The Gillette Ad

Have you watched the Gillette ad that went viral yesterday and today? It seems to have sparked some interesting conversations, so I thought I’d share my thoughts here.

I’ll post the commercial below, but here’s a quick summary: The first half of the ad shows men doing bad things to each other and to women. Bullying, harassing, objectifying, patronizing. Most notably, this part of the ad shows other men (and women, but mostly men) saying things like “boys will be boys” and doing nothing about it.

The second half of the ad shows men stepping into those situations and making a difference, often in front of their sons and other boys who see them leading by example. It ends with the message, “Because the boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow.”

While I don’t think the ad is perfect (more on that in a second), overall I really like it, and I like the messages it offers. To me, it’s saying that being a good person is more than just not bullying or harassing. It’s about stepping up and showing others that you don’t condone that behavior.

The last third of the video makes me think about my nephews. It’s one thing for me to tell them not to be bullies. But it’s even better, in my opinion, to show them that their uncle stands up for those who are being bullied.

So where does the ad fall short? Honestly, I think the various bullies could have used a little more gender diversity. Because the point of the ad isn’t, “All men are bullies and harassers,” yet the ad makes it a little too easy for that to be the unintended takeaway for some people. The actual focus of the ad is on the men on the sidelines who choose to let bad stuff happen (or choose to make a difference). But by casting all men as the bullies, the ad was setting itself up for criticism from people who would focus on that instead of the core message.

(Also, I should mention here that I think everyone–men and women–has done and said some stupid stuff at some point in their lives. Who among us can really say that on some level we haven’t bullied, objectified, or patronized?)

The other slight misstep, in my opinion, is that I could see someone saying that the ad makes it seem like it’s only a man’s job to stand up for what’s right and be a good example for their kids. I don’t think that’s the intention, but I can see how that might not resonate with women, who can do those things just as well–if not better–than men. Perhaps some women can share their thoughts about this in the comments.

Remarkably, despite having 184k likes, this ad has 515k dislikes! So it’s quite possible I’m in the minority of those who find value in this message. Given that, even if you disagree with my opinion, I’d ask you to be respectful and constructive in the comments. I’d love to learn something from you, not argue against you.

13 thoughts on “The Gillette Ad”

  1. Jamey,

    I, for one, couldn’t understand the controversy over this video at all. While I certainly agree with some of your criticisms, the focus of the ad, by Gillette, with a many-decades ad campaign highlighting the first four words “The Best a Man…” seems apt to then focus on the actions and inactions of men…not women or other diversity groups, but understanding that men do have a vital role to play and stepping in and stepping up are two critically important roles.


  2. I’ll wander into this potentially explosive discussion. 🙂

    I disagree with this ad because first and foremost, I’m sick and tired of everything being politicized. So anything that tries to bring polarizing language and related arguments into things, I tune out. Simply put, I hate politics. It brings out the absolute worst in people.

    Secondly, I work in advertising and I think this is a bad message. Gillette makes razors and shaving cream and things like that. Tell me how your product can help me have a clean face and smell good. I do not need to be lectured to, which is really what this is. It doesn’t speak at all to their product. There’s always the argument that any publicity is good publicity, but I don’t buy that anymore. Today, people hold grudges.

    I don’t dispute that it’s a largely true message — we should all try to be better people and encourage those close to us to also be better people. But I fail to see where it’s Gillette’s responsibility to sound that message. It’s exploitative on their part, I think, and tries to co-opt your emotions, which is dishonest (again, my opinion), ultimately ringing false in a sense that it’s pandering. I suspect it will result in a smaller market share in the long run, which is the opposite of what advertising should be seeking to achieve.

    • Interesting takes, i see your point from a marketing pov. This may in fact cost market share (or increase it who knows these days)

      I also agree it was not Gillettes reaponsibility, truthfully it is all of our responsibilities to be better people. Though I think it was brave of them to not only take a stance but really go all in on it

      But looking at this message not from the pov of Gillette making money or loosing it. But from the pov of a group trying very hard to get people to think about a serious and prevalent issue and talk about it, do you still think it is an issue?

