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Gillette Launches #MeToo-Inspired Ad Campaign, Backlash Follows

Jan 17, 2019
Originally published on January 17, 2019 7:46 am
Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Gillette, the maker of razors, seems to have cut itself shaving. To be more precise, it ran into trouble when it did not stick to shaving. The company paid for a digital ad that spotlights the #MeToo movement and calls out male bullying and sexism. Now Gillette, which is one of NPR's financial underwriters, faces criticism for its gender politics. NPR's Alina Selyukh reports.

ALINA SELYUKH, BYLINE: Over the past three decades, Gillette built a manly image to sell its razors - clean-shaven men, strong jaw lines, working out, winning at work, attracting women.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST: (Singing) Gillette, the best a man can get.

SELYUKH: But in Gillette's latest ad, men are pensive. And the famous tagline becomes a question.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD, "WE BELIEVE: THE BEST MEN CAN BE")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Bullying.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: The #MeToo movement against sexual harassment.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Toxic masculinity.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: Is this the best a man can get?

SELYUKH: The ad shows zero razors. Instead, it's scenes of boys bullying and fighting, a sitcom joking about grabbing a woman's behind, a male executive cutting off a woman in a meeting.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD, "WE BELIEVE: THE BEST MEN CAN BE")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: Boys will be boys.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #6: Boys will be boys.

SELYUKH: The ad is called "We Believe" because its actual message comes halfway through.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD, "WE BELIEVE: THE BEST MEN CAN BE")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #7: We believe in the best in men.

TERRY CREWS: Men need to hold other men accountable.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #8: Smile, sweetie.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #9: C'mon.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #7: To say the right thing. To act the right way.

SELYUKH: The ad went viral, got lots of love on TV and social media. But on YouTube, for every person who liked the video, two gave it a thumbs-down. Angry Twitter users began a hashtag, #boycottGillette, saying they would abandon the razors they grew up using.

A lot of the criticism is political, accusing Gillette of leftist propaganda and using radical feminism to snuff out masculinity. The ad is also accused of painting men with one oversimplified, negative brush.

SUSAN CANTOR: They spent an awful lot of time in the ad exposing male stereotypes and cliches.

SELYUKH: Susan Cantor is the CEO of Red Peak Branding. She says the ad's positive message and Gillette's big financial commitment to support it got lost in the negativity. It left some men feeling lectured rather than inspired. Gillette is far from alone in the Twitter boycott club. Starbucks faced one over its pledge to hire refugees, Target for gender-neutral toys, Nike for choosing Colin Kaepernick as its spokesperson.

Gillette's parent, Procter & Gamble, is also no stranger to socially aware ads. It got an Emmy for an ad featuring black parents talking to their children about racism in society. Companies are making a bet that having a stance will resonate with core customers. Cantor cited a survey by her firm.

CANTOR: Consumers really do want companies to take a position and to take a stand.

SELYUKH: In Gillette's case, that might be exactly the calculation. Startups like Harry's and Dollar Shave Club have eroded its market share with cheaper razors. In a statement, a Gillette spokesman said the company knew its latest ad might be polarizing. And he says the campaign will be a success if people pause and ponder their actions and what it means for men to be the best they can get. Alina Selyukh, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.