Gillette: The best an ad can get?

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By now you’ve probably all seen Gillette’s latest advert. But in case you haven’t yet (seriously, where have you been for the last two weeks?), watch it below now.

The video interrogates what it means to be manly. It condemns bullying, sexual harassment, mansplaining and male violence. It acknowledges that some men are already behaving the right way. It is a call to action for those who aren’t doing the right thing 100% of the time to be better.

The overarching message of the ad is that adults should behave the way they want their children to, epitomised by the final sentence: “The boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow.”

After the razorblade company released the video, the internet went into meltdown.

Some clearly appreciated the way Gillette are shining a spotlight on toxic masculinity. Men and women alike expressed gratitude that the company were shining a light on an important social, and feminist problem.

However, others weren’t so taken by the message.

Some felt the advertisement was just piggybacking on the back of the #MeToo moment.

On the extreme end of the negative views towards the advertisement, some people actually threw their Gillette products out in protest. One Twitter user, Art Tavana, posted a video of himself dropping a bottle of shaving gel into the bin and said: “We don’t need politics with our shave gel.”

Some people claimed that the company is just ‘virtue-signalling’, which is when someone conspicuously expresses moral values with the primary intent of enhancing their social standing.

I can’t help but think of the boardroom meeting where the Gillette marketing team first proposed the idea with a touch of cynicism. It’s hard to believe that the company wouldn’t draw on survey data that suggests that women still do the majority of household shopping – including buying razors for their teenager sons, daughters, and their partners.

To me it seems that the company made a decision to make an ad that would strike gold with a global feminist audience rather than with the male users of their razorblades.

After all, although their tagline is now ‘The Best a Man Can Be’ (instead of the previous slogan ‘The Best a Man Can Get’), it is important to remember that Gillette make men’s and women’s safety razors and other personal care products.

They’re not the only company to have embraced political and social activism as a marketing strategy in recent months.

Just look at Oatly, who have taken over the London Underground with their ‘It’s like milk but made for humans’ slogan.

The dairy-free oat milk company is interacting with the rising popularity of veganism. Their tagline has a guilt component that suggests that if you’re still drinking milk from animals then you are doing something that is fundamentally wrong.

It’s a genius ploy, really, to engage with social issues that people are already talking about. You become part of a global conversation the second your ad is shared with the world – the Oatly ad is participating in a dialogue about sustainability and animal welfare that was sensationalised by Netflix’s Cowspiracy.

The Gillette advert is interacting with various news stories from the last year pertaining to the #MeToo movement in Hollywood, the FT’s President’s Club investigation and the Brett Kavanaugh case.   

People don’t seem anywhere near as incensed with advertisement campaigns like Oatly, though. I think part of that stems from the reach and profile of the brand, but additionally, I think there is something more hypocritical about Gillette’s message.

Although I think it’s great that Gillette are using their platform to draw attention to toxic masculinity, which is a big social problem, I can’t help but think that they were glossing over a far more relevant movement related to the hair removal industry.

The Januhairy campaign is a month-long campaign that encourages women to grow out their body hair whilst raising money for charity.

The founder, Laura Jackson, 21, said that she has had a “great response” and women from all over the world signed up to take part this January.

Surely it would be far more radical and empowering for a razorblade company like Gillette to use their platform to say “body hair is natural, but some people want to get rid of it. If that’s you – then use Gillette”?

This is, admittedly, potentially counterintuitive – after all why would you want to tell people that you are trying to sell stuff to that your product isn’t essential to them?

But hear me out.

We’re not stupid.

Most women know that the world isn’t going to stop spinning if we forget to shave our legs before we go out clubbing.

Let’s be honest, shaving is time consuming for men and women alike. Sometimes we would all rather the extra 10 minutes in bed.

We’re also inundated, day in, day out by ads that try and shield us from the truth. Have you ever seen a sanitary product commercial where a mysterious blue liquid is used to show absorbency in the place of blood? Or have you seen this ridiculous razorblade ad for Gillette’s Venus Embrace razor that uses a model who has already shaved legs? Why do companies do this, you ask. Well, because blood and body hair are gross, right?

Well, yeah, kind of … but they’re also a completely normal part of everyday life. If Gillette really are the feminists they portayed themselves to be in their most recent ad then they should be leading the way and proclaiming that shaving isn’t an essential part of the daily grooming routine. Bodyform have already lead the way with the message ‘Periods are normal, showing them should be too’. 

If they Gillette adopted a similar strategy, I know I would be far more inclined to buy their products. I was refreshed when I saw Billie’s ‘Project Body Hair’ last year. Although I thought the choice of Princess Nokia’s ‘Tomboy’ was a questionable soundtrack, I agreed with the overall advert message.

Whether you think the Gillette ad was inspiring, virtue-signalling, or frankly completely blown out of proportion, I hope you’ll agree that it’s time for companies to get real with us. We don’t need to shave, but if we do decide to – tell us why your product is the best that we can get.  

Words by Beth Kirkbride

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