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Razor burn: Gillette ad stirs online uproar

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NEW YORK — A Gillette ad for men invoking the #MeToo movement is sparking intense online backlash, with accusations that it talks down to men and groups calling for a boycott. But Gillette says it doesn’t mind sparking a discussion. Since it debuted Monday, the Internet-only ad has garnered nearly 19 million views on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter — a level of buzz that any brand would covet.

The two-minute ad from Procter & Gamble’s razor brand shows men and boys engaging in bullying and sexual harassment and encourages men to “say the right thing” and “act the right way.” Taking on bullying, sexual harassment and toxic masculinity is a big task for a razor brand. Many critics took to social media saying it was insulting to men and laden with stereotypes.

The uproar comes as Gillette battles upstarts like Harry’s, Dollar Shave Club and others for millennial dollars. Gillette controlled about 70 per cent of the U.S. market a decade ago. Last year, its market share dropped to below 50 per cent, according to Euromonitor.

Allen Adamson, co-founder of branding firm Metaforce, called the ad a “hail Mary” pass from the 117-year-old company. But he added that online buzz, whether positive or negative, rarely makes a long-term difference for a marketer since memory fades quickly.

“Getting noticed and getting buzz is no easy task, and they’ve managed to break through,” Adamson said. “Most advertisers advertise, and no one notices because there is so much noise in the marketplace, so just getting noticed Is a big win, especially for low-interest category like a razor.”

On the flip side, it probably won’t sell many razors either, he said.

Some cheers were mixed in with the social media boos. In a tweet, actress Jessica Chastain thanked Gillette “for this reminder of the beauty of men. I’m so moved by your call to action.”

The ad echoes other attempts by major advertisers to take on social issues. Pepsi pulled an ad in 2017 showing Kendall Jenner giving a cop a Pepsi during a protest and apologized after an outcry that it trivialized “Black Lives Matter” and other protest movements. Nike polarized the nation with an ad featuring ex-NFL player Colin Kaepernick who started a wave of protests among NFL players of police brutality, racial inequality and other social issues.

Sales weren’t affected in either of those cases. When controversy does affect sales, it is usually over something more substantive than an ad. Lululemon saw sales tumble in 2013 after a string of PR disasters including manufacturing problems that caused their pricey yoga pants to become see through and fat-shaming comments from their founder. But even that was short lived.

Ronn Torossian, CEO of 5WPR, said that much like Nike’s Kaepernick ad, Gillette likely knew the ad would garner online debate.

“Nike knew what they were getting themselves into,” Torossian said. The ad with Kapernick was “making a lot of noise, and it can’t be a surprise to (Gillette) that this is making a lot of noise.”

P&G, one of the world’s largest advertisers, is known for its anthemic spots that appeal to emotions during the Olympics and other events, often aimed at women, such as the tear-jerking “Thank You Mom” Olympics branding campaign and Always “Like a Girl” 2014 Super Bowl ad.

Pankaj Bhalla, North America brand director on Gillette says the controversy was not the intended goal of the ad, which is part of a larger campaign that takes a look at redefining Gillette’s longtime tagline “The Best a Man Can Get,” in different ways. Another online ad features one-handed NFL rookie Shaquem Griffin.

While he doesn’t want to lose sales or a boycott over the ad, “we would not discourage conversation or discussion because of that,” he said.

“Our ultimate aim is to groom the next generation of men, and if any of this helps even in a little way we’ll consider that a success,” he said.

Larry Chiagouris, marketing professor at Pace University, is skeptical.

“Treating people with respect, who can argue with that, but they’re kind of late to the party here, that’s the biggest problem,” he said. “It’s gratuitous and self-serving.”

Mae Anderson, The Associated Press

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Global coronavirus cases top 20M as Russia approves vaccine

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ROME — The number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide topped 20 million, more than half of them from the United States, India and Brazil, as Russia on Tuesday became the first country to approve a vaccine against the virus.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that one of his two adult daughters had already been inoculated with the cleared vaccine, which he described as effective. “She’s feeling well and has a high number of antibodies,” Putin said.

