Gillette Ad Takes On Toxic Masculinity And Falls Flat

Written by Ann Brown

The #MeToo movement, a focus of conversation and action in many sectors, has broken through to the advertising world. Procter & Gamble decided to address the anti-sexual-harassment movement through a new commercial for Gillette. It didn’t go well.

P&G recently debuted a short film called “We Believe” with the aim of selling razors by denouncing “toxic masculinity.” While it’s an intriguing idea, most observers say the ad is a major fail.

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Unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week, Gillette’s “Toxic Masculinity” ad campaign challenges men to change their sexist ways and asks, “Is this the best a man can get?’”

Gillette has used the tagline, “The Best A Man Can Get” for some 30 years.

Ad agency Grey created “We Believe.” The commercial begins with audio of news about the #MeToo movement, bullying and “toxic masculinity.” The clip then takes on the long-believed excuse that “boys will be boys,” and ends asking, “Is this the best a man can get?” It also includes positive images of men taking on bullies and sexism as well as being good fathers.

“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 Pankaj Bhalla, Gillette brand director for North America, in an emailed statement to the Wall Street Journal. “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.”

But the response to the ad has not been positive. Susan Cantor, chief executive of branding firm RedPeak, noted that the short film focuses too much on bad behavior by men rather than showing inspiring positive images. “Men are saying, we feel marginalized, criticized and accused rather than feeling inspired empowered and encouraged,” she said.

Despite the negative feedback, P&G said it will not pull the ad.  “We recognize it’s sparking a lot of passionate dialogue—at the same time, it’s getting people to stop and think about what it means to be our best selves, which is the point of the spot,” Bhalla said.

P&G said it is doing more than trying to boost its brand and sell Gillette products with the ad.

“For the campaign, which was developed with the agency Grey, Gillette launched and pledged to donate $1 million per year over the next three years to U.S. nonprofits that provide men with role models and help them to better themselves,” according to a company statement. Boys and Girls Club of America is the brand’s first partner for the initiative, Marketing Dive reported.

The company is used to tackling serious social issues through its ads. In the past, it has used advertising to reveal its stance such issues as gender equality, immigration, and gun control.