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Gillette - We Believe / Men of tomorrow (2019) 1:48 (USA) - Is advertising to men while being anti-men in general a wise strategy?

Like so many brands today, Gillette wants to fight for social change as much as shill their shaving gear. Let me state upfront, I am not their target market, though I did buy their razors, shaving gel and clear deodorant for years when I was in College simply because I liked them and I paid no "pink tax" on it. As they went mach-recording breaking crazy in their ads, so much that Clayton quipped "F*ckers keep this up, and I'm going Amish. ", I too deserted the brand for simpler shaves. Gillette was still the undisputed king of razors, but now in the dollar shaveclub era, they are beginning to feel the pinch as they lose market share to convenience. 

To reinvent themselves, Gillette has packed away their Large Hadron Collider-like toys touting their rolling heads and twenty-billion blades, and have now taken a page out of Dove's playbook. Hoping for a homerun manifesto film, like the Dove "onslaught" ad, but failing on a key point.

The "onslaught" ad shows the beauty-industry blaming itself, and encourages the punters to resist. The Gillette ad is basically telling their target market, men, that everything is their fault. 

The heart may be in the right place, they figured in the #MeToo era that they could shill some wares by attaching their old tagline to the current cause du jour. Instead of the best a man can get, they want to own the best men can be. While this strategy looks sound on paper, it predictably rubbed many the wrong way. It prescribes bullying to being a male-only problem. It shows men BBQ-ing on the weekend as something bad. It depicts the insanely normal dad-reaction of separating two tussling boys as a rare heroic act. They have edited in several annoying youtube talking heads reporting on sexual harassment and briefly land on Terry Crews, but don't dare to touch on the porn problem

In the end, they tie the manifesto ad up with a line about men of tomorrow. It's interesting that future men will be like my dad was. He didn't hold me up to the mirror and tell me to repeat "I'm strong", but he taught me how to use tools and fight dirty if anyone bullied me and he wasn't within earshot.

And as with many other brands who tried this route, woke can mean broke, when the people who buy your products disagree with being insulted. It may be a reflex "not all men" reaction, but as noted, Dove preached while sneering at their own industry while Gillette is sneering at their own customers. A few reactions from highly followed Twitter accounts show how divided reactions are. On youtube the like to dislike ratio currently stands at 287 likes to 3000 dislikes. Maybe attention will sell more razors? Only time will tell. 

Gentle reminder that Gillette is also the owner of Venus "Goddess" razors, who used to advertise to goddesses like this.







Gillette's own tweet announcing the ad is flooded with offended responses.


If I can find verified accounts that are positive to this ad, I will add them to this article. There are many positive reactions from non-celebrity personal accounts, seen here

Update! As promised from a verified account, I found this perspective: 

Ad agency: Grey 

Directed by: Kim Gehrig 

Production: Anonymous Content

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Anonymous Adgrunt's picture
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Brad S.'s picture

What a bunch of crap. Sell me a razor, not values. Values are important, and should be taught by family. Values don't remove hair off my face. That's what a razor is for.

H. Hagopian's picture

The "annoying youtube talking head" they picked is Ana Kasparian from "The Young Turks".

The Young Turks also features Cenk, who is a Armenian Genocide denier.

Way to go Gillette. Now I know what your brand stands for.

Randomaman's picture

I've never seen a razor company slit their own wrists before.

Planner Planning shit's picture

How much of Gillettes consumers of mens razors are actually men, versus moms/wives buying it for their child/husband? They know what they are doing. I would bet they have a good bit of consumer research showing that women buy a good deal of mens razors either for themselves, or men they live with, versus men buying for themselves, and that most people don't switch razors often with most peoples first razor was bought by their mom. I have a hard time believing that a huge successful company especially P&G is doing this blind. Despite not liking the ad I think its an effective ad clearly targetting moms but trying to wear the clothes of an ad for men. I'd be really interested to see where/when they run it. If it shows up on ESPN during popular games, I'm wrong, if it airs on TLC I'm right.

Dabitch's picture

Interesting. There's a thought. Just like Old Spice "Hey ladies, look at your man, now look at me" which unabashedly targeted women as the research showed they bought the shower gel.
I'd buy that as a strategy if this ad actually showed better examples of better men. Separating boys who fight has to be the bare minimum of male role-model. I've lived in a house with a common yard where our BBQ sessions kind of looked like the ad, and every dad out there would make sure the gaggle of kids roaming around played nice. WHO THE HELL WOULDN'T? By using such shitty examples, it makes me wonder how horrible the author's parents were. So what it takes to be a good dad these days is to hold baby girl in front of the mirror and reenact Stuart Smalley's Daily Affirmations. Spare me.

Alex Stone's picture

I don't think women buy razors for men, unless men specify which razor if a woman is good enough to offer to make the trip. Shaving your face is generally a man thing, something men can own and enjoy as a masculine pleasure which neither offends nor discriminates. We can have it (until women want to borrow our razors). We like to choose the kit, and we like to shave well. We can even moisturise. Shave your head, and you have extra levels of manliness – laugh in the face of male pattern baldness and flaunt that dome! This spot though... it ain't selling me razors, and I'm not about to start separating people's kids. PS: I've used Mach 3 for years. Maybe that's why I'm so woke. And baby smooth.

AnonymousCoward's picture

Actually Razors and shaving supplies tend to be the one product that men consistently select and purchase themselves. It’s something you would imagine the executive staff of the worlds largest men’s razor maker to be aware of. But based on the comments from Gillette and P&G’s C Suite, nope! They have no idea who their customers are. Morons!

