January 16, 2019

New 'Toxic Masculinity' Gillette Commercial Sparks Conversation

Gillette wants us to rethink "Boys will be boys." 

The #MeToo campaign has caused a lot of corporations to rethink both their internal practices and public image. As Hollywood has to reconcile a lot of their misbehaviors, it's interesting to see how other parts of the industry have embraced or shunned the message. Advertising in particular. 

Well this new campaign from Gillette, titled "We Believe" features no razors. 

Instead, they went with a much more important message. 

"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," said Pankaj Bhalla, Gillette's North America brand director.

The advertisement has been divisive online, with some lauding the message, while others tearing it apart. Plenty of people have taken to social media to share images of them flushing their razors down the toilet. Which... might cause some plumbing issues... 

Gillette is owned by Proctor and Gamble, who prides themselves on message-based advertising. It seems like stirring up controversy is getting the views and getting people talking about Gillette again. 

This isn't the first time P&G has waded into social messaging waters if you missed 'The Talk' from 2017, it's truly a masterful piece of content, and messaging handled by NYC ad agency BBDO: 

Gillette's website leads with this explanation of The Best A Man Can Get commercial: 

"Thirty years ago, we launched our The Best A Man Can Get tagline.

Since then, it has been an aspirational statement, reflecting standards that many men strive to achieve.

But turn on the news today and it’s easy to believe that men are not at their best. Many find themselves at a crossroads, caught between the past and a new era of masculinity. While it is clear that changes are needed, where and how we can start to effect that change is less obvious for many. And when the changes needed seem so monumental, it can feel daunting to begin. So, let’s do it together.

It’s time we acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture. And as a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man. With that in mind, we have spent the last few months taking a hard look at our past and coming communication and reflecting on the types of men and behaviors we want to celebrate. We’re inviting all men along this journey with us – to strive to be better, to make us better, and to help each other be better.

From today on, we pledge to actively challenge the stereotypes and expectations of what it means to be a man everywhere you see Gillette. In the ads we run, the images we publish to social media, the words we choose, and so much more.

As part of The Best Men Can Be campaign, Gillette is committing to donate $1 million per year for the next three years to non-profit organizations executing programs in the United States designed to inspire, educate and help men of all ages achieve their personal “best” and become role models for the next generation.

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… Because the boys of today are the men of tomorrow.

We’ve all got work to do. And it starts today.

Gillette. The Best A Man Can Get."

Let's keep in mind that behind the spot, love it or hate it, is a company looking for exposure. You don't have to be jaded to recognize that something like this is going to get a lot of clicks. 

It's going to get a lot of celebrities talking... tweeting... supporting... hating. 

We've heard the expression 'there is no such thing as bad publicity', they say coined by P.T. Barnum of circus self-promotion fame. Do people on every news channel blasting or supporting a Gillette ad get more attention to Gillette maybe than there was a few weeks ago? 

Remember what happened to Nike's stock after the Kaepernick ad?

Of course this isn't to say there isn't great value in this sort of message going mainstream. Of course there is! But we should keep the big picture in mind. Gillette and Proctor and Gamble make this move for more than one reason.

What Do You Make of Gillette "We Believe" Commercial 

What do you think of the advertisement? Should companies use their brands to push a socially conscious message? Are they just after attention, or does the cause matter to them? 

Let us know in the comments!      

Your Comment

17 Comments

Does anyone know the ad agency that did this ad? The article mentions the ad from last year was done by BBDO, but I was wondering if anyone knew for sure who did this one? Really curious.

January 16, 2019 at 2:19PM

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Grey agency.

January 16, 2019 at 3:08PM

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This is good information. As soon as I saw this ad, I knew there would be a Gillette boycott (rightly so), but I was thinking people would also want to boycott the agency that made it. People should know to boycott everything Grey Agency works on from here on out. You just can't fix this type of anti-male bigotry without hitting them in the wallet.
This is the type of ad that made me actually focus on the name of the company so that I could intentionally never buy their products in my lifetime. It's a one-in-a-trillion type of stupidity. Anyone who thought this was a good idea lives 100% in an echo chamber. When companies try to virtue-signal, they should be sure they're not being vicious in the attempt. So Ironic.

