Catrin Osborne discusses Gillette’s controversial advert, arguing that it has profited off of male insecurities
On 13th January Gillette premiered their new advert before the NFL Super Bowl, changing their iconic slogan of ‘The Best a Man Can Get’ to ‘The Best Men Can Be.’ The mere one minute and fourty-nine seconds has sparked a widespread debate as to whether masculinity is under threat in 2019. Though fundamentally a marketing scheme, Gillette’s advert begins to address their own contributions to destructive standards, yet the overly-preachy message runs the risk of isolating their consumers.
The advert begins with Gillette’s hyper-masculine 1980s advert being shattered by ‘reality’ as a group of boys tear through the screen. We see a sequence of images associated with toxic masculinity; bullying, cat-calling and the infamous ‘Boys will be Boys’ mantra. Incorporating clips from news broadcasts of the #MeToo era, Gillette suggests that men must ‘hold each other accountable for their actions.’
Back in September, Nike’s choice to make Colin Kaepernick (the NFL player that infamously refused to stand during the US national anthem to protest racial inequalities) their poster-boy improved their profits. Despite conservative consumers threatening to boycott the sportswear company, they benefited from a 10% profit increase, and it was inevitable that a big brand like Gillette would jump on the ‘virtue signalling’ trend.
Procter & Gamble have been rapidly revising brand images to appear more politically correct; Venus’ ‘My Skin. My Way.’ showed a more diverse selection of women shaving actual hair rather than incomprehensibly bare armpits. As less politically overt adverts such as this have not exploded virally, perhaps Procter & Gamble felt the need to ‘go big or go home’ with Gillette.
This decision has ensued widespread backlash across the internet. In the first four days the advert managed to gain a shocking 414,000 likes to 825,000 dislikes on YouTube. Whilst conservatives feel that the advert demonises men, political activists have criticised Gillette for appropriating their cause.
Videos of men hurling their Gillette products into bins or toilets have been trending on Twitter as consumers ‘boycott’ Gillette. Conservative criticism focuses on the idea that the advert portrays men as monsters, molesters and generally mean-spirited.
Fresh after Greggs-Vegan-Sausage-Roll-Gate, Piers Morgan slammed the advert on ‘Good Morning Britain.’ Morgan has dubbed it a ‘war on masculinity’ and refuses to recognise that the advert is not branding all men as rapists. Instead, it identifies how Western macho-culture can contribute to the dehumanisation of women and subsequent sexual assault.
Morgan criticised the feminist message as irrelevant for Gillette. I’d suggest that this is a weak critique of the campaign. Whilst Iceland’s Palm Oil advert seemed somewhat random, Gillette has built its brand on fragile masculinity. Old adverts associate their razors with money, muscles and most importantly, hot girls. By bombarding viewers with images of the archetypal male, Gillette has profited on masculinity-related insecurities.