Shaving company Braun finds itself in controversy this week over an advertising campaign denounced as insensitive and inappropriate.
The advert in question features a transgender model who visibly bears scars from a double mastectomy. It is promoting Braun’s new line of men’s trimmers for shaving beard, body and head hair.
Outspoken women’s rights advocate Kellie-Jay Keen labelled the campaign “utterly preposterous”, questioning whether it complies with advertising codes.
“What on earth were they thinking?”, an incensed Keen remarked in a recent interview with GB News. “I recently spoke to a woman still recovering from a mastectomy who was deeply offended by this virtue-signalling stunt. She is still enduring a slow and agonising recovery, making the trivialisation of such traumatic surgery incredibly insulting.”
Expanding on her objections during an appearance on TalkTV, Keen argued to host Kevin O’Sullivan that the advert trivialises gender dysphoria and serious surgical procedures. Both questioned the commercial logic of Braun’s decision, suggesting it could alienate potential customers. They theorised that younger “woke” marketing teams might be pushing these types of campaigns, predicting it will ultimately backfire.
Keen implied Braun could be contravening guidelines from the Advertising Standards Authority, which urge prudence in portraying cosmetic surgery as low-risk or straightforward.
Her views were reinforced by GB News presenter Dan Wootton, who referenced breast cancer survivor Suzanne Evans’ disgust at the controversial advert.
This furore comes just weeks after Costa Coffee was castigated for adorning a van with cartoonish mastectomy scars in a gesture of LGBTQ inclusivity. Costa’s actions were labelled “crass and irresponsible” by child safety groups anxious about the impact on young viewers.
Braun’s parent company Procter & Gamble provided a statement defending the campaign and its message of equality. But many persist in reproaching the brand for insensitivity towards mastectomy patients in their eagerness to signal virtue.
Advocacy groups emphasise that full recovery from breast removal can be slow, painful and traumatic. They argue visionary branding should not come at the expense of those still struggling with the realities of major surgery.
With criticisms mounting, Braun faces tough questions over whether this progressive campaign went too far in exploiting delicate subjects. The Advertising Standards Authority now has a difficult judgement to make on upholding standards versus stifling inclusivity.
This latest advertisement continues a trend of brands courting controversy in their haste to showcase diversity. When marketing becomes activism, backlash often ensues from those who feel misrepresented or trivialized.
Braun is not the first company accused of overstepping the mark in socially conscious advertising. As more firms jump on the inclusion bandwagon, they would do well to heed the lessons of campaigns that provoked unintended offence. Authenticity matters more than activism.