Gay couple celebrates pride [illustrative].
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Meghan Markle’s famous protest letter of 20 years ago made the headlines again recently. The Duchess of Sussex, at the time only 11 years of age, was indignant about the women’s-only approach of Proctor & Gamble in the company’s commercial for Fairy dish washing detergent, which stated that “Women across America are fighting the soiled pots and pans.” Just women.
Markle understood early on, the potential power of a brand to create reality and had written, among others, to Hillary Clinton, who supported her. As a result of this initiative, P&G – the company I work for – had then revised and edited the Fairy commercial.
The future duchess understood what many of us understand today: brands are not just consumer goods – rather, they are goods with a statement. With content and with a responsibility. And yes, they often create reality.
This is exactly a topic we addressed a year ago, when we conceived the “Power Toothbrush for Every Child” Program, which puts advanced brushing technology in the hands of all 3-year olds so that they acquire healthy oral care habits for life. For the program’s commercials, we chose to document real families, rather than use actors, who tell the viewers about the difficulties encountered when trying to make your children brush their teeth (show me a family that doesn’t face this challenge).
We went and identified three Israeli families that represent the heterogeneity of Israeli society: a secular family, a religious one and a… We stopped for a moment to think here. P&G makes and markets brands that serve billions of people worldwide. However, these brands are also out on a mission to improve lives and becomes a force for good. The brand in the specific case of our power toothbrush program has the power to improve the oral health of Israeli children, who are deficient in comparison with those in other developed Western countries.
The same social perspective has challenged us to think how we can create a better, more inclusive reality in our new commercial. When portraying real families, should the Oral-B brand take a stand also on gay couples’ right to become parents? Will we be jeopardizing our campaign if we add a controversial issue? How will the public react?
Following internal deliberations, we decided to take one more step further and chose father Udi, father Guy and their little daughter Tom as our third family – a family like any other. We hoped that airing the commercial on prime time and in digital channels would help position gay families among all traditional families.
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This was the reality we sought to create because Proctor & Gamble had already declared, some 25 years ago, equal rights for all its employees regardless of their sexual preferences – and has since been advancing the recognition of same-sex marriage and the granting of equal rights. In addition, dedicated employee groups within P&G promote LGBT rights and well-being with broad support of the management.
Despite the amazing progress made around the world and in Israel, alienation and exclusion are still the daily reality of LGBTs. It was only in 2015 that a survey by the Commission for Equality in the Workplace found that LGBTs suffer from discrimination in all stages of their professional life cycle – from job search through recruitment to promotion.
This state of affairs affects more than LGBTs: it extends to the organization in which they work as well as to the national economy. It starts from within: an inclusive workplace allows recruitment, retention and development of talented employees – and also encourages creative and innovative thinking, an advantage every business needs in today’s competitive environment. Finally, the reality within the organization shapes its strategy, commercials, products and marketing messages.
Getting back to our Oral B commercial, the outcome of the commercial has proven to be an important lesson: no negative comments were made on the commercial. Quite the contrary – consumers were very positive in their feedback, and the media has covered our campaign with an unequivocally favorable tone, naming it “61 seconds of LGBT revolution on screen.” We have proved that at the end of the day, this “kind” of family is the same as any other Israeli family, as diversified as it may be, and it too experiences the same issues.
More than anything else, we revel in the knowledge that somewhere in Israel, a child of gay parents is watching our commercial and is feeling that she or she is part of the Israeli mainstream. We also know the work is far from complete, but that we are on the right track.The writer is a Board Member and Director of External Relations at Procter & Gamble.
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