  3. I think the point of this ad’s male-specific angle is to course-correct centuries of unchecked bullish and sexist behavior amongst the male population. To reference women is to miss the point entirely. Women have always been policed in a society where toxic masculinity has (forever) been encouraged or allowed to run rampant. It’s time to police our own.

  4. I thought it was a great advert and was surprised how controversial it’s been. I felt like people were being pretty sensitive in thinking that it’s really bashing men. However, I always try to keep an open mind and appreciate that people pick up on things that I don’t.
    I hadn’t thought of your points for improvement which I agree with. I can see where they’re coming from to an extent in not showing women taking a stand with Gillette being focused on men as their main customers. It’s got so much publicity, however, with the proportion that’s bad I’m not sure which way their sales are going to go!

  5. This ad has become percieved as anti-male. Which is exactly why it is important (though I fully agree not perfect)

    The message of the ad is rather clear – be caring human beings and step in when someone needs help vs egg them on/ignkre their situation.

    Yet, i see comments like “good job alienating your customers”, “never buying these razors again from this anti-man movement”, and alot more vulgar responses as well.

    Nothing in the add is against men just bad behavior, to take offense really just shows how many men dont yet see an issue with this behavior and that is a huge issue. I am proud if gillett for having the courage to start this discusion which happen all to often only on fb and amoung friends that are already all in agreement this is bad stuff.

    They have people talking about it and im hoping that at water colors etc as toxic masculitinty rages at being called out some cooler heads will enter the conversation and maybe get these toxic masculinity cheerleaders to realize it is a problem and we need to grow up and get past this asap.

    • I think this sums up the point of the ad and my core takeaway really well, Bill: “be caring human beings and step in when someone needs help vs egg them on/ignore their situation.”

  6. I thought that it was a great ad and a great message. While men aren’t solely responsible for the negative behaviors depicted, our gender is responsible for the vast majority of those cases. I think it makes its points well – don’t be a jerk/bully/sleazeball, call out other men who do, let boys see you acting right. If that message makes a man uncomfortable, it says more about him than it does a razor company.

  7. Interesting discussion!

    Joe & Garrett – Yes. This is a classic idea – you cannot ask those without the power to do the work of course-correcting while also being without power. It’s incumbent upon men to hold each other accountable. While women can help, I’m not saying we shouldn’t, we cannot pretend they are equally responsible and able to affect change. (Just like people of color cannot be expected to voluntarily do all the work to end racism while also being oppressed, that’s up to us white folks to work on.)

    Dave Banks – curious why you think this ad has anything to do with politics? Are there elected officials in there that I didn’t recognize? (Totally possible, genuinely curious.) Because I am also in marketing, I would offer that they took a brand approach rather than a product approach. Most people in our country know what Gillette makes, and when a company/product is fairly saturated, they are no longer differentiating by product attributes like number of blades, but rather making ads to create a brand, a feel, that hopefully resonates with consumers. When Nike first got going, their ads were about shoes. But as that message sunk in and they no longer needed to say “we make shoes” it became about athletes and the “Just Do It” attitude. So I don’t blame companies for doing ads differently, you can only say, “we have razors” so many times…This is certainly the most I’ve ever thought/talked about Gillette, ever.

    I think Bill’s comment sums it up well – if this is upsetting people, it’s probably striking a chord. It would be amazing if people could stop and consider why they are upset. Nobody said all men are bullies, nobody said all men are terrible. Gillette offered up their take on the old quote: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” There’s a huge opportunity to go beyond refraining from bullying yourself to calling it out, blatantly stopping it and making it socially unacceptable.

    • ps – No ad is perfect, nor is this one. I struggle when mega corporations (rife with issues and moral shortcomings) try to sell products based on positioning themselves as righteous. However, it was well-done on many levels regarding this particular message. And either way, it’s a fascinating social phenomenon and the discussions that have ensued are likely more valuable than the ad itself.

  8. I’ll add one other thing that no one is talking about because it doesn’t fit anyone’s narrative, as the father to two daughters, we should be talking about toxic femininity. Because all that Mean Girls shit is real. I have far more issues dealing with issues like those brought up in this ad with my daughters and none – zero – with my son.

    • Dave: Yes, while I don’t think that was the core message here, that’s what I was referring to in terms of how I wish the ad had diversified the bullies.


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