Gillette faces backlash after releasing controversial advertisement
Benjamin Jacobs, Contributor
Large companies are no strangers to controversy. Earlier this month, Gillette released an advertisement tackling the idea of toxic masculinity, dividing viewers. While some congratulated the advertisement, claiming it a well-done commentary on toxic masculinity – others called it an attack on masculinity, with Gillette falling victim to the “Get Woke, Go Broke” syndrome that many big companies seem to be facing, like Disney with The Last Jedi or Nike with Colin Kaepernick.
On the surface, there is nothing wrong with the advertisement’s message. Masculinity is flawed. Men do not have to be the alpha male who bottles up his emotions while also being the breadwinner of the family. Sexual harassment is a tasteless act that should be called out regardless of if this is Hollywood or an average office building. If these were truly the kinds of values that Gillette holds, then this would probably be nothing special. However, from an analytical point of view, it seems like Procter & Gamble is just trying new marketing tactics. The purpose of this advertisement seems most likely that Gillette is simply trying to cater to a new demographic.
Now of course, there is nothing wrong with trying to cater to a new demographic; however, this does not seem any different than what has already been said before. The first message being: “Toxic Masculinity is bad because of sexual harassment.” That’s it. There’s nothing new that they could bring to the table. They could have also said something like “Thanks to toxic masculinity, men have higher suicide rates than women because they are told to bottle up their emotions” or discuss how men face stigma for getting mental help. Finally, the other message was “Toxic masculinity leads to violence” yet all they showed was two kids rough-housing, and a kid getting chased by bullies. These are minimal compared to what they could have shown. They could have presented the cycles of violence within men, for example. A father is finished abusing his son, who is now sobbing horribly right before being asked “Why are you crying? Men don’t cry!”, and the son will then go on to do the same with his son, and the cycle continues. That would have been a better argument for this “toxic masculinity breeds violent behaviour” because it shows its long-term effects, and how it relates to the cycle of violence.
Not only from a social justice point of view is this considered mediocre at best, there are also problems with this from a marketing perspective. The point of commercials boils down to trying to convince your target market to buy your product. When it comes to marketing, a company needs to make sure that its target market comes first, and then deal with catering to a new demographic. So, judging by the reception, they have done something right with catering to this new “woke” millennial demographic, but at the same time, they ostracized their target market.
All in all, this is just something that has been blown out of proportion. On one hand, from a marketing perspective, they attacked their target demographic – while from a messaging standpoint, they failed because they did not bring up anything new or truly thought-provoking. Is this the best a man can get? No, and it isn’t the best Gillette can do either.