Category Archives: Marketing and Advertising

The Gillette Ad

“Everyone” is talking about the new Gillette ad above. It is cynical, manipulative in sinister ways, unfair, insincere, divisive, unfair, and wrong. Over at Reason, the usually rational Robby Soave was sucked in (as was Ann Althouse, who said the little boys at the end moved her to tears—Awwwww!) defending the ad:

But the ad never said that all men are bad. It never argued that masculinity is always and everywhere a dangerous ideal. It made a very modest statement—treat people better—in hopes of selling more razors to people who agree. Again, why is this bad?…Young guys need to learn from men who treat women well and act as protectors rather than victimizers, which…is exactly what the Gillette ad called on men to do. People are free to associate with whatever brand they want, so if Gillette’s so-called virtue signaling bothers someone that much, that person may go ahead and buy razors elsewhere. But it would be a shame if the right started boycotting companies for taking the position that maybe hurting people is bad. Is owning the libs really that important?

Sucker! I am heartened that the ad has generated overwhelmingly negative responses, and while I would never call for a boycott (I use electric razors, thanks), I would still love to see Gillette suffer for this naked virtue-signaling and insulting stereotype mongering, all while pretending to “care,” when in fact it is just a cynical tactic to create buzz. I hope the eventual buzz is the sound of Remington electric razors.

Jon Gabriel’s reaction was similar to mine:

Gillette has had a rough few years. The former shaving hegemon has seen its market share plummet due to a resurgence in classic “wet shaving,” online razor subscription services, and the popularity of beards. Gillette’s obvious options are to lower their artificially high price or drastically improve their quality. Instead, they’ve decided to make their remaining customers feel bad about themselves through an expensive new ad campaign…. “You’re a very bad person, give us money” is an odd marketing pitch, especially from a company that’s used sex to sell its product for decades…Gillette has now declared war on its customer base. [Quoting the Wall Street Journal]

Gillette parent Procter & Gamble Co. is among companies that in recent years have used advertising as a platform to promote their stance on social issues such as gender equality, and polarizing political topics such as immigration and gun control. P&G is perhaps best known for its lauded “Like a Girl” ad campaign for feminine-care brand Always and “Stress test” for deodorant brand Secret.

Promoting social issues can be effective marketing, but notice the difference. P&G’s female-directed ads make women feel better about themselves. The company tells women “you’re great just as you are” and tells men “you’re bad and need to change.”

“Why is this bad?” asks sensitive Robby. Ah, let me count the ways: Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Marketing and Advertising

Ethics Alarms Reader Poll: Will The SCOTUS Decision on “Fuct” Be Unanimous?

It should be. It’s amazing to me that this issue has to take up the time of the Supreme Court, it’s so obvious.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review that case of Iancu v. Brunetti, and decide whether the Lanham’s Act’s ban on “immoral” and “scandalous” trademarks violates the First Amendment. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had refused to register a trademark for a line of clothing called “FUCT,” reasoning that “FUCT is the past tense” of a vulgar word and is “therefore scandalous,” a federal appeals court said. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit had struck down the ban on scandalous and immoral trademarks in December 2017,  but clothing designer and artist Erik Brunetti had agreed that the Supreme Court should hear the case even though he had won.  The cert petitions are here and here.

The Supreme Court struck down another provision of the Lanham Act in June 2017,  when it held that the ban on “disparaging” trademarks violated the First Amendment. The case, Matal v. Tam, was filed by an Asian-American rock band that wanted to trademark the name the Slants. The vote was 8-0 because Justice Neil M. Gorsuch did not participate in the decision. That decision also squashed efforts begun by Democrats and the Obama Administration to force the Washington Redskins to give up their “offensive” team nickname. The team’s trademarks had been cancelled in 2014 following complaints from “offended” non-football fans and a small minority of Native Americans. Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the Court,”It offends a bedrock First Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend.”  The opinion rejected the government’s argument that protected trademarks become a form of government, rather than private, speech. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising, Rights

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/31/2018: “Goodbye 2018, And Good Riddance!” Edition

Happy dying gasps of 2018!

1. Double standards inquiry: Will someone please explain to me why this magazine cover, which made O.J. Simpson blacker than he really is…

 

was universally condemned as racist, and this current cover of New York Times Magazine, making the late Aretha Franklin look like a ravenous rotting zombie from Hell..

…is just an artistic choice? (ARRGHHHHH!!!)

2. And speaking of looks…It is impossible not to notice that TV commercials are increasingly featuring overweight, ordinary-looking actors instead of the impossibly beautiful people who once were the automatic choices to sell products. This is an ethical development for the culture generally, and should help children develop more realistic aspirations regarding their own appearance. Now if only TV dramas would adopt the same inclusive casting policies—a particularly egregious candidate for reform is “law and Order” creator Dick Wolf.  His old series cast one eye-popping beauty after another as the male ADA’s sidekick, and now he is stocking his current NBC line-up of Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, and Chicago PD, with police women, female firefighters and distaff doctors who would be right at home in the pages of Vogue.

