Gillette: The best an ad can get?

Gillette’s new advertising campaign “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be” has generated a firestorm of social and news media discussion since its launch on January 14, 2019.

As of Saturday, January 19, less than one week after the commercial debuted, Gillette’s post of the ad on Twitter had 28 million views, was retweeted over 230,000 times and garnered over half a million likes. On YouTube, the ad had almost 22 million views.

The ad takes on “toxic masculinity” and calls on men to stand up to and against sexual harassment, bullying, and a “boys will be boys” mentality, playing on the brand’s long-standing tagline, “The Best a Man Can Get”, to encourage men to stand up and set a better example for the next generation.

According to Kantar Media's Reputation Intelligence service, reaction to the ad has been mixed, but more unfavorable than favorable, with 36% of commentary from all sources negative, to just 16% positive and 48% balanced. Men have a slightly higher tendency to criticize the ad and account for 55% of all negative comments, but also 49% of positive remarks.

While many lauded the ad’s message, there was also a considerable backlash from those who felt it went too far, portrayed most men as bad actors and maligned traditional masculinity. Online and offline, it generated significant media attention, including discussion on CBS This Morning, Fox News, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, and The Tonight Show with Stephen Colbert. As would be expected, conservative outlets and commentators tended to respond less favorably than those on the more liberal end of the spectrum.

Twitter has dominated discussion, with over 100,000 posts specifically naming the ad, and comments many more times that amount. A critical tweet by conservative commentator and political activist Candace Owens, who is known for her pro-Trump views and criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement, has been the most shared, with almost 16,000 retweets and over 52,000 likes.

Gillette Tweet

In addition to criticism about the ad’s message itself and Gillette’s decision to enter into the debate – which some framed as an attempt to capitalize on the #MeToo movement – some also blamed the brand itself for not practicing what it preaches in terms of gender inequality and respect. A number of commentators referenced the “pink tax”, where prices are higher for women’s products then for virtually identical products for men.

The company has thus far defended the ad, releasing a public statement saying, “If we get people to pause, reflect and to challenge themselves and others to ensure that their actions reflect who they really are, then this campaign will be a success.” With many posting photos and videos of themselves throwing out Gillette products and the hashtag #BoycottGillette trending on Twitter (#5 of all hashtags relating to the campaign), it remains to be seen if the ad will hurt the brand more than help it.

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