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Image / Editorial

Should we be angry at the Gillette ad?


by Hannah Hillyer
17th Jan 2019
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Ah, another week, another thing for the internet to get angry about. This time everyone has been up in arms about Gillette’s latest advertisement. But, should we be annoyed about it?

If you have yet to watch it, the beginning feels like a typical razor ad, with a man staring pensively into a mirror. But it’s overlaid with audio from news broadcasts, and the words ‘toxic masculinity’ and ‘me too’ can be heard. So perhaps not a typical shaving ad?

The concept of a ‘man’s man’

Previously Gillette’s advertising campaigns have been very much aimed at a ‘man’s-man’. Their brand identity has been based on strong, attractive men shaving, all the while feeding into a very traditional concept of masculinity and male grooming. This has been done through product names that sound as masculine as possible like Fusion Pro Glide and Mach Turbo. However, this latest ad seems to have turned that on it’s head as they address the concept of ‘toxic masculinity’ head on.

When it comes to female grooming products we are used to being told what is wrong with us, that we need to shave this, bleach that, tweeze this and in recent years we have seen this message change. Brands now show more diversity with race, age and size and we are used to being sold our deodorant and sanitary products with a side of female empowerment.

Are they jumping on the bandwagon?

Online, people are critiquing this ad for many reasons. Firstly, this seems like a complete switch in Gillette’s brand identity and that it is disingenuous for them now to be preaching about how men can do better, how men can be better. It seems after years of celebrating a more traditional ‘man’s man’, they are being criticised for jumping on the bandwagon. The particular bandwagon being the #metoo movement. Obviously, as a company investing in advertising, they want to sell their product and like any company they need to be continually developing their brand identity to stay relevant as the world around them changes.

Destroying masculinity?

Another common argument online – stemming from Piers Morgan and more – is that this ad is in some way an attack on masculinity, what he calls ‘man-trashing’. What is most worrying is that if Gillette are attacking what it means to be manly, what exactly is the definition of masculinity for these men? What we see in this advert is examples of men speaking down to women in business meetings, men allowing others to be bullied and men laughing at a man pinching a woman’s bottom. How is a critique of this a critique on masculinity? The message by the end is that men need to stand up and stop this behaviour, and set an example for a younger generation of boys to change a damaging ‘boys will be boys’ culture of toxic masculinity.

Ultimately, whether the brand is bandwagon jumping or not, the ultimate message is a positive one. For a young boy watching it, who is unaware of the complexities of the #metoo movement, he will only see and hopefully understand that certain concepts associated with toxic masculinity are no longer acceptable- and that is no bad thing. Does it redefine what it means to be a man? I’m not sure we’ll go that far. It’s an ad – and one that is clearly working as we’re all talking about Gillette and there isn’t even a razor in it.

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