Razor sharp conscious

Men’s grooming company Gillette sparks controversy with new ad campaign

By on January 22, 2019

Photo courtesy of Gillette.com
A new Gillette commercial, highlighting “toxic masculinity” and other issues, has stirred up both praise and criticism toward the company.

Gillette shared its “We Believe” commercial on its social media pages on Jan 14, three weeks before the Super Bowl. The 90 second video brought a new meaning to the company’s longtime tagline “The best a man can get” by addressing topics such as sexual harassment, bullying and stereotyping.

The commercial shows scenes of a young boy subjected to bullying, an older man touching a woman’s shoulders in a conference room and fathers echoing the phrase “Boys will be boys,” while witnessing their sons play fight.

Halfway through, the plot pivots. Scenes of men standing up for a woman being harassed and fathers encouraging their daughters to be tough are shown while soundbites from the #MeToo movement are played subtly in the background. The entirety of the video is also narrated.

“Is this the best a man can get? Is it?” the narrator says in the commercial. “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 believe the best in men.”

Since the commercial hit every social media platform, it has garnered 24 million views on Youtube and has received mixed reviews from both consumers and celebrities.

“I applaud @Gillette for this amazing, heartfelt ad addressing Toxic Masculinity,” Rainn Wilson (@RainnWilson) tweeted. “It’s powerful and much needed. I plan on sharing it with my son.”

Along with these positive comments, Gillette’s Youtube and Twitter pages were flooded by angry comments. Twitter users have even tweeted the hashtag #BoycottGillette and posted videos of themselves throwing their razors in the trash. This reaction is similar to the negative feedback Nike’s ad campaign featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick generated just last year.

“I, like so many of you watching, am so sick and tired of this virtue-signaling, man-bashing exaggeration from companies looking to gain social points with liberals.” said Political Commentator Tomi Lauren on Fox News. “Conservative men who value masculinity and buy your products don’t appreciate being endlessly attacked by the media, feminists and now Procter & Gamble.” 

In response to the criticism of the campaign, Gillette’s brand director, Pankaj Bhalla, gave a statement to the Wall Street Journal and confirmed that the brand has no plans to pull the ad.

“This is an important conversation happening, and as a company that encourages men to be their best, we feel compelled to both address it and take action of our own,” said Bhalla. “We are taking a realistic look at what’s happening today and aiming to inspire change by acknowledging that the old saying ‘Boys will be boys’ is not an excuse.”

It remains to be seen how the ad will impact sales, especially at a time where they face competition from startup subscription boxes such as Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s. This, however, isn’t the first time a Procter & Gamble company’s products have showcased ad campaigns that address ongoing issues. The company has even won awards for their campaigns in the past.

The company is best-known for its “Like a Girl” ad campaign for feminine-care brand Always. Procter & Gamble’s deodorant brand Secret also has a “Stress Test” commercial that depicts women preparing to confront sexism in conference meetings. Axe is another men’s grooming brand that has also recently shifted their commercial’s focus. This was done by releasing the body-positive video “Find Your Magic.”

With all the attention that Gillette’s commercial received, they have more ads lined up as part of their “The Best Men Can Be” campaign. This also includes donating one million dollars for the next three years to organizations like the Boys & Girls Club of America.

Throughout the controversy, one thing is for certain – Gillette has conveyed their idea of what masculinity is loud and clear to its audience.

“Our tagline needs to continue to inspire us all to be better every day, and to help create a new standard for boys to admire and for men to achieve,” reads Gillette’s website. “Because the boys of today are the men of tomorrow.”

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About Alexis Guerra

Managing Editor