P&G's 'The Talk' ad stirs up social media, earning blowback and - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

P&G's 'The Talk' ad stirs up social media, earning blowback and praise

P&G ad sparks racial controversy. (Source: Proctor & Gamble) P&G ad sparks racial controversy. (Source: Proctor & Gamble)
CINCINNATI (FOX19) -

Procter & Gamble has tackled racial bias with its latest ad "The Talk," stirring controversy as "identity-politics pandering" while also earning plaudits across social media, according to our partners at the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Here's what you need to know:

Parents, kids and the specter of bias: The Cincinnati-based company said it wanted to spur debate over racial bias when it released the two-minute clip that doesn't hawk any P&G brands, but rather depicts African-American parents discussing race and discrimination with their children.

One scene in the video depicts a mother telling her daughter that someone saying she is "pretty for a black girl" is not a compliment; one shows a nervous mother telling her son to take identification with him before going out; and another portrays a mother telling her son about that "ugly" word he heard after being chased by a group of white youths.

It ends with the message: "It's time for everyone to #TalkAboutBias."

Predictably, the video has gone viral, with more than 100,000 views on a P&G YouTube channel as of Thursday night. It's been attacked in some quarters of social media as racist against whites and anti-law enforcement. Some have called for a boycott of P&G products. Others praised the ad and defended P&G.

Spokesman Damon Jones said P&G is disappointed that some consumers objected to the ad, but stood by the message. The title of  "The Talk" references the discussion that many black parents have with their children; it's part of a relaunch of P&G's My Black Is Beautiful campaign.  

About that scene some police groups don't like: Perhaps the strongest reaction to the ad stems from one scene in which a mother in the passenger seat talks to her daughter in the driver's seat about how to behave if she's pulled over by a police officer.

When her daughter protests that she's a good driver, the mother says, "This is not about you getting a ticket, this is about you not coming home."

The scene is a clear response to national attention paid in recent years to shooting of unarmed drivers by law-enforcement officers, including the shooting of Sam DuBose two years ago by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing.

It drew criticism as painting all police as racist profilers. The ad has drawn praise as well.

Conservative commentator Michelle Malkin accused P&G in a National Review column of sending this underlying message: "Police officers are the enemy."

Of the mother's warning about her daughter not coming home after being stopped by police, Malkin writes: "Because racist predator cops lurk on every corner, plotting to kidnap and kill black girls just trying to get to Forever 21? Really, Procter & Gamble? Way to alienate the millions of law-enforcement families — of all colors — who purchase your goods."

Eddie Hawkins, president of the Sentinel Police Association, was among those supportive of the ad. His group is a civil rights organization within the Cincinnati Police Department.

Hawkins said the ad strikes a nerve because "it's the truth." Even as a police officer, he said he had "the talk" just two years ago with his own son when he started driving.

"I told him to do exactly as he's told and if he disagreed, let me handle it later as his parent," Hawkins recalled.

"I think it's a good ad," Hawkins said. "Racism is everywhere, but racism is not the only problem. It's the lack of acknowledgment that it exists."

We've been here before:  The maker of Tide detergent and Pampers diapers produced the video to spur a discussion similar to when it produced its "Like A Girl" ad for the Always pantyliner brand in 2014.

P&G has previously pressed social buttons trying to build a deeper connection with its target customers, company spokesman Jones said, adding that many P&G commercials have attracted controversy in the past.

"When we did 'Thank You, Mom,' there were those who wanted to know where's our ad for dad," Jones said.

In eastern Asia, P&G ran ads for the "Change Destiny" campaign that challenged women who were not married by a certain age were "leftover women."

In India, P&G ran the "Share The Load" campaign for Ariel detergent, questioning that laundry was solely a woman's chore.

"As a corporate citizen we have a unique opportunity, and a responsibility, to use our voice and our resources for good," the company said in a statement. "Through our brands, we can bring greater awareness to bias that exists in many forms, sparking conversations that motivate change, creating new expectations for people to live up to, and ultimately helping to create more equal opportunities for all."

A boost to the bottom line?: P&G officials say they've been targeted by boycotts for controversial ads before, but such efforts haven't left a lasting mark. Tackling the right issues wins hearts – and wallets, company officials say.

Indeed, spokesman Jones acknowledged P&G has generated solid sales by picking the right fights. The Always brand has increased its market share by two percentage points since the "Like A Girl" campaign.

"It connects with the consumer on a rational and emotional level," Jones said. "Improving society and business are not mutually exclusive."

This report was published by Alexander Coolidge, The Cincinnati Enquirer.

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