Gillette recently received a wave of backlash after airing an online ad titled “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be”. It showed media coverage of the #MeToo movement, of cyberbullying and catcalling, of boys fighting in the grass with their fathers looking on and saying “boys will be boys”, and of men who called out the actions of other men; in the words of Terry Crews who was also in the ad, “men need to hold other men accountable.” Rather than explicitly advertising razors, Gillette sent a message to men and fathers encouraging them to stand up for what’s right because their children will witness their actions model after them. “It’s time we acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture,” the company wrote on their website, “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.”
But this inspirational show of support to the #MeToo movement addressing toxic masculinity and what was supposed to be a company’s stance on modern day issues was instead mocked and heavily criticized by many internet users. “It is grotesque to repeatedly ascribe collective guilt onto half of humanity known as men,” one man on Twitter wrote, “Being a man is not a disease nor a pathology.” Piers Morgan called the ad “pathetic,” “virtue-signaling” and “a direct consequence of radical feminists” who are “driving a war against masculinity.” On YouTube, the video’s 1.3 million dislikes far outweigh its 700 thousand likes.
Despite the criticism, Gillette seems undeterred and rather appreciative of all the media attention. The CFO of Proctor & Gamble, the company that owns Gillette, even said the ad generated “significant conversation” and “a huge number of impressions.” If attention was what the company was aiming for, that’s what it got. In fact, some on social media saw the negative responses as evidence of the problem. TeenVogue published an article titled “Gillette’s Ad on Toxic Masculinity Made Men Mad and That’s the Problem” which tackled traditional masculinity and America’s reaction to any attempts at expanding what it stands for, as well as the impact it has on those who aren’t men. The author writes, “What is desperately needed is a widely accepted version of manhood that does not measure itself by how to dominate and exert will over other people.”
Companies taking a progressive stance is nothing new. Scott Galloway, a marketing professor at NYU, claims that they’re following a “woke” business strategy. In other words, companies are trying to project the image that they’re “doing the right thing” in the eyes of potential customers. However, Galloway reminds people that they do this to generate revenue, and he mentions that a significant amount of wealth is made in bluer areas in the country where residents are more liberal. Corporations are aware of this demographic and are strategically targeting these people because they see the benefits doing this for the long run, even if it’s deemed incredibly risky. So it’s safe to assume that despite the backlash from both Nike’s campaign with Colin Kaepernick last year and Gillette’s ad on masculinity, more businesses will take increasingly socially conscious stances.