January 23, 2019

Gillette says it's satisfied with sales after controversial ad

Procter & Gamble said Gillette sales haven't budged after its controversial #MeToo ad -- but it's calling the campaign a big success.

Gillette's sales following the commercial were "in-line with pre-campaign levels," P&G CFO Jon Moeller said on a call with reporters Wednesday. Its subscription business, Gillette Shave Club, continued to grow sales and add new subscribers.

The ad challenges men to turn away from toxic masculinity, and received "unprecedented levels" of media coverage and customer engagement, Moeller said.

"It's a part of our effort to connect more meaningfully with younger consumer groups," he said.

The ad, which only ran online, was a cost-effective way to get people talking, Moeller said. "That campaign was aired once and has generated significant conversation, which is important and has generated a huge number of impressions."

But it generated backlash. Critics like Piers Morgan slammed the ad for "driving a war against masculinity."

The spot, titled "We Believe," includes a voice narrating over scenes of bullying, catcalls, sexual harassment and masculinity. "Is this the best a man can get?" the ad asks.

"We can't hide from it. It's been going on far too long. We can't laugh it off, making the same old excuses." Then, in a direct reference to the #MeToo movement, the spot says, "Something has finally changed." It closes with scenes of men breaking up fights, standing up for women and being attentive fathers.

It's not unusual for P&G advertisements to address social issues. More brands may soon follow suit, because many customers want to see strong stands on politically charged topics like race, immigration, gay rights, guns and the environment.

"The 'woke' business strategy will be big theme in 2019, as that's where the money is," Scott Galloway, founder of the business research firm Gartner L2 and a professor of marketing at New York University Stern School of Business, told CNN Business last week.

P&G's grooming business, which includes brands like Gillette, Braun, and Venus, makes up 10% of the company's $66.8 billion in sales. Grooming has been the weakest division at P&G, and Gillette has lowered prices to compete.

The company said on Wednesday that the sales for grooming fell 3% last quarter from the same time a year ago.

But P&G's (PG) overall sales grew 4% last quarter thanks to strong performances from brands like Olay and Tide. P&G's stock jumped 6%.

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