For Some Customers, Sexist Ad Remains Dark Cloud Over Method
After we added Method, a company that makes green-friendly cleaning products, to our list of GOOD Company Project finalists, commenter ABGUSHTE wrote:
Isn't Method that company that made the awful sexual-harrassy commercial a couple of years ago? And then took it down and gave a non-apology apology? Yeah...I will never use their products.
That comment, along with a number of e-mails about the controversy, demonstrate that people haven't forgotten that Method did indeed produce an ugly ad in 2009:
“We have removed the video from YouTube and other controlled sources, and we have reached out to every person who contacted us to let them know that we removed the video. We also apologized for any offense we caused.”
As anyone who’s been in middle school is aware, “I’m sorry you were offended” isn’t the same as “I’m sorry for doing something wrong.”
All this raises an important question about how we assess a company's social impact: What does a business with an otherwise laudable social impact record need to do after a mistake as avoidable as a sexual harassment-themed ad?
Method’s public relations contacts haven’t replied to several attempts to contact them about their company and this issue—I’d love to talk!—but there is an argument for some kind of statute of limitations. The company did take the ad down, and it’s unlikely they’ll forget the experience when they’re green-lighting their next ad campaign. If we don’t reward companies that respond to criticism by changing their behavior, all the criticism will have been wasted.
On the other hand, Method’s response wasn’t exactly laudable. I spoke with several brand strategists about how the firm should have approached the controversy, and they weren’t impressed with the lack of accountability in the statement, agreeing the brand should have acknowledged that the commercial was inappropriate. Otherwise, their decision to pull the spot seems to like an attempt to assuage complaining customers without changing their approach to marketing.
“You can’t hide anymore,” one strategist said. In a world where media is social and the internet remembers everything, total transparency is the key for any company—especially one that makes brand identity a major part of its sales pitch. Juggernaut Clorox can market anything that cleans, but Method's success requires it to maintain its image as a progressive company where efforts at sustainability are matched by respect for women.
It’s hard to imagine that Method will re-open this can of worms now by addressing the issue the way they probably should have in 2009, but it’s a lesson for other companies. Nivea, the beauty products company, was recently embroiled in a similar public relations mishap when an ad suggested that natural hair on a black male model was “uncivilized.” The company apologized within hours:
“This ad was inappropriate and offensive. It was never our intention to offend anyone, and for this we are deeply sorry. This ad will never be used again.”
Note the firm’s acknowledgement of the mistake, not that people were offended. The difference between Nivea and Method is the authenticity that comes from frank acknowledgement of a mistake rather than an unwillingness to hold itself accountable.
It's unfortunate that the ad and its response clearly lingers in the minds of many who would otherwise be Method customers, and that what was no doubt the product of a small number of people has affected the image of the entire corporation.
Of course, some folks, including the editors of Ad Age, thought the commercial didn’t warrant the outcry, and Method pointed out at the time that the viral video garnered attention for a campaign for cleaning product label transparency. But I, for one, was too busy cringing at the harassment to get the message.
This Yoga-in-Schools Program Just Raised $31,000 in Crowdfunding R.I.S.E. introduces Bay Area teens to yoga, to help with self-image, grades, and other adolescent nightmares.
A New Olympics Just For Nomads Playing polo with a 100-pound goat carcass to save nomadic culture and build national pride in Kyrgyzstan.
New Detroit Program Trades Houses for Literary Excellence Write a House names Brooklyn poet Casey Rocheteau as first recipient of free home in Detroit
A Chance in Hell Yaks, America, and The Apocalypse Up against an $88 billion beef industry, it takes a leap of faith to raise yak in the United States.
Specialty Coffee Retailers Try to Prove They're Good to the Last Drop Searching for the perfect cup of sustainable and ethically produced joe. #NationalCoffeeDay
Metalhead Ballerinas Rock the U.K. Brutal Ballet slayed U.K. audiences last week with the debut of original choreography set to a metal cover of the Game of Thrones themesong.
You’re Now a Two-Minute Video Away from Getting into College
Goucher College will accept video applications in lieu of the traditional essays and test scores.
3 Epic Racial Profiling Blunders from History
Racial profiling not only harms innocent people of color, it can cause law enforcement to lose crucial time in pursuing the true criminals.
10 Overlooked Issues That People are Protesting This Week at the U.N.
The U.N. General Assembly is a magnet for protest from every race, color, and creed. Meet some of the people behind the picketing.
Why We Still Need the Nation State Overshadowed by international organizations, global commerce, and even individual cities, the nation state still has a vital role to play.
Flip-Flopping on Fats Health and sustainability concerns drive the two largest donut chains to change their policies on palm oil.
The Challenge of Branding a Life-Threatening Disease Can mitochondrial disease go mainstream? There are promising developments for mitochondrial disease in genetics and cellular therapies—now, if only it could get some buzz.