Gillette: The Best A Man Can Be

2018 was the year of the #MeToo movement and 2019 seems to show no sign of slowing down when it comes to harnessing the power of the people to force positive action. Whilst I don’t want to wade into a hot debate about the politics behind #MeToo, I do want to wander into the territory of what it means for marketing in the broader sense.

So guys… Gillette’s new ad. I like it. But… it leaves me with an icky feeling I’m finding it hard to explain.

For those of you who haven’t yet seen the advert, it was filmed by Kim Gehring (the woman behind the #ThisGirlCan campaign in 2015) and makes up part of a broader campaign by Gillette with the strapline “The Best Men Can Be”.

It is an evolution of the female-dominated #MeToo movement, addressing toxic masculinity in society. That’s not just blokes being massive d***s to women, but acknowledging that #MenToo sometimes have it tough. They also face daily pressures (not hugely dissimilar to women) to be ‘a proper bloke’ and that standing out from the crowd to do what’s right isn’t always easy. “Just toughen up mate and grow some balls dude”… stark reality check. Male suicide in Australia is 6x that of women.

I still like the ad.

But, this is where I get frustrated. Gillette is a company that has been perfectly happy to sell men razors for over 30 years using the strapline “The best a man can get”.  (As an aside, if your life goals are owning a Gillette razor you probably need to take a long hard look at yourself… a razor is obviously not The Best A Man Can Get.) However they have used this slogan to imply these clean shaven men are going to have women falling at their feet. “Oh Sir, how ever could I resist your beautifully shaven cheeks!?” (Lol. They clearly missed the memo that beards are sexy too.) FYI - Gillette intend to continue using the slogan.

Now, I don’t have an overwhelming issue with using male insecurity to sell a product - as, let’s be fair, women have been sold products (and still are sold products) off the back of their insecurities since… forever. I do also acknowledge that this should stop. Thankfully, more and more brands are now celebrating all people in all their forms. For an of-the-moment example, check out Kate Grant modelling for Benefit. “Why hasn’t this happened before now?” I hope you’ll find yourself asking.

I guess what leaves me with this weird, unsure feeling is that this ad is essentially a big corporation piggy-backing onto a public movement for social change… to serve their own agenda.

Now, before you all crucify me. I think that the ad is a really important opportunity for a brand with as much influence as Gillette to get publicly behind trying to spread good and do good. Even if it’s gaining a negative reaction from some of the public, I think that igniting a discussion of this nature has true value. Gillette are also pledging to donate USD$3m to support projects educating boys about toxic masculinity. Great work.

I guess I just can’t make peace with the fact that it isn’t actually promoting the #MeToo movement directly, despite referencing it extensively throughout the ad. I worry that the mega millions of P&G’s marketing budget will now take the wind out of the sails of #MeToo and all it’s still got left to achieve. It also irks me that the advert is so overtly branded Gillette… it’s certainly not a campaign that’s out there in the general public without brand awareness KPIs heavily tied to it. Charity does not align with ego. Then on the flip side, I think it’s an important issue to be raising awareness of. I’m a bit like that hands up, shrugging emoji right now - “I dunno, but something just doesn’t sit right with me”.

What do you think?

You can watch the ad and read more about the campaign at:  https://gillette.com/en-us/the-best-men-can-be

Note: I was going to make a snide comment about Gillette also being the company who sold women razors under the jingle “She’s got it…I’m your fire, your desire” — but it appears they’ve realised that’s not going to cut it anymore. So…. no can do amigos.


Charlie Bland