Russia has reported more than 890,000 cases, the fourth-highest total in the world, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally that also showed total confirmed cases globally surpassing 20 million.

It took six months or so to get to 10 million cases after the virus first appeared in central China late last year. It took just over six weeks for that number to double.

An AP analysis of data through Aug. 9 showed the U.S., India and Brazil together accounted for nearly two-thirds of all reported infections since the world hit 15 million coronavirus cases on July 22.

Health officials believe the actual number of people infected with the virus is much higher than the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University, given testing limitations and that as many as 40% of those with the virus show no symptoms.

As a result, the race to develop and deliver a vaccine has topped the global health care and geopolitical agenda, even as the United Nations has warned that any vaccine must be safe and made available to all, not just the wealthy.

Putin said the Russian vaccine underwent the necessary tests and offered a lasting immunity from the coronavirus. But scientists at home and abroad have warned that rushing to start using the vaccine before Phase 3 trials — which normally last for months and involve thousands of people — could backfire.

“The point is not to be first with a vaccine,” U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Tuesday during a visit to Taiwan when asked about the Russian vaccine. “The point is to have a vaccine that is safe and effective for the American people and the people of the world.”

The U.S. has a half-dozen vaccine candidates under development, China has begun inoculations with an experimental vaccine and European countries have several trials underway.

In Europe, countries that appeared to have gotten their outbreaks under control during nationwide lockdowns and lifted many public restrictions worked to prevent a resurgence of the virus. Finland joined France and Germany in announcing it would test travellers from at-risk countries upon arrival.

Spain, which along with Italy was hardest hit when the virus first exploded on the continent, now has the most confirmed cases in western Europe at nearly 323,000. The number of new cases has risen steadily in Spain since its strict, three-month lockdown ended on June 21, reaching 1,486 on Monday.

In Greece, which imposed strict lockdown measures early and kept its reported cases low during the height of the European epidemic, the government announced new measures Monday to prevent an outbreak. It ordered bars, restaurants and cafes in several regions to shut between midnight and 7 a.m.

Outside Europe, infection rates are exponentially higher.

The number of new cases reported daily continues to rise in India, hitting a rolling seven-day average of 58,768. In the U.S., which so far has more than 5 million confirmed cases, the daily average has decreased since July 22nd, but remains high at over 53,000.

South Africa has more than a half-million cases. In the country with the world’s largest number of HIV-positive people, the virus has disrupted the supply of antiretroviral drugs that a United Nations agency says could lead to 500,000 additional AIDS-related deaths.

In the 45 days it took reported coronavirus cases worldwide to double to 20 million, the number of reported virus deaths climbed to 736,191 from 499,506, according to the Johns Hopkins count, an average of more than 5,200 a day.

About one-fifth of reported deaths, or more than 163,000, have been in the U.S., the most in the world.

Caseloads are still rising quickly in many other countries, including Indonesia and Japan.

In Mexico, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, like Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro and U.S. President Donald Trump, seldom wears a mask and has resisted calls for a strict lockdown, saying Mexicans should be persuaded to observe social distancing, not forced to do so by police or fines.

With nearly 500,000 cases and more than 50,300 deaths, Mexico has struggled with how to curb outbreaks given that just over half its people work off the books with no benefits or unemployment insurance.

A full lockdown would prove too costly for people with little savings and tenuous daily incomes, said Assistant Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell, the president’s point man on the epidemic.

“We do not want a solution that would, in social terms, be more costly than the disease itself,” he said.

Mexico’s relatively high death rate results partly from the country having one of the world’s highest rates of obesity and diabetes. There has also been relatively little testing. Of all tests done, 47% are positive, suggesting that only seriously ill people are getting tests. That has hindered contract tracing.

