Pubic hair grooming accidents have, apparently, increased five fold in the last decade. "Nonelectric razors were responsible for 83 percent of injuries," according to the recent study by UC San Diego. If Gillette's new campaign is successful, ERs are going to see a lot more genital shaving injuries.
In what has to be one of the most transparent and intellectually insulting campaigns since whatever Axe did last, Gillette has assembled a team of models—led by encyclopedia entry for model Kate Upton—to tell guys, in no uncertain terms, that they have to shave their bodies. It's a genius idea with questionable execution and taste.
"I wouldn't date a guy who had grooming problems. So… no. 'Boop!'," says Upton a moment before she giggles and jiggles in her chair during a behind-the-scenese video, above. What about grooming "down there?" Upton says that's "very important." Blink, wink, smile. Giggle, wiggle, jiggle.
It's just one element of Gillette's new campaign (TV, YouTube and Facebook) for its Fusion ProGlide Styler, a "three-in-one unlimited body styling" razor that allows users to "Trim. Shave. Edge." Other ads feature Upton alongside Hannah and "Genesis."
For those keeping track, "Genesis" is the one who "likes men completely hairless." The videos tease a "What Women Want" event on April 18, a live YouTube program that promises to be a combination of Dr. Ruth and the old Playboy Channel.
The aim for Gillette's campaign is simple: Convince people hair is unwanted and those people will buy more hair removal products. Gillette already knows the approach works because it did it with women.
In the early 1900s, hot fashion magazine of the day Harper's Bazaar featured a cover model with shaven armpits. British razor maker Wilkinson Sword jumped on the trend with a campaign announcing female body hair as "unfeminine" and "unhygienic." Sales doubled in just a couple years. Oddly enough, 90 years later Wilkinson Sword—known as Schick in some markets—was at it again, telling women in the UK in a much less sincere way to "Mow the lawn."
In this latest return to the Bush years, Gillette's campaign pairs Upton and her sidekicks with QR codes that match up to reveal the models' individual preferences for male grooming.
Gillette told the New York Times that the idea (or, if you will, Genesis) for the "below the neck" campaign emerged after customers told the brand they were already using the Fusion ProGlide for non-face grooming. Gillette's research revealed that over 60 percent of men 18 to 34 shave below the neck with "the groin" the most common location.
Gillette's campaign against pubes comes on the heels of a similar, sincere effort by the brand to address facial hair and kissing. Gillette's move into "manscaping" also follows closely on the heels of Axe's partnership with Schick and Philips Norelco for a line of grooming products. In partnership with Walmart, Axe's "Face and Shave" line includes a handful of razors as well as "detail trimmer" and "Bodygroom" products aimed at the below-the-neck male consumer.
Despite a good set up with Upton and crew's endorsement, Gillette faces a fundamental problem with endorsements it cannot buy. The comments on its YouTube ads are not as positive as the brand would probably like and the clips have a worrisome number of dislikes. Also, the brand has bravely—or naively—allowed user ratings on the landing page for its product, only 58 percent of which currently would recommend the ProGlide Styler. While it's a smart move to shoot for an honest conversation about a product, Gillette might want to use those reviews to fix consumer perception issues.
Another potential mistake Gillette may have made is to assume that "bros" will listen to Upton just because they enjoy ogling at her. In fact, part of the whole central idea of treating somebody like a sex object means not seeing them as a whole person with legitimate opinions worth listening to.
The trend toward hairlessness has produced some backlash. Last year, some activists launched "Decembeaver," a month when women would not shave to match men's "Movember" movement. And two years ago, Jezebel writer Jenna Sauers pointed out that after years when "even just the acknowledgement of pubic hair's existence… had become a sort of oughts-age taboo," high-end fashion magazines and brands were embracing the bush. It's a trend that could undermine all of Gillette and Upton's hard work.