Black type appears across close-cropped images of pale skin and Caucasian faces as Procter & Gamble boldly challenges white Americans to do more than just talk and fret about racism.
Brand-new Los Angeles agency Cartwright, opened by Keith Cartwright, collaborated with Grey on the spot, titled "The Choice."
"Being white in America is not needing to state your life matters," the stark, hypnotic 75-second spot proclaims. "And when your life matters, you have power. Now is the time to use it."
Moses Sumney's shimmering, contemplative track "Doomed" plays in the background, as the text continues: "Words and feelings are not enough. Now is the time to take action. Read. Listen. Donate. Plan. March. Vote. Speak out. Step in. Step up."
Those succinct black words against indistinct white bodies suggest cries that can no longer be ignored—an anguished demand for justice and equality.
The ad concludes: “How you use your power is a choice. Choose action over observation. Choose progress over perfection," and directs viewers to PG.com/takeonrace for more information about resources supporting the cause.
"The Choice" broke Wednesday night during Oprah Winfrey's town hall on race relations, slightly more than two weeks after Minneapolis police officers killed George Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed black man, during an arrest, sparking outrage and protests worldwide. All four officers were subsequently fired and now face felony criminal charges. Derek Chauvin, who used his knee to pin Floyd's face against the pavement for nearly nine minutes, received the weightiest counts—second-degree murder and manslaughter.
Against that backdrop, "The Choice" stands as perhaps the most visceral statement yet from a big corporation about systemic racism. Many companies have voiced support, but only a few have produced deeper, thoughtful takes and calls to action. Ben & Jerry's strongly worded manifesto comes to mind, but P&G goes further by putting white people on notice and providing tools to help them forge change.
"The Choice" follows two other acclaimed P&G attacks on racism. "The Look," also created with help from Cartwright and his colleagues at Saturday Morning, broke last year, while "The Talk," created with BBDO, debuted in 2017.
"For years, we have used our voice as a leading advertiser to shine a light on inequality, highlight bias, and spark dialogue that leads to understanding and action," P&G says. "We've brought companies together for collective action. And we've made equality a priority within our own walls. But that's not enough. More is needed. Now."
"Together with our brands, we are doubling down on these efforts and establishing a fund with an initial contribution of $5 million to accelerate and expand this work alongside organizations that fight for justice, advance economic opportunity, enable greater access to education and health care and make our communities more equitable," the company says.
P&G's "Take On Race" Fund supports the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, YWCA Stand Against Racism, the United Negro College Fund, Courageous Conversation, and grassroots groups that hold elected officials more accountable.