Evolution of Advertising: Gillette

Advertising plays such a large role in present day consumerist America. For example, the National Football League’s Super Bowl, arguably the largest sporting event in 21st century, draws a lot of viewers just for the advertisements. When it comes to advertising, however, the target audience is a key factor that is discussed. In episode 2 “Ladies Room” of AMC’s Mad Men, the boys of Sterling Cooper’s creative department are introduced to a new innovation. This innovation is not only important for the world of advertising but also for daily life in general, and it comes in the form of an aerosol spray can. The product in which that episode’s pitch was centered around was the new Right Guard antiperspirant spray deodorant. Although spray deodorant is very conventional today with the sex-appeal targeting advertisement of AXE, it was difficult for Ken Cosgrove, Paul Kinsey, and Salvatore Romano to find a suitable advertising pitch as Right Guard was the first aerosol spray deodorant. However, by taking a look at Sterling Cooper’s Right Guard campaign, we not only see the evolution of advertisements by Gillette but we also see the progression of advertisement methods in America as a whole. 


(A modern AXE advertisement as depicted above. The target audience for the present day body spray is male with a strong focus on the female sex appeal.)

Gillette started as a company specifically for men’s grooming needs. It later targeted women as well, and towards the latter half of the 20th century it ventured into the market of Toiletries. Gillette’s Right Guard antiperspirant deodorant spray was an innovation for the toiletries sector, and thus innovation was the key concept for Sterling Cooper’s creative department’s pitch in “Ladies Room.” As Paul Kinsey praises the Right Guard spray-can as a “rocket” and a “space age...engineering marvel”, Donald Draper, head of the creative department, comments that Paul needs to look at the target consumer who will physically buy the Right Guard spray-can. During 1960s America men occupied more of the high paying jobs than women did. A majority of the labor force was men, and while the men worked, the women would stay at home and do the household shopping (refer to the chart for statistical information). Thus, Donald Draper regarded how the advertisements for the first Right Guard spray deodorant should target the women buying the product and not the men. This advertisement campaign held true for the time period in real life as well.  
The advertisement above is a magazine spread. During 1960s America, magazine spread advertisements played a major role in gaining public attention for a product. Although they play a role in today’s advertisement market, they are not as large as the television/media market for advertising. Although as seen in the ad above, Right Guard still does target women today, it mainly targets the male market for which the product is optimized for. 

Seen in this advertisement video from present day America, Gillette has changed its Right Guard ad to target the different cultural norms and mentality of the 21st century. With Mad Men as a lens, we are able to see the evolution of advertising from 1960s America to the present day through a company that has successfully thrived through diversifying its advertisement methods based on the changing of time periods. Keep on the cutting edge Gillette!


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