January 16, 2019 at 4:49PM, Edited January 16, 4:53PM

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I'm a guy so I'm not allowed to comment on a commercial about toxic masculinity directed by a woman. But if I were allowed to comment I'd say it's a load of crap. Pseudo corporate enlightenment and faux woke-ass heroics don't motivate me to buy overpriced razors. I remember what happened to Nike's stock after the Kaepernick ad. I also know what was happening to NFL attendance and viewership.

January 16, 2019 at 3:51PM

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What happened to Nike's stock? Uh...if increased sales is a problem.. o.k.

https://www.si.com/nfl/2018/12/22/colin-kaepernick-nike-ad-campaign-sales

http://fortune.com/2018/12/21/nike-stock-colin-kaepernick/

freakin facts... i mean fake news.

January 17, 2019 at 12:34PM

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Dude. Not everyone is your enemy. Chip was very clearly setting up a contrast between Nike and the NFL in his post. Nike was very lucky. The NFL, not so much. Contrast. He was making the point that this could go either way for Gillette. It's entirely possible Gillette sales will actually increase. Remember, there's lots of intolerant bigots who think similarly to the hate-mongering leaders at Gillette, Nike, and the NFL.

January 17, 2019 at 3:18PM

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Not seeing the contrast there. it seems that he was pointing out "Pseudo corporate enlightenment and faux woke-ass heroics" and trying to use nike AND the nfl as examples of the negative effects of said "faux woke-ass heroics". But maybe the intent wasn't totally clear or my reading was off, but that's what i got out of it. i never posts on stuff like this but i was kinda amused at the vitriol that this spot created and was actually kinda wondering what motivated this kind of thinking. Personally, I was encouraged by the ad, but I'm no closer to buying Gillette than I was before.

January 17, 2019 at 4:23PM

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Do they want to sell men razors......or make them feel bad about themselves?

It's not hard........'Old School' Advertising rule 101 - Don't insult your customer.

Has 'gas-lighting' your customers with virtue signalling become the sad and pathetic new norm in selling 'stuff' to folks?.......because it is likely to have the opposite affect on many (through protest at the condescension alone).

There are probably better places to find your moral lessons...... than from a scummy corporation trying to sell with shame on tv....... while attempting to co-opt important social causes.

Surprise surprise....it can be repurposed as 'no film school' shameless clickbait too

January 16, 2019 at 4:34PM

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I actually like the spot and the creative.
I felt it was inspiring - not offensive.

Kinda confused by the haters-

Maybe they should ask themselves
why this ad / spot bothers them?

It simply reminded me that being “manly” or masculine means doing the right thing - and taking a stand for it - with courage- even when it’s the most difficult thing.
Hating that is kind of an odd reaction, no?

And of course it’s goal is to sell razors. That’s their job. Grey + Gillette. Like all companies- what our entire USA culture is built on (like it or not) - soooo hating on that is kinda odd too.

The comment about a female director also was brow raising- echoes the exact type of biased behavior cited in the ad lol

January 16, 2019 at 10:50PM

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Richard Gerst
Stills photographer with occasional cine work.
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Yes, I completely agree. I don't see why you need to be so upset about it as a man. As a father for me it's completely normal to tell my sons to treat girls with respect.

What Terry Crews says: men need to hold other men accountable. What the hell is wrong with that.

I get that its a bit over the top, and the sentence 'some are already doing that' is annoying, I think most of us are.
That it's a corporation doing this does not bother me at all, why not. I would have problems with corporations sponsoring politics, but if they want to use their own advertising money to get a message out there, thats their right. I would welcome this stuff more than the average shampoo commercial.

