Today’s guest post is by Peppercommer Matt Lester.
If I had a Brazilian Real (currently trading at about 3.25 to the dollar) for every commercial in the world that leaned on sports clichés like crutches, I’d be living the sweet life on Trancoso beach by now. So, for Gillette, a former client from my McCann International days, to get and keep my attention with an Olympic spot that overflows with athletic clichés is pretty astonishing.
As with thousands of spots from the likes of Nike, Adidas and now Under Armour, we are, of course, being wowed with amazing photography of Olympic athletes acting Olympian — soccer player Neymar Jr. from Brazil, swimmer Ning Zetao from China, cyclist Andy Tennant from the U.K., and decathlete Ashton Eaton from the U.S. — and beautiful scenery from around the globe, all adeptly shot by Daniel Bouquet. We’re already familiar with the physical and mental pain athletes must endure. But the addition of emotionally charged footage depicting both athletes and family members alike making sacrifices is commendable, if not particularly extraordinary. Thanks to the direction of Karim Huu Do, who threw in a touch of magical realism – á la the film “Pan Labyrinth” – you now have a wonderful illustration of the extreme challenges of training on an Olympic level. In fact, you’ve got something special going on.
But what really got my attention was the choice of the track “Unstoppable,” written and sung by Sia, along with rapper Pusha T of Clips and percussionist Olodum, and how it complemented the masterful editing by Gary Knight of Cut & Run. Together this created a tension and a narrative that celebrates the craft of commercial film making at the highest level. Once again, clichés abound in Sia’s lyrics, but I was still pulled further and further in as the energy of the film direction, music and editing shifted gears and accelerated.
Gillette’s “The best a man can get” was launched in January 1989 during Super Bowl XXIII. I later launched the campaign in Poland, Russia and China, so I’m intimately familiar with the challenges of the brand in general and their global marketing in particular. Although the line has served them extremely well over the years, some may say it’s a bit long in the tooth. It seems that what Gillette’s agency, Grey, is attempting to do here is give the line a self-consciously 2016 spin by adding to it: “The best a man can get… isn’t always pretty”…”But always worth the chase.” An obvious trying to associate the brand, and its now antique tagline, with the modern and energizing Brazilian Olympics. However, it does beg the question, If the best a man can get is not pretty, what is it? I believe the spot was produced for Brazil, so I’m wondering if there is fault in the reverse translation from Portuguese. What I remember of the essence of the brand is that Gillette was supposed to make men look and feel, if not pretty, at least well groomed. So, yes, it is very well produced, so I’ll forgive the prescriptive shaving shots jammed into the visual narrative, even overlook the products duct-taped to the ending. But, I just can’t forgive changing the meaning of a still valuable and persuasive tagline to justify a million dollars’ worth of sports clichés.
Although seductive, impressive production values will carry you only so far, then you need to say something really smart. There’s an oft used phrase that comes to mind here, that it was, “a long run for a short slide.” Oops, there goes another sports cliché…