Three days ago, Gillette released a TV ad that has already garnered over 11 million views on YouTube, spawned a dozen think pieces, and captured the attention of the Twitterverse — and for good reason.
The commercial has a strong message, encouraging men to hold each other accountable, challenge toxic masculinity, and raise their sons to do the same. Based on the company's decades-old motto, "The Best A Man Can Get," the campaign takes a step back and asks whether this is "The Best Men Can Be."
It turns a critical eye to the industry's long history of male-targeted ads (including Gillette's own) that praise hyper-masculinity and celebrate the objectification and sexualization of women. Instead of avoiding the #MeToo movement, the commercial tackles the issue with a series of news clips that highlights just how prevalent sexual harassment and sexual assault are in our society. According to its website, as part of the campaign, Gillette will be donating $1 million (approximately £777,000) per year for the next three years to nonprofit programs "designed to inspire, educate, and help men of all ages achieve their personal 'best' and become role models for the next generation."
Celebrities like Chrissy Teigen, Rainn Wilson, Ava DuVernay, and Arianna Huffington have tweeted their support of the brand's message. But along with this praise, there's also been an inevitable backlash from fragile men around the world who feel the ad is an attack on their masculinity. Piers Morgan is, unsurprisingly, in this camp, condemning the "man-hating nonsense" in a Daily Mail column yesterday. Some men are also using hashtag #BoycottGillette and posting videos of themselves throwing their Gillette razors in the trash.
I've been using a men's Gillette razor since I was 14. Gillette was the first major company to hire me when I was kind of known as a risky little b for brands. I still use a gillette fusion razor and I still get so much joy from a fresh blade. in closing, I love you, Gillette.— christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) January 16, 2019
Others critics believe the ad is a misguided attempt to capitalise on feminism and #MeToo for financial gain and relevance. While it is certainly true that the commercial features these social movements while marketing a product, it's also just as true that one of the most effective ways to normalise a message like this one is via a commercial targeting men — the people who need to see it most — at a time when Gillette has the attention of the country.
It's hard to argue that the commercial has good intentions. As Gillette says on its website, "It’s time we acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture. 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."