3.  More on “Enemies of the People”: Novelist and conservative gadfly Sarah Hoyt has issued a spirited defense—okay, it’s a screed, a rant even— of President Trump’s characterization of the news media, going over ground I have covered (most recently here and here), but with special brio. Read the whole thing— she is mostly right, if a bit hyperbolic and inflammatory—but here are some highlights: Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Marketing and Advertising, Race, Social Media, Workplace

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/27/18: It’s Video Thursday!

Happy inevitably confusing and disorienting period between Christmas and New Years!

1.. Is this a racially problematic TV ad, or an encouraging one that signals progress?

For me, the commercial raises the question: Have we reached a point when depicting an entire black family acting as moronic as white people are routinely depicted on TV is permissible and white people are allowed to laugh at it?

It made me uncomfortable. Am I alone?

2. Charley Parkhurst. The New York Times project to catch up on all the significant and remarkable women who never received the recognition of an obituary in its pages has been fascinating, and there has been no more interesting entry than this month’s remembrance of Charley Parkhurst, 1812-1879. Parkhurst was a famous driver of six-horse stagecoaches during California’s Gold Rush, a challenging job requiring strength, skill, and unusual honesty. Parkhurst was described as “short and stocky,” a hard-living whiskey drinker, cigar smoker and tobacco chewer, who wore  a patch  over the empty eye-socket where a horse had kicked out the eyeball. Charley was also universally regarded as male until a doctor discovered, post mortem, that she wasn’t. At a time when a women’s options  were severely limited, Parkhurst decided at a young age to live as a man, and was mighty good at it. She even registered to vote in 1868, and some give her the distinction as the first woman to vote in a Presidential election, though there is scant proof of it.

Looking at and thinking about a women “identifying a male” in a different cultural context is fascinating. Was Charley a woman, a male, trans, gay, a fraud, a hero (a heroine?), or just an opportunist and a gutsy realist who did what she wanted to do the only way it was possible for her to do it?

And does it matter? Should it matter?

We are told that Charley also was a lumberjack for a time. I wonder what she would have thought of the Monty Python song?

3. An Althouse quote: Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, History, Humor and Satire, Marketing and Advertising, Race, This Will Help Elect Donald Trump

Movie Poster Ethics: Is This Good Parody, Bad Taste, Blasphemy Or Religious Discrimination?

Well, it sure isn’t religious discrimination, but that’s what some of The Offended are claiming.

This is a poster for a holiday repackaging of “Deadpool 2,” the tongue-in-cheek sequel to the previous tongue-in-cheek Marvel superhero hit, “Deadpool,” featuring the hideously scarred, invulnerable, foul-mouthed and irreverent superhero who routinely breaks the fourth wall to crack jokes.  The poster is a parody of the “The Second Coming,” a painting by Harry Anderson that is inexplicably popular among Mormons, and often hangs at meetings of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Here’s the poster’s inspiration:

I

Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/17/2018: The Tragedy Of The Commons Bites Starbucks (Good!) And Other Fiascos

Are we having holiday fun yet?

Not yet…

1. ” Madness! Madness!” (Culturally literate readers will be able to name the movie.)

An 11-year-old boy named Joshua Trump has been forced to go by a different name at his Delaware middle school because he has been relentlessly bullied and punched on the a school bus because of his last name.  School officials said that as soon as they learned of the bullying they took action, including disciplining students  involved. The school should be investigating teachers, who may be signalling their biases against the President, and we should be looking at the bullies’ parents and the toxic influence of the media.

This story is just a tiny tip of a very large, very deep, very dangerous cultural iceberg.

President Trump should write the boy and his family, or better yet, call him.

2. “My Bloody Valentine” ethics. I am compiling a list of the very best horror movies for a relative who professed ignorance of the genre. I have done the same for Westerns (this became a Smithsonian program) and movie musicals. It is really annoying to hear people say that they don’t like movie musicals when they have never watched “Singin’ in the Rain” or Fred and Ginger at their best, or that they don’t like Westerns when they have never seen “Shane.” What they are really saying is “I don’t know what I’m talking about, but I have strong opinions on it anyway.”

But I digress. I had remembered that the 2008 remake of “My Bloody Valentine” had impressed me with its original and gory special effects, like the maniac mine murderer jamming a shovel into a victim’s face between her nose and mouth, causing the top half of her head to sliiiide down the shovel blade, or the killer yanking another victim’s lower jaw off with a pick- axe. What fun! But when I selected the film on Netflix to see if it was list-worthy, I discovered that those moments and many others had been edited out. This effectively renders the film pointless and scare-free, but it is also a bait-and-switch. If the film isn’t really the film the director made, a notice to that effect is mandatory. I assumed that Netflix only showed the movie, the whole movie, and nothing but the movie. Guess not.

