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PR Fail: Proctor & Gamble Puts the Woman Back in the Kitchen
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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"We can do it!" 

This was the rallying cry from the World War II symbol and beloved icon of the battle on the home front, "Rosie the Riveter." Everyone got behind this picture of a woman leading the charge. She was no longer stereotyped as barefoot, pregnant, and waiting on a man, catering to his every whim. No more pearls and apron to clean windows. Rosie was a "tough ol' broad" as my father said. And now, thanks to the apparent lapse of feminism and perceived misogynistic representation of Rosie in the latest Proctor & Gamble ad, that "it" is to steam clean the whole kitchen with this new product by Swiffer. Stay classy, P&G. 

Historic precedent? Meh. Female source of pride for decades? Screw it. This company needed to sell a steam cleaner and needed something the older chicks in their demo would understand. Obviously, P&G — specifically, the cracked marketing team at Swiffer — didn't account for people's sense of Americana. That, and all that women's suffrage crap, right? 

From the ubiquitous and mysterious "Swiffer spokesperson": "We are aware of the concerns regarding an image in a Swiffer ad. Our core purpose is to make cleaning easier for all consumers, regardless of who is behind the handle of our products. It was not our intention to offend any group with the image, and are working to make changes to where it is used as quickly as possible."

As Emma Gray writes in the HuffPo article linked above, "When Westinghouse Electric [source for Rosie the Riveter] told U.S. women, 'We can do it' to boost worker morale in 1943, we're pretty sure they didn't have household chores in mind." Okay, one...genius. And two...are we that desensitized to the world around us that not even an intern in this whiteboard room didn't raise a hand and coyly say, "Um, this may piss off the ladies intended to use the product." Because nothing says embracing your demographic than dropping trou and mooning them. 

Listen, I loathe P.C. language and intimidation more than anyone I know, but there is also respect. And the lack of it that P&G showed here is unfathomable. Ah well, this went viral, P&G got spanked and the ad will fade away. Meanwhile, if you need me, I won't be burning my bra...I'll be steam cleaning my kitchen. Girl power! 

   

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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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