Did divisive Gillette ad persuade Harry and Meghan to work with P&G?

·Royal Correspondent
·5-min read

Watch: Meghan Markle and Prince Harry land a multiyear charity deal

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have announced a new partnership with a Procter and Gamble, a huge global organisation which owns many brands common in homes around the world.

The move has been made to benefit their Archewell work on para-sport, gender equality and online communities

Sharing the news on Twitter, P&G said: "All of us at P&G are beyond excited to share our new partnership with Archewell Foundation, the non-profit created by Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex. 

"Together, we’re focused on building more compassionate communities around the world."

It's something of a full circle story for Meghan, who at the age of 11, wrote to Procter and Gamble to complain they had run an advert focused on women doing the dishes, failing to promote equality.

They changed the advert - and nearly 30 years later, they seem to be a company which is willing to challenge the status quo.

In recent years, P&G has attempted to use its platform to discuss important issues like race and sexism, but its offerings have been met with mixed responses. 

Its 2017 campaign called The Talk featured mothers talking to their children about racism, with one warning her daughter about racial bias when it came to her driving.

Though the daughter insists that she would not be pulled over or given a ticket, the mother goes on to say: "This is not about you getting a ticket. This is about you not coming home."

It was criticised for not featuring fathers talking to children, and P&G was accused of race-baiting - but ultimately the advert went on to win several awards including an Emmy.

Two years on they showed they were not put off in addressing difficult topics as they launched another potentially controversial advert, this time looking at male behaviour.

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In a Gillette advert, titled The Best Men Can Be, they rebuked poor behaviour like sexism and bullying, questioning the old adage that 'boys will be boys'.

The voiceover said: "We can’t hide from it, it’s been going on far too long. We can’t laugh it off, making the same old excuses. But something finally changed. And there will be no going back. 

Because we… We believe in the best in men. To say the right thing. To act the right way. Some already are, in ways big and small. But some is not enough. Because the boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow."

The advert divided opinion once again, with some threatening to boycott Gillette, though others praised them for the tough talk in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

Responding to criticism at the time, Pankaj Bhalla, Gillette’s North America brand director, told CNN: "We expected debate. Actually a discussion is necessary. If we don’t discuss and don’t talk about it, I don’t think real change will happen."

 P&G has also tried to improve its corporate diversity, with its CEO stating in 2019 that he wanted to see the board of directors made up of 50% women.

As of May 2021, six of the 13 board members are women. 

Reflecting on the partnership, Nick Ede, popular culture and brand expert, told Yahoo UK: "I think that once again, Meghan and Harry are showing a nimble approach to using their fame to create change and promote conversation.

"Aligning with P&G helps both of their brands. It allows P&G to have a stake in the ground when it comes to Archewell and what they are doing in the positive change space and it allows Meghan and Harry the ability to promote themselves to an even bigger audience and drive their brand into homes worldwide.

"I think it’s a brilliant strategic move and when you look at the Intellectual property that P&G possess ,there are some very exciting brand extensions – and also social good."

Harry and Meghan in London in 2019. They have announced a multi-year deal with Procter and Gamble. (Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

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However while there is much to be applauded, the Sussexes will likely be aware that affiliating with such a big company, which includes so many brands, leaves them open to take criticism associated with any of them.

P&G has had a share of controversies. In 2011 it admitted price fixing and was fined more than €200m by the European Commission.

In 2016, an Amnesty International report found one of its major palm oil suppliers, Wilmer, was using child labour.

It's also been criticised for its continued use of testing on animals, though P&G says it only tests on animals when required by law.

The P&G website states: "We stopped animal testing our cosmetics products many years ago. In fact, P&G no longer animal tests any consumer product unless required by law and we are committed to make animal testing obsolete."

Archewell was set up by Harry and Meghan in the wake of their step back from senior royal duties, and manages their charitable work.

It's also the same name they have given to their audio and film productions, which work on their Spotify and Netflix deals.

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