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The Varied Responses to Gillette’s “The Best a Man Can Be” Ad

By now, you’ve probably seen the infamous Gillette ad that challenges the long-held notion that “boys will be boys” and calls on men to be better.

While the piece has been praised for adding a thoughtful voice to the national conversation surrounding the #MeToo movement, it’s simultaneously angered quite a few of the very men it intended to reach.  As this piece goes live, the Gillette short film has just under 28 million views, with 1.3 million viewers clicking the “thumbs down” and only 746 thousand clicking the “thumbs up”.

Whether you believe the ad hit the right tone or not, it’s undeniable that it’s sparked another major wave of conversation regarding what is deemed “acceptable behaviour” for men in 2019. We asked some of our contributors at Notable Life to weigh in on the responses they’ve seen to the ad and what it might mean for the general conversation going forward.

“Amidst the controversy that the new Gillette “The Best A Man Can Be” rebrand is facing, there have no doubt been nay-sayers quick to jump at any opportunity to defend the male-dominated stereotypes that have plagued our society for decades. One of the most vocal ‘meninist’ voices is that of English journalist, writer, television presenter and former talent show judge Piers Morgan. Morgan expressed his outrage over the ad on Twitter where he stated his dissatisfaction with Gillette claiming that their new message may dissuade him from using their products entirely. Morgan went on to describe his blatant disgust for “virtue-signalling PC guff” as a “pathetic global assault on masculinity” declaring the message: “Let boys be damn boys. Let men be damn men.”
Perhaps what makes most men uncomfortable with this ad is that it is not something that massages and prods the male ego. It instead confronts a lot of awkward truths. Piers Morgan’s uninspired, and frankly, ignorant Tweet solidifies the point that Gillette is trying to make. If boys being boys and men being men means continuing sexual harassment, bullying, and intolerance, then that is something that needs to change immediately. It certainly is not an attack on masculinity. It is a message to hold oneself and others accountable for unacceptable behaviour. It’s about respect. This ad takes a step in the right direction by bringing attention to the importance of educating the younger male generation to be better, but there is still a long way to go before equality becomes a reality.”
– Contributor Emily Rumball

Everyone seems to have an opinion about the new Gillette ad. I was particularly struck by the response from the panel of ABC’s The View. While the co-hosts were open to having a conversation about redefining masculinity, Meghan McCain questioned whether that conversation should be led by a shaving company. Sunny Hostin’s counterargument was simple: “We want good corporate citizens because sometimes we get bad corporate citizens”. I couldn’t agree more. Progress isn’t perfect and change is often controversial, but people (and brands) should be free to use their voices to take a stand for what they believe in. A good message is a good message and a conversation is almost always worth having, no matter who starts it.
– Contributor Jumol Royes

What do you get when a cultural message so strong, so relevant lays its roots in Western society and completely permeates the zeitgeist? The widespread social justice movement of 2017, #MeToo. What do you get when you layer in a global enterprise championing the same message? A controversial marketing and PR strategy landing somewhere between abhorrent and genius.
In order to stay relevant, brands need to stay close to the pulse of the people. It’s what keeps their company on your mind and cash in their pockets. It can be difficult to determine if a brand’s intentions to utilize social justice marketing techniques are genuine, disingenuous or nuanced. However, the opportunity to capture long-term consumer dollars and make a legitimate positive impact is at stake. Associating these two concepts together often rouses an uneasy feeling, but is there value to be measured in combining these efforts? If social progress is made on the backs of consumer dollars, is the progress deemed tainted? Or is any progress good progress? This is the ethical dilemma consumers are faced with – and must cozy up with – to understand the implications of our decisions. There’s no cherry picking the good from the bad in capitalism. Welcome to the world you’ve created, North America.

– Content Creator for CONVEY Kelsea Schnitzler


Carla Bragagnolo

Carla is in constant pursuit of the extraordinary; she is based out of Toronto due to its proximity to great food, its diverse music scene, and because it allows her to catch a flight to pretty much anywhere. Follow her adventures at @carlabrags.