Gillette's Mess-up with Mash-ups

I just got through saying that Gillette razors are one of my Lovemarks. But yesterday I read about Gillette pulling an embarrassing and maddening, albeit successful, stunt.

In a nutshell, Gillette created a

"user-generated-content program that let visitors to's [2008] swimsuit issue site create a "mashup" of video footage of four models who appeared in the issue."

This is problematic for obvious reasons, and as one might expect, thousands of videos were created and it ranked high on Facebook and YouTube. But there are two items that really got me. First,

"the effort included a college tour to 10 campuses, giving out some 10,000 Fusion Razors. 'It got the product into the hands of consumers to turn them into brand loyalists. We hit the 18-24 target demo,' [Doug Brodman of MediaVest] said, adding that the company will do it again this year."

I work with college students and I hate to see companies take advantage of them. They could have used a less debasing method to turn them on to their brand, at the very least.

Second, it isn't just Gillette vs. Consumer. It isn't a faceless brand owned by the monolithic Proctor & Gamble vs. 47 million Joe Consumers who read that issue and visited the website (21 million of them college-aged). No, it's an assembly of individual citizens with consciences and families and hopes who agreed through a series of personal decisions as employees and sub-contracted employees of Gillette and SI to contribute each of their various media-related talents toward selling razors via sex appeal vs. these people's neighbors.

Do you see that? It isn't a robot trying desperately to associate attractive women with a tool for cutting facial hair. It's a guy named Jason Temming who works for MediaVest and sits at at his desk thinking about the younger SI readers and saying, "We needed to invite them in a compelling way." It's a photographer and a graphics editor and a copywriter and a contract manager and a model and a..., all of whom decided to invite their neighbors (compellingly) into something inane and dishonorable.

Marketers, both future and current, I'm begging you to think about what you say yes to. There are real people on the other end of your work. And there are real people collaborating with you, and real people in your ads.

Love them all as Jesus would.


M.joshua September 24, 2008 at 3:14 PM  

In "Lord Save us From Your Followers", there's a segment that questions the "Hollywood agenda" by which sexuality, luxury, gay-rights, and various other things are purportedly written into popular media because of a particular agenda.

The conclusion it comes to is that media specialists don't have any agenda other than money.

Being that greed is the primary motivation, what implicates our response?

Do we stand on rooftops as "watchmen on the wall" that blow our horns at the "media enemies"? I mean, should we expect those with unchanged hearts to have changed behavior?

Maybe this is too deep of a question for such a simple blog. But its the one that comes to mind.

Sam Van Eman September 24, 2008 at 7:14 PM  

Joshua, I think there are people with changed hearts working on projects like this all of the time. But do they not stand tall enough? Are they like the quiet student who murmured that our hiking group missed the trail, only to continue following when no one responded to her? I don't know.

There was one woman mentioned in the article who set language limits on the video mash-ups. I'm not sure about all of her intentions, but one was to make Gillette more comfortable with the possible titles SI fans might give to their videos.

Why was Gillette potentially uncomfortable? FCC regulations? Or did someone genuinely want to promote Gillette with at least some decency?
And why did she push to limit possible vulgarities and crude language? Was she a changed heart who couldn't stop the freight train but could at least do something good? I don't know.

I recognize that there are tremendous moral decisions needing to be made daily in this industry, and many of them are quite perplexing, but I think we ought to hear more hero stories.

M.joshua September 25, 2008 at 10:11 AM  

Good point.

It could be said, perhaps that we don't need watchmen on our own walls as much as we need them within the "enemy" walls.

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