P&G Challenges Men to Shave Their ‘Toxic Masculinity’ in Gillette Ad

P&G Challenges Men to Shave Their ‘Toxic Masculinity’ in Gillette Ad


Gillette is embracing the #MeToo movement in a new digital ad campaign aimed at men, the latest message from an advertiser attempting to change societal norms.

The ad, dubbed “We Believe,” opens with audio of news about the current #MeToo movement, bullying and “toxic masculinity.” A narrator then goes on to dispute the notion that “boys will be boys,” asking, “Is this the best a man can get? Is it? 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.”

The ad puts a new spin on the brand’s 30-year tagline, “The Best A Man Can Get,” challenging men to take positive actions, such as stopping other men, and the next generation, from harassing women.

The ad will be hosted on Gillette’s YouTube page with paid digital and social support.

Gillette parent Procter & Gamble Co. is among companies that in recent years have used advertising as a platform to promote their stance on social issues such as gender equality, and polarizing political topics such as immigration and gun control. P&G is perhaps best known for its lauded “Like a Girl” ad campaign for feminine-care brand Always and “Stress test” for deodorant brand Secret.

The latest ad, created by Gillette’s ad agency Grey, is among the first to address the #MeToo movement head on, and to blatantly tell men to change their behavior.

“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. “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 want to hold ourselves to a higher standard, and hope all the men we serve will come along on that journey to find our ‘best’ together.”

“It’s a risky move,” said Dean Crutchfield, CEO of branding firm Crutchfield + Partners. On one hand, it “creates a credible, believable, and upfront conversation that takes brutal honesty and tough decisions,” he said.

Gillette needs to appeal to millennials who care about what companies stand for, he said. “There’s a demand for this, for purpose, for brands to be tackling tough issues in the moment.”

But the ad could backfire and alienate Gillette’s base, Mr. Crutchfield cautioned. “Does the customer want to be told they’re a naughty boy? Are you asking too much of your consumer to be having this conversation with them?”

Brands diving into charged social issues risk turning off customers who don’t agree with their stance, don’t believe it is authentic or consider it poorly handled.

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recent ad starring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who had led player protests for racial justice during pregame national anthem ceremonies, was widely praised (though criticized by others). But a 2017 commercial in which Kendall Jenner joins a protest march and hands a Pepsi to a cop was accused of trivializing the Black Lives Matter movement.

“It’s about execution,” said Mr. Crutchfield. “Sometimes brands stretch themselves too fine and they snap.”

Write toAlexandra Bruell at[email protected]

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