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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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Federal aid for care home systems needed ahead of second wave, advocates say

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OTTAWA — The Ontario Long Term Care Association says the federal government must do more to help provinces prepare nursing and retirement homes for the next wave of COVID-19.

Its CEO Donna Duncan is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to quickly negotiate an agreement with provincial governments to deliver funds to help long-term care systems get ready as soon as possible.

Duncan says the military members deployed to care homes in Quebec and Ontario are not a long-term solution and that hundreds more workers will need to be hired as care homes prepare for another wave of infections.

She says that will take speed, creativity and cash — to pay them and provide the protective equipment, testing and policies to make them feel safe enough to go to work.

Duncan says there also needs to be immediate infrastructure funding and agreements to find alternative spaces so homes don’t have to place more than two residents in one room.

More than 4,000 long-term care residents died of COVID-19 in Ontario and Quebec alone and Duncan says Ontario homes that had three or four patients in a single room were hit hardest by outbreaks of the novel coronavirus.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 3, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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Defence Department accused of using pandemic to withhold info from Parliament

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OTTAWA — The Department of National Defence is being accused of trying to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to withhold information from Parliament and Canadians.

There has been widespread concern over various federal departments failing to respond to access-to-information requests but the Opposition Conservatives say the problem is much worse at the Defence Department.

Conservative defence critic James Bezan points to the department’s failure to respond to a large number of questions on the order paper in recent months, which it blamed on the pandemic.

Bezan says that stands in contrast to other departments having continued to answer order paper questions, a key way MPs get details about the inner workings of federal departments.

Parliamentary budget officer Yves Giroux also reported last week that the Defence Department blamed COVID-19 for its failure to respond to his request for an update on the government’s plan to spend tens of billions of dollars on new military gear in the coming years.

The Defence Department says it is committed to transparency and has responded to a dozen order paper questions since April, but the pandemic has limited access to certain records and databases and forced it to allocate key staff to other tasks.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 3, 2020.

The Canadian Press


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june, 2020

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