3. Tucker Carlson, boycotts, and virtue signaling. On his Fox New show, Tucker Carlson was discussing the attitude exhibited by some politicians toward illegal immigration and the economic impact it has on the United States:

“Our leaders demand that you shut up and accept this. We have a moral obligation to admit the world’s poor, they tell us, even if it makes our own country poorer, and dirtier, and more divided. Immigration is a form of atonement. Previous leaders of our country committed sins; we must pay for those sins by welcoming an endless chain of migrant caravans. That’s the argument they make. Somehow the immigration-as atonement idea has become the official position of virtually every guilty liberal in the United States. Our tech overlords, the ones always lecturing you, corporate America, Nancy Pelosi and Paul Ryan—they all believe this, and anyone who disagrees with them is denounced as a bigot and fired.”

But how do you really feel, Tucker? I think Tucker would like to take back “dirtier”—how do illegal immigrants make the country dirtier?—but then he’s speaking extemporaneously. His overall point, while a bit inflammatory in the rhetoric used to express it, is valid. However, Pacific Life, which ran an ad on Fox right after Carlson’s rant proclaiming that the company had been “protecting generations of families for 150 years,” decided it was time to grandstand. (Carlson has also been a target of Media Matters efforts to get sponsors to abandon his show, because the best way to win arguments is to muzzle opposition, especially when your own position makes no sense.)

The company released this:

“Pacific Life’s national advertising campaign runs on numerous networks and cable stations on a variety of news, business and sports programs. One of our ads appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show last night following a segment where Mr. Carlson made a number of statements regarding immigration. As a company, we strongly disagree with Mr. Carlson’s statements. Our customer base and our workforce reflect the diversity of our great nation, something we take great pride in. We will not be advertising on Mr. Carlson’s show in the coming weeks as we reevaluate our relationship with his program.”

Carlson made it clear that he was talking about illegal immigration, though he gave those who want to misconstrue him sufficient rope for them to do so. If it is going to say it disagrees with Carlson, Pacific Life is obligated to say how. (I ding comments on posts here that just say “You are wrong,” “I disagree,” or “You’re an idiot.”) They don’t, because they can’t, and don’t have the guts to take a clear position. Do they believe that the U.S. has an obligation to take in all of the world’s poor? Do they not agree that unregulated and unrestrained immigration will make the country poorer and less united? Do they disagree that liberal guilt and race-baiting are primary tools of those pushing for open boarders? They probably haven’t thought about any of these things beyond the thought a puppy gives a biscuit. They just want to signal “Immigrants good!” and, to use Ann Althouse’s phrase, “Orange man bad!”

Are there corporations with integrity? Right now I can’t think of any. Continue reading

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Here Is How Free Expression Is Valued In Those Wonderful English-Speaking Countries The US Should Be More Like…

In Australia

Australian Cardinal George Pell was convicted in Melbourne this week on five counts of child sexual abuse. This made him  the most senior official ever found guilty in the Catholic Church’s apparently endless child sexual-abuse scandals. The judge in the case, Peter Kidd, immediately subjected news of Pell’s conviction to a suppression order, the Australian equivalent of a gag order, on press coverage. Australian courts impose such orders to shield defendants from negative publicity that could prejudice future jurors in upcoming trials, and  Pell faces another trial next year on a separate set of abuse charges dating to the 1970s. Of course, the more the public knows about how many predator priests the Catholic Church has facilitated, covered up for, and allowed to prey on children, the safer it is. I am not convinced that this suppression of news isn’t a sop to the Church. Judge Kidd told defense and prosecution attorneys that some members of the news media are facing “the prospect of imprisonment and indeed substantial imprisonment” if found guilty of breaching his gag order

Never mind:  the web, social media and the Streisand Effect foiled the judge. Pell and the charges against him were quickly the subject of thousands of tweets and shared posts on Facebook. The posts included links to websites and blogs where the news was available, including NPR, the Daily Beast and the National Catholic Reporter.

The Washington Post reported the conviction, but the New York Times did not. The Times’ deputy general counsel, David McCraw, gave the excuse that the newspaper is abiding by the court’s order in Australia “because of the presence of our bureau there. It is deeply disappointing that we are unable to present this important story to our readers in Australia and elsewhere. . . . Press coverage of judicial proceedings is a fundamental safeguard of justice and fairness. A free society is never well served by a silenced press.”

So don’t be silent then.

The Associated Press and Reuters news services also did not report Pell’s conviction.  Both services have bureaus in Australia that could face potential liability. Tell me again about how courageous news organizations are.

In Canada…

Continue reading

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