New ad draws praise, criticism

New ad draws praise, criticism

The latest commercial from Gillette targets toxic masculinity, but has received some netizens’ ire for overstepping boundaries

The tagline of the ad is ‘The best a man can be’, a play on Gillette’s original motto ‘the best a man can get’.

An advertisement for a men’s shaving razor should hardly have made global headlines but that is exactly what Gillette managed with its new commercial, targeting the concept of ‘toxic masculinity’.

But what should ideally have been lauded as a revolutionary step in the wake of the MeToo movement, was instead criticised as a PR stunt that paints all men with a broad brush. Twitterati, in particular, have been stinging in their criticism with many vouching to boycott the company’s products.

What the ad shows?
It is an emotional and carefully-crafted advertisement that tackles issues like bullying, sexual harassment and sexism at the workplace and on screen. It shows boys bullying other boys, women being harassed and cat-called and fathers excusing their sons’ abusive behaviour as typical ‘boy stuff’. In the end, we see men protesting and acting against such bad behaviour in other men.

What works in its favour?
It is timely and seeks to debunk the popular notion that ‘boys will be boys’. It asks men to be responsible for their actions since they are the role models for future generations. It challenges manly stereotypes and seems to imply that in today’s world, decent behaviour is equal to confident masculinity.

“As a man and the father to a young girl, this ad won my heart. It is important that major brands break stereotypes and try to pass a message through their mass television commercials,” says Rohit Prasad, co-founder and director, EaseBuzz and SRV Media. “This kind of a message, where men are not only expected to do the right thing but also stop their peers from behaving in another manner, is very much needed now. Of course, this does not make every man bad; it just says that we can change for the better,” he adds.

He opines that the controversy has not really harmed the brand. “More people are clicking on the ad because of the buzz it generated.”

Reasons for criticism
The commercial from Gillette has become the 28th most disliked YouTube video of all time. Arguments against it include comments like ‘the ad targets all men’ and ‘a little rough and tumble is essential for healthy development of boys’. Critics are fuming over what they see forced ‘feminisation’ of men and are accusing feminists of targeting simple things like men’s toiletries.

“Some of my friends have labelled the advertisement as ‘accusatory’, instead of inspiring or uplifting. While that is taking it a bit too far, I do find the company’s attitude a little condescending. It’s just a razor brand, it really doesn’t need to talk about social issues or tell its customers what to do,” says an MNC employee in the city.

Brand positioning is important
A point of contention is how Gillette has never taken a stand like this before and has always shown men as the clean-shaven, assertive alpha who scores everywhere — from the office to the golf course and with the ladies. Many people see it as the brand’s attempt to piggyback on the popularity of the MeToo. 

It was compared to the Nike-Kaepernick campaign where athlete Colin Kaepernick exhorted viewers to ‘believe in something, even if it meant sacrificing everything’. However the message matched with Nike’s aggressive motto to ‘Just do it’ and its strong stand on issues, a pairing that is missing with Gillette’s new campaign. 

Metrolife take
It is important to not miss the larger message of the ad in the midst of all the noise surrounding it. A viewing of the ad makes you understand that the message is quite simple really — bullying and sexism are real issues so we need to teach our children to be
better people by being better persons ourselves. 

The furious responses to the ad are a reason for people to believe why such campaigns are more necessary now than ever before. A two-minute message asking men to be nicer is perceived to be anti-men. Please reflect on how many commercials we have had asking women to be prettier, slimmer, better cooks, doting mothers, multi-taskers and more. 

However, Gillette has to ensure that its future advertising follows the same line of thought so that they can ride on this wave.

The furore was expected
“I do think conversation around the ad is warranted, it’s the point of such an ad after all. However, most of the criticism I’ve seen focuses on the idea of “not all men”, with the commenters/tweeters essentially trying to say ‘I am not a bully/predator and I feel personally attacked’.

It is important to note is that none of this is coming from the content of the ad itself, which very clearly says that there are already men who stand up against toxic behaviour. The negative reaction is just a standard response to anything men’s rights activists see as an attack on their cherished symbols of masculinity. In fact, a person on YouTube lamented that these feminists would have little boys play with doll houses.
-Utkarsh Bansal, undergraduate student pursuing BA (Hons) in Philosophy.