India reported 53,601 new cases Tuesday as its count of total infections neared 2.3 million. Its reported case mortality rate, at 2%, is much lower than in the U.S. and Brazil.

Vietnam went from having reported no confirmed deaths and very few cases to battling fresh outbreaks that emerged in the seaside city of Danang.

New Zealand, which has been praised for quickly getting the virus under control, on Tuesday reported the first cases of local transmission in the country in 102 days. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said authorities found four cases of the coronavirus in one Auckland household from an unknown source.

Meanwhile, outbreaks in mainland China and semi-autonomous Hong Kong declined, with the number of new community infections in China falling to 13, all in the northwestern region of Xinjiang. Hong Kong counted 69 new cases.

Border closures, masks, lockdowns and infection data are now the new way of life for much of the world, not the politically combustible topics they are in the U.S.

A review by the Kaiser Health News service and The Associated Press found that at least 49 state and local public health leaders have resigned, retired or been fired since April across 23 states. The list has grown by more than 20 people since the AP and KHN started keeping track in June.

___

Kurtenbach reported from Mito, Japan. Stevenson reported from Mexico City. Associated Press journalist Nicky Forster in New York contributed to this report, as did other AP journalists from around the world.

Nicole Winfield, Elaine Kurtenbach And Mark Stevenson, The Associated Press















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Over half of Americans oppose Trump tariff on Canadian aluminum, survey suggests

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OTTAWA — A new opinion survey suggests Donald Trump’s recent decision to slap a tariff on Canadian raw aluminum is garnering poor reviews on both sides of the border.

In a web survey conducted by polling firm Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies, 58 per cent of American respondents said they disagreed with the 10 per cent import tax.

In what comes as less of a surprise, 90 per cent of Canadians who took part in the survey objected to the White House’s tariff.

The survey was conducted Aug. 7 to 9 among 1,513 Canadians and 1,003 Americans, 18 or older, who were recruited from an online panel.

Since polls created from internet panels are not random samples, the survey cannot be assigned a margin of error.

The polling firm says that using data from the 2016 census, results were weighted according to age, gender, language spoken, region, level of education and presence of children in the household in order to ensure a representative sample of the population.

Trump announced last week he was reimposing a tax on Canadian raw aluminum because Canada had broken a promise not to flood the U.S. market with the product.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland vehemently denied the dumping claim and said Canada would soon retaliate with $3.6 billion in tariffs on American items that contain aluminum.

“In imposing these tariffs, the United States has taken the absurd decision to harm its own people at a time its economy is suffering the deepest crisis since the Great Depression,” she said.

“Any American who buys a can of beer or a soda or a car or a bike will suffer.”

The comments might help explain why 28 per cent of Americans surveyed said they somewhat disagreed with Trump’s move, while 30 per cent said they totally disagreed.

Jean-Marc Leger, president of the survey firm, suggested the numbers reflect a lack of a clear rationale for the action by the mercurial U.S. president.

“Why the 10 per cent? Why at this moment?” he said. “It looks like another impulsive decision.”

Sixty-nine per cent of Canadians who participated in the survey said they completely disagreed with the tariff, with 21 per cent somewhat opposed.

Seventy per cent of Canadian respondents said Ottawa should fight back by imposing tariffs of its own on U.S. products.

The trade spat shattered the brief harmony between Ottawa and Washington that followed a successful renegotiation of the North American free trade agreement.

While nearly two-thirds of Americans told Leger that Canada and the U.S. benefit equally from their commercial exchanges, only 38 per cent of Canadians supported the notion.

Trump has also proposed banning popular video-sharing platform TikTok on national security grounds due to its corporate ties to China.

Forty-six per cent of American respondents supported the idea.

Fifty-four per cent of Canadians said they believed the Chinese government was using TikTok to spy on people. But only about one-third said Ottawa should outlaw the platform.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 11, 2020.

Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press

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august, 2020

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