Two Ads I Like and Also Don’t Like – Matthew Barnes

Being political has little to do with that braying crowd in the British parliament, or guesting on Fox News, or writing bad columns in dying broadsheets desperate to stay alive for a few more months.

Being political is just life, it’s having a conversation, an opinion about something. It’s having the courage to listen to the point of view you just want to shout down.

I don’t like them as their intention is to use this debate to sell more shit, to more people, more often.


In 1936 F. Scott Fitzgerald said that the test of a first-rate intelligence was being able to hold two opposing ideas in the mind at the same time. To see the positive and negative aspects of all sides of the story and try to form a balanced (and informed) opinion. In duality, there is a certain beauty.

So these ads are particularly provocative, and I like them and I don’t like them. I like them because they’ve stirred up a healthy political debate and a search for common ground. I don’t like them as their intention is to use this debate to sell more shit, to more people, more often.

Does one outweigh the other? Have these ads transcended the products and brands they purport to represent? Or are they just playing politics for profit?

Two I Like and Don’t Like

The Gillette Ad

In case you missed it, this is an advertisement that asks men to be better in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Cool. Bold. Brave. It has over 27 million views at the time of writing.


It feels good, and at the very least far beyond where Gillette was – firmly stuck in a misogynistic past. Elijah Wood called it “beautiful”, and Maria Shriver “powerful and much needed” but it’s also been hated a lot, with more than a million dislikes and some searing negative comments.

Comments like “the worst marketing move of the whole year” from Mark Ritson and “one of the most pathetic, virtue-signaling things I’ve ever endured watching” from Piers Morgan. But who cares what they think? The real clever bastards are true cynics.

Those that have seen through all of the bickerings to the sexless heart of the issue – that this ad deliberately leverages political controversy to create publicity for a brand. If you like your cultural morality served with a dollop of shaving cream then this is definitely for you.

Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ with Colin Kaepernick

There are similarities here. Last year’s punchy ad from Nike extolls the benefits of believing in something, anything, taking a stand (or a knee) for what you love. Kaepernick’s voice is compelling, a “courageous voice of dissent” and I love the way this ad has stirred up the debate around class, race, and American patriotism/nationalism.

His voice is sincere, his conviction real, but it cannot escape the frame in which it sits, or the branding lurking below it.

This appears to be a particularly popular marketing strategy at the moment, taking a stand for something to generate a furore and by extension a profit. And while the cultural and social benefits of open dialogue — of the clashing of ideas — are huge, the halo effect Nike and now Gillette have received cannot be denied.

This could be considered covert capitalism at its best worst.

Matthew Barnes

Matthew Barnes

Matthew Barnes is the Head of Digital at Colenso BBDO

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