoop low!! Applies for politics as well in today's times!!