Rocket Man 's picture

"Bullying, harassment, is that the best a man can get? It's only by challenging ourselves to do more that we can get closer to our best. To say the right thing, to act the right way. We are taking action."

Ugh, that's so artificial and fake sounding that I cringed when I heard it. I can just picture that paragraph being drafted and re-drafted by a room full of liberal millennial women and soyboys. It's like they are desperately trying to come across as profound and make the razor version of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement. All I want is a shave.

Sport's picture

By using the MeToo / TimesUp movement they are commodifying others misfortunes. There's your regular advertising cynical, and then there's Gillette.

Dabitch's picture

A little birdie wondered to me: "Did Grey get a strategist from TBWA recently? They pitched this same exact strategy to Schlick, who did not buy it."

Sport's picture

Both Harry's and in a way Dollar Shave club have entered similar strategic thoughts though. Harry's had a Father's day tweet a couple of years ago redefining masculinity, crossing out words like "stoic" and "take it like a man" and "be the bread winner."

Dabitch's picture

Other write-ups and points of view.
Charles Taylor: https://www.forbes.com/sites/charlesrtaylor/2019/01/15/why-gillettes-new-ad-campaign-is-toxic/#76684b705bc9

"3) Politically charged language should be avoided by advertisers

The use of the term “toxic masculinity” in the ad was a flat out mistake. While only mentioned quickly and briefly, the use of this term, which many men associate with a one-sided critique and stereotype of an entire gender. Regardless of how much some without marketing backgrounds would like to believe that companies taking political stances on is okay, alienating a substantial proportion of the target audience is never a good thing. Michael Jordan’s statement that he did not want to engage in political commentary because “Republicans buy shoes too,”remains wise thinking. Regardless of which political party or group may be alienated, it is simply bad marketing practice to offend significant numbers of your own consumers."

Now "the Gillette ad is full of shit" by Max Lenderman https://musebycl.io/musings/gillette-ad-full-shit-actually-four-them

"Outside of the ad itself, you are doing real shit, partnering with Building a Better Man Project and the Boys and Girls Club of America, as well as donating $3 million to U.S. charities that support men and men's issues. And you hired Kim Gehrig to direct the ad; she's been at the forefront of Free the Bid, a program that advocates for more female directors in the ad business. Adding to that, you've made a commitment that "effective immediately, Gillette will review all public-facing content against a set of defined standards meant to ensure we fully reflect the ideals of Respect, Accountability and Role Modeling in the ads we run, the images we publish to social media, the words we choose, and more." This is some real shit, people."

Mark Ritson proclaims that Gillette's new ad will be this years worst marketing move, and it's only January! https://www.marketingweek.com/2019/01/15/mark-ritson-gillette-ad-toxic-masculinity/

"Gillette opted to use Kim Gehrig, one of a new generation of directors showcased by the Free the Bid campaign, which attempts to hire more female directors into advertising. Again, with such paltry female representation across creative departments, Free the Bid is a noble and important venture. But Gehrig stumbles badly here.

Rather than a work of inspiration and aspiration she delivers a short film that feels vindictive and accusatory. We are not being shown the better path, we are being told we are all on the wrong one and must change course immediately. Men are to blame. You, yes you. It’s a poor way to sell razors. Hell, it’s a poor way to sell anything.

And the proof of that poverty is in the social media pudding. Since the ad was posted yesterday (14 January) on Gillette’s YouTube channel it has received more than two million views. Thus far the like to dislike ratio is running 10 to one against the campaign. More worryingly, the sheer number of dislikes – one in every 10 people who have seen the ad went to the trouble of clicking the thumbs-down button at the time of writing – suggests a vehement dislike unusual for such a big brand with this kind of major campaign."

AnonymousCoward's picture

Aren’t there numerous somewhat credible complaints floating around regarding Kim Gehrig sexually harassing underlings, both men, women, and teens?

Here's my name, with spaces!'s picture

Sexually harrasing? All I know is she can be demanding when it comes to scheduling, but she has young kids.

Personal Shopper's picture

Gillette is not advertising to men, they are advertising to the people who purchase their products: women. Because heterosexual women perform more than 80% of household shopping labor including selection of toiletries, clothing, and sundries for their male overlords who are too lazy or too incompetent to participate.

I was prepared to hate this advert based on the hype but instead I was surprised to feel a bit choked up when I actually viewed it. Has there ever been another high profile campaign in the history of advertising that so directly and unapologetically challenged the popular social tradition of celebrating male pattern violence? I think not. It truly is extraordinary.

Was some of the imagery clumsily executed? Perhaps. Or maybe the director had the wisdom to know exactly what buttons to push. Maybe it's incredibly gutsy of the director to rub your nose in it. Visionary, even. Groundbreaking.

The butthurt over this ad is eerily reminiscent of the Ghostbusters remake debacle where a bunch of guys protested a film which excluded their fandom by dint of featuring female actors performing fully human non-sexbot leads filling the scientific, quirky, adventurous roles and a male character filling the ditzy and sexy secretary position (a precise sex reversal of the original casting).
If you can't enjoy an awesome remake because you can't stand dorky heroes because they have vaginas then you are not the audience for the film and should shut the fuck up. And if you don't do the repetitive and challenging labor of performing household shopping then you should STFU about adverts directed to the women who do.

AnonymousCoward's picture

How is a bunch of middle aged ladymen having a whine session going to appeal to teenage boys who presumably are Gillette's target audience ?

Dabitch's picture

> teenage boys

Do men magically stop shaving at the age of twenty? Or... ? What do you base your assumption of the target market on?