Gillette Courts Danger With ‘Toxic Masculinity’ Ad

Thom Weidlich 01.17.19


We’ve spilled much ink over the years about consumer backlashes against marketers that opine on hot-button social issues. Our latest entry is Procter & Gamble’s Gillette, which on Monday launched a campaign that includes an almost-two-minute social-media video aimed at men concerning the #MeToo movement against sexual assault.

The ad, called “We Believe,” shows quick-flash images of men behaving badly, addressing the issue of “toxic masculinity” (pictured). It ends with men breaking up fights and generally acting like good dads. The razor company plays on its 30-year-old tagline, “The Best a Man Can Get,” by asking “Is this the best a man can get?”

In its press materials the company states, “Gillette is committed to driving change that matters, starting with our own actions and expanding out to programs that support men of positive action everywhere.”

The company promises to contribute to charities that can help men behave better, including the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. It also set up a website,

Other recent cutting-edge marketing campaigns include Nike Inc.’s spot featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and Kendall Jenner’s 2017 infamous PepsiCo ad that was accused of disrespecting the Black Lives Matter movement and was pulled.

Reactions to the Gillette effort have been mixed, with both kudos and calls for boycotts. On the negative side, Gillette iscriticizing its own customer base, laying into men and reminding them of their shortcomings. People complained the video put men in a bad light. As one Twitter commenter wrote, “You made a huge mistake as a company for criticizing  the majority of your consumer base.”

Crisis Planning

Gillette was smart to make available to the press Pankaj Bhalla, its North America brand director, to try to diffuse any animosity (it’s called crisis planning).

“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,” he emailed to The Wall Street Journal.

And yet it seems the blowback to this one won’t be too powerful. It helps that the #MeToo movement has highlighted a serious issue that’s hard to ignore, even if people disagree about specific aspects of it or the extent of it.

We recognize it’s sparking a lot of passionate dialogue

— Pankaj Bhalla, North America brand director, Gillette

Gillette said it had no intention of backing down.

“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 told the Journal.

Gillette reportedly has more such videos queued up. Stay tuned.

Photo Credit: Procter & Gamble

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