COLUMN: Companies spark conversation when using controversial topics in advertisements

The conversation of whether companies should be able to put controversial topics in mainstream media has different opinions. If companies have a platform, they should use it to stand up for their beliefs.

Maggie Doheny is a sophomore journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about women’s rights.

In my cross-cultural journalism class my teacher showed us a commercial from Gillette that aired for the Super Bowl titled “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be”. This campaign sparked an array of controversial opinions and opened a discussion in my class.

The campaign showed many different scenarios of men bullying other men and covered the topic of sexual assault. Essentially, the message of this campaign encouraged men to be the best versions of themselves and step in when they see other men committing heinous actions.

The men in my class immediately defended themselves as an initial response. This campaign targeted men directly and offended many of them, because of course not all men would commit these bad acts. However, after some discussion that the campaign also showed men preventing others from committing sexual assault, their defense slowly declined.

Another large argument was whether a razor company has the right to place their political opinions in such a public forum. Some said “sometimes I just want to buy a razor and not worry about whether I am supporting a political idea.” That led me to a few of my own opinions about the campaign.

For starters, companies using commercials on social media and TV have the most power over what most people see. If these companies do not use their power to stand up for what they believe in, then what is the point?

Gillette is not the only company using its power for good. Yoplait released a campaign regarding mom-shaming and Airbnb responded to President Trump temporarily closing the borders to refugees with a campaign saying “We Accept” all nationalities. To say that companies with a platform are not allowed to voice their opinions takes away their own basic human rights solely because they are in a place where they could actually raise awareness. If we only allowed the people without platforms to have opinions, then that really would not raise nearly as much awareness, would it?

Along with that, why should we avoid putting controversial subjects on the largest platform? Gilette creating awareness of this topic is extremely important due to the frequency of sexual assault on both women and men. Unfortunately, one in three women and one in six men have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives. It is an issue that affects most people and the best way to start conversations about it is by putting it in a place that will gain the most viewers. There is simply no better way to make people aware of issues other than putting the problems right in front of their faces. Otherwise, people are able to ignore them altogether.

In 2019, the landscape of storytelling has changed. It will continue to change and, at this point in time, no platform is exempt from sharing political and social beliefs. If a company does not critique society’s issues, people will be mad. If that company does people will still be upset. Ignoring the problems results in no change and possible backtracking. In order for our world to be better, we must be open to addressing issues and moving forward accordingly.

That leads me to my next point. One person in my class specifically mentioned that “some people would like to shave their faces without thinking about politics.” To those who really want to be able to buy these products without a political message being attached: women would like to go outside and live their lives without the concern of being sexually assaulted or reminded of thoughts from a previous sexual assault. It’s not quite that simple, though, is it? Society could ignore all of the world’s problems and live life in ignorance every day, but then those problems will never be fixed.

After our class discussion, I came to the conclusion that companies like Gillette have a responsibility to express their opinions on social or political issues. The only way that these problems will change is by forcing the public to notice the problems and create change in their actions. Gillette succeeded in creating a conversation about sexual assault in my class and in the U.S. as a whole. If I am ever in a position of power I can only hope I will have the same opportunity to create conversation about what needs to change.

Edited by Roshae Hemmings | rhemmings@themaneater.com

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