Shaving supply giant Gillette has sparked controversy with a new ad that challenges men to “shave their toxic masculinity”.
The ad, created by the brand’s ad agency Grey and called “We Believe”, responds to the #MeToo movement and urges men to hold themselves to a higher standard.
The video, which runs for just under two minutes, features a flurry of news clips about the women’s rights movement and bullying.
The commercial depicts various scenes of men bullying and catcalling women, and fights breaking out between boys.
“Is this the best a man can get, is it?” the ad’s narrator asks — a play on the shaving company’s famous tagline, “the best a man can get”.
The video then shows men berating their friends for harassing women, a father breaking up the fight, and a mother cradling a boy who is being bullied through text messages.
The narrator says men can no longer “hide” from issues like bullying and sexual harassment.
“We can’t hide from it. It has been going on far too long. We can’t laugh it off, making the same old excuses.”
— Gillette (@Gillette) January 14, 2019
The ad has sparked a controversial response online. Many have praised it for bringing issues of bullying and harassment against women to the forefront:
This is Golden. Well done @Gillette https://t.co/ChlnIIFTih
— Phoebe Tonkin (@1PhoebeJTonkin) January 15, 2019
THIS is how you use your brand. THIS is how you engage with your audience. Gillette being aware of mostly having a male audience and using their influence as a global brand to make a change for the better. other companies take notes pic.twitter.com/KCdxKDLji0
— laq (@spidervesre) January 15, 2019
You know what, I normally don’t really retweet ads like this – but the way this one reframes Gillette’s “the best a man can get” slogan is genuinely very clever. https://t.co/2qYv5YYFM8
— Rami Ismail (@tha_rami) January 14, 2019
Gillete: *showing a video about how men can and should be better*
Men: *actively proving them right*
— J. D. Wiser (@jd_wiser) January 14, 2019
But others accused the company of shaming men and pushing a “war” on masculinity:
Gillette wants us men to shave off our toxic masculinity.
How about we buy razors from another company that doesn’t want to change an entire gender?
— Mike Wonder (@mikebwonder) January 15, 2019
Men are not the problem. There is no systematic problem with men.
There are bad people in the world. Men, women and whatever you think is in-between.
MASCULINITY IS NOT TOXIC.
MEN ARE NOT THE PROBLEM.
— Steph (@steph93065) January 15, 2019
I’d like to thank Gillette for reminding me how horrible it is to be man. This should sit well with your customers. NOT.
— Chuck Woolery (@chuckwoolery) January 14, 2019
“It’s time we acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture,” Gillette said in a statement.
“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.
“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 organisations 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.”
Gillette brand director for North America Pankaj Bhalla defended the ad in a statement emailed to The Wall Street Journal.
“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,” Mr Bhalla said.
“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.
“We recognise 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.”
Nike sparked a similar controversy last year after featuring controversial kneeling quarterback Colin Kaepernick in its 30th anniversary campaign.
It retweeted a photo of the former San Francisco 49ers player with the tagline: “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) September 3, 2018
Thousands tweeting the hashtag #BoycottNike threatened to destroy their clothing while some shared footage of trainers being set on fire.