Backlash begins against brands using Lisa LaFlamme's grey hair to sell soap and burgers
Canadian journalist Lisa LaFlamme has emerged in recent weeks as the poster-woman for "going grey" — an increasingly-political act in which women stop dyeing their hair to let naturally-coloured grey locks grow out.
LaFlamme didn't ask to be celebrated as "brave" for rocking grey hair, nor did she ask for her physical appearance to be at the centre of a nationwide debate surrounding women aging in the workplace.
She most certainly didn't ask Dove or Wendy's to use her recent termination from CTV as a marketing tool, but here we are; The #brands are back on that cringey, try-hard tip, using LaFlamme's situation as a way to "engage," and "spark conversation" about something nobody asked them to weigh in on.
I can't believe people are falling for this blatant marketing stunt. Maybe I wouldn't question your sincerity so much if you had actually "aged" Wendy so she doesn't look like a 16-year-old girl who coloured her hair. It's not about hair colour, it's about ageism.— Robbie (@ptbobob) August 25, 2022
LaFlamme, who revealed on-air in late 2020 that she found it liberating to grow out her natural hair colour during the pandemic, announced via Twitter on Aug. 15 that she was "blindsided" by Bell Media's recent decision to dismiss her as the anchor of CTV National News.
The award-winning journalist made no mention of her hair colour at the time, but did allude to rumours of sexism and ageism at Bell Media when mentioning that, "at 58, I still thought I'd have a lot more time to tell more of the stories that impact our daily lives."
Bell has denied that LaFlamme's age and gender were factors, calling her ousting a "business decision," the details of which are not yet crystal clear.
An unnamed senior employee at CTV told the globe that Bell Media's VP of News, Michael Melling, had asked during a meeting who had "approved the decision to let Lisa's hair go grey.'"
Canadaland had previously reported that LaFlamme and Melling butted heads in the newsroom, and that a CTV source said the executive "doesn't like it when women push back and he brags about how he's destroyed careers of anyone who dares push back."
Overly cocky execs have no business interfering in how the news is delivered to the public. @BellMediaPR esp. when they "brag" about their power. Hello @Rogers good deals for incoming customers,? Your competition clearly doesn't value women.https://t.co/vxUXUxDPpm— Jen (@CapitalJen77) August 17, 2022
The story has continued to grow as public backlash mounts against Bell, and Dove Canada was the first to identify (or at least execute upon) an opportunity.
"Age is beautiful. Women should be able to do it on their own terms, without any consequences," wrote the Unilever-owned personal care brand on Twitter Sunday night, making a clear allusion to LaFlamme without mentioning her name.
"Dove is donating $100,000 to Catalyst, a Canadian organization helping build inclusive workplaces for all women. Go grey with us, turn your profile picture greyscale and #KeepTheGrey."
While notable that the company did donate money to charity, the weird video they shared of a younger woman with brown hair slowly fading into greyscale didn't sit well with some.
The woman in your ad is, like, 30 and her grey hair is at the tips. She’s had it dyed. Don’t mind the message @DoveCanada but try to be realistic. @WomenAreNotIdiots even though ad companies and the men who run them seem to think we are.— Heather 😷 📚 🏴 🇨🇦 (@Heatherbells15) August 23, 2022
Most critics would agree, however, that Dove Canada was leaps and bounds ahead of Wendy's in terms of appropriateness, brand relevance and follow-through with its #KeepTheGrey social media campaign.
Dove literally sells haircare products, has a long history of advocacy and has been known to celebrate women of all sizes, shapes, colours, abilities and, yes, ages, in its advertisements.
Wendy's is known for spicy chicken sandwiches.
The thing about Wendy's changing their profile pic to grey hair is:— James McLeod (@jamespmcleod) August 25, 2022
- It's literally just uploading a different jpeg for brand klout
- The fact that it took them a week really tells you how many internal meetings there were about it
Marketing expert Bruce Winder warned in a Canadian Press piece published on Friday that Wendy's, Dove, and now Sports Illustrated "run the risk of being seen as opportunistic" when they pander to consumers through trending topics.
"No one's perfect, right? Every brand has skeletons in the closet... and this does very much open them up to scrutiny... so you better make sure your house is in order before you start throwing this out there," he told CP.
In any case, it's easy for people to see this kind of news moment marketing as lazy, shallow, exploitive or sleazy.
Wendy’s Canada backs #LisaLaFlamme, swaps mascot’s red hair for grey— Twenty York Street (@20YS) August 25, 2022
Or virtue signalling… riding on the coattails of hot trending topic!
Is @Wendys is actually donating to women’s causes or doing something to get @LisaLaFlamme_ reinstated?https://t.co/GWJA94MQJx
LaFlamme herself has yet to speak out publicly on her new role as the grey saviour, or anything since she posted her informal CTV signoff a few weeks back.
If she likes it, great. If not, Wendy's still sold a lot of square 'burgs this week.
It is of note that this particular instance of newsjacking doesn't seem to be making people roll their eyes as much as usual, whether for lack of critical thinking or the blanket adoration of LaFlamme.
That, or because they simply hate Bell way more than they could ever hate Dove or Wendy's.
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