In the Netherlands we had a bit of an opposite campagin by the way, that I liked as well, it's actually the boys will be boys theme, but than glorified, let we be our boys boy enough. (it was a campaign against letting them only play inside, only enforcing rules and being scared for experimenting, had nothing to do with their sexuality): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BVh9Sr_aQs

You don't need to necessarily agree with something 100% to enjoy it. I feel the world is getting so polarised over every issue. Maybe I want to be pro woman, pro gay rights, anti abortion, pro climate and anti gender neutral toilets. Don't put me in a box ;)

January 17, 2019 at 3:32AM

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Gerbert Floor
DP / Director / Camera / Editor
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THANK YOU. And it's sadder because this comes from the filmmaking community, which are supposed to be purveyors of trends and ad-curves as well. But....that's man-boys for ya

January 17, 2019 at 2:55PM

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I think they got a good idea, but the execution was quite poor, especially the script.
The examples with the guy going to harass a girl and the boy running from others sounded like a five-minute-meeting idea, we have a TON of toxic things that man are taught to do during theirs lives, and we need to talk about it, but this Ad make the same mistake of others: it envolves a lot of "what men do", instead of "why men do".
It doesn't focus on how our boys are raised or what expectations we put on them, we always lose focus when it comes to talk about being a boy and become a man, and how it can hurt generations.
I think there's a thin line on this kind of Ad, some brands made great campaigns this way, but when it doesn't work (the way it didn't work on this piece), you just make your consumers feel bad about themselves, even if they were never assholes in their lives.
The video didn't make me think about how boys are raised, it sounded more like a complaint than a insightful campaign that would made me think about it (mainly because of the script). It's just a brief analysis on the technicalities of the commercial, maybe some people were touched by it, but I'm not so sure about it.

January 17, 2019 at 8:09AM

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Gustavo Fonseca
Video Editor
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How would YOU execute it better then?

January 17, 2019 at 2:57PM

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Every day, in every field, ad agencies make ads that do a good job without offending 90% of their clientele. Execute your ads in a way that doesn't show you're living in an echo chamber. What are the odds that anyone who works at Grey Agency listens to any news sources that do not confirm their loony world-view. Look at the down-votes on YouTube. Regardless of artistic merit, this ad was written and produced by people who are just not good at what they do. Untalented, and not very smart.

January 17, 2019 at 3:22PM

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I'm now waiting for the female version of the ad.. might be a while.

January 17, 2019 at 3:15PM

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Be a better Man - Teach your children by example, don't be a bully, if you see it stop it, don't belittle women, don't make unwanted sexual advances. Be better than the generation that came before us, recognize the problems of the past, admit they are problem, correct behavior, learn, move on. Be a better man - Don't be a dick - Gillette

Seems like common sense.

Highlighting disrespectful cultural behavior is no reason to feel like less of a man, unless it's your culture.

January 17, 2019 at 6:03PM

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urban revolution
Creative Director
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Gillette's market share has been dropping from 80% to 60%. Last year, competitor Harry's did a pretty decent short film about being a man. The writing was on the wall, and Gillette decided to capitalize on the visibility of the #metoo movement to try to get traction with younger audiences who are avoiding their products. Did they create something good, or did they do something tone-deaf and heavy-handed like that Pepsi ad from a few years back? One thing for certain: they absolutely want this "controversy" and discussion with their brand front-and-center. My own take? I have young kids. I spend time with lots of grown men who are dads with young kids. I have never, EVER heard a single one of them laugh something off as "boys will be boys". So while I like the message of "let's do better", they missed the boat with me. ps: I don't care that it was directed by a woman. Seriously, people are people. But I wouldn't be surprised if Grey chose her specifically to help stoke some "controversy" over the campaign.

January 18, 2019 at 1:46PM, Edited January 18, 1:46PM

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Patrick Ortman
I tell stories. Sometimes for money. Sometimes, not.