The Best a Man Can Get?
January 14, 2019 12:36 PM   Subscribe

Gillette, the razor company, yesterday released a short film titled "The Best a Man Can Be," challenging men to stand up to issues of toxic masculinity such as bullying and harassment in light of the #MeToo movement. In doing so, Gillette joins other companies whose ads have extended into social or political commentary, to mixed results. Reactions to the Gillette ad have been mixed.

Unsurprisingly, the worst of the cess pool of criticism is found in the YouTube comments, perhaps proving Gillette's point for them - venture in at your own risk.
posted by Ben Trismegistus (93 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
 
The huge line of barbecuing men intoning "Boys will be boys" is really striking, as are the bullies in mid-chase bursting through various scenes.

I'll take widely broadcast messages like these wherever I can get em, even if it's still Procter & Gamble selling us something
posted by panhopticon at 12:45 PM on January 14 [51 favorites]


Well, it's clear they definitely think their brand has sufficient equity for a big gamble like this--if they can weather the manosphere/alt-right/conservatives being shitty for a few cycles they probably won't lose too much.

I dunno if it'll move the needle among the men who like upholding toxic masculinity, though, and I'm still not convinced all of the self-identified Good Men™ out there will really stand up to do these things?
posted by anem0ne at 12:47 PM on January 14 [12 favorites]




What really surprises me, in trudging through some of the YouTube comments, is how someone can get so angry at the suggestion that maybe men should try not to be assholes sometimes. Like are you really fighting for the right to continue being a bully and a harasser?
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 12:54 PM on January 14 [85 favorites]


Like are you really fighting for the right to continue being a bully and a harasser?

i mean if you've seen any other comments online anywhere from these types of men over the past several years, like, since at least before gg and emboldened with comicsgate and trumpism and pretty much any time they think a woman they can hate is around, the answer is yes? they'll defend it by running to something about free speech/expression/telling it like it is and so on, so...
posted by anem0ne at 12:59 PM on January 14 [20 favorites]


Making popcorn...
My hot take is that this looks like something Don Draper would make 5 years ago. It's very good...and on the nose...and instantly problematic...but effort A's!

Big points for using the morning mirror of shaving to evoke the slow grind of self-reflection against the sea of banal toxicity. Really a powerful image that shouldn't be diminished for being so perfectly on-brand)
posted by es_de_bah at 1:02 PM on January 14 [18 favorites]


I'll take widely broadcast messages like these wherever I can get em, even if it's still Procter & Gamble selling us something

Two boys in my life are youth hockey players, and both of them -- in just the last few months-- have had stories about trying to get their teammates to be decent re: girls playing on their teams. Wonderfully, it seems that neither of them took the hit to their popularity/team standing that us adults might have expected.

We don't know what thing they saw or heard that made their 13 year old brains go "hey, this isn't cool. nobody asked that girl if she was ok with this. I'm getting the coach." Sure, we say stuff about consent and feminism all the time! But who knows if it was our messaging that stuck? Or something like this?

As many messages as possible.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 1:03 PM on January 14 [81 favorites]


A couple of questions about what the effect of this is going to be come to mind when I see this. The first one is: is it reasonable to think (or to be more precise, reasonable to predict) that this ad will help Gillette sell more razors?
posted by Mr. Justice at 1:05 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Mr. Justice, on what time scale?
posted by es_de_bah at 1:06 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]


Who cares if they sell more razors or not?
posted by agregoli at 1:06 PM on January 14 [14 favorites]


Gillette does because it's kind their reason for being? We care because if "being socially responsible" also means increasing profits, it'll mean more messages like this.
posted by VTX at 1:08 PM on January 14 [11 favorites]


is it reasonable to think that this ad will help Gillette sell more razors?

Sure it's reasonable. Most guys, myself included, aren't aware of any real qualitative difference between brands of razors. So, for me personally, if I'm standing in a drug store looking to buy a razor, I would remember that Gillette was the brand that tried to take a stand against toxic masculinity, and I'd buy that razor.

As to whether they will gain more customers than they will lose, that's an open question.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 1:09 PM on January 14 [46 favorites]


The effect? I think straight razors might be adopted as an alt-right/traditional masculinity thing if it hasn’t already. For some men that means literally cutting your nose to spite your face!
posted by FJT at 1:11 PM on January 14 [42 favorites]


I'll stick with my Harry's razors, but I won't complain about this sort of thing.
posted by SansPoint at 1:11 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


is it reasonable to think that this ad will help Gillette sell more razors?

Not that it really matters (on preview: what agregoli said), but a couple months ago Nike released an ad starring Colin Kaepernick, and despite a lot of dumb, bigoted pieces of shit burning stuff they had already paid for, Nike's sales and stock value have been booming.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:11 PM on January 14 [24 favorites]


So I shave when the condition of my skin lets me. Psoriasis, whatcha gonna do.

I tend to buy whatever's on sale. Next tie I go to the drugstore, though, it's gonna be Gillette. Why? Because of this add? Heck no. I mean be gutsy, take a stand, say something worth saying - sure that's great for people but corporations aren't people.

The far stronger piece of sales work being done here is the laughably terribly, terribly reactionary, radioactive comments. Oh my - there's little I wouldn't do to spite such fragility in the face of some advertising.

And the next net time I need to buy razors? Well lets see which multinational wants to try something more substantiative than paying a marketing firm for a focus-grouped advertising campaign that's pretty much guaranteed to sell more widgets. I mean it's a start but what else have you got?
posted by mce at 1:17 PM on January 14 [14 favorites]


The effect? I think straight razors might be adopted as an alt-right/traditional masculinity thing if it hasn’t already. For some men that means literally cutting your nose to spite your face!

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Shaving with a safety razor is a delight and those jackholes cannot have it. Also it's very cheap.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 1:17 PM on January 14 [10 favorites]


Uh, of course Gillette cares. But their message could fail for any number of reasons, I don't care if a company's ad campaign earns them more dollars. What we care about is the mesaage, if it's a nice message, great. But you asked if it would sell more razors, and I don't give a shit about that.
posted by agregoli at 1:19 PM on January 14


The first one is: is it reasonable to think that this ad will help Gillette sell more razors?

sorta?

Millennials and younger seem to want "brands that stand for something", that are "authentic".

It's definitely helped brands before--
  • being "pro-body-positivity" helped Dove body care get a lot of earned media (think free advertising) and a growth in sales (it convinced me to buy them for a damn long time)
  • take a look at any number of scrappy clothing startups that advertise on social media a lot--Pact Organic and Rothy's, for example, that stand for pro-fair-trade or pro-environment/recycling goals--and how they've grown in just the past few years
  • Chick-fil-a got a lot of earned media and a loyal customer following for representing the utility of peanut oil in chicken frying and anti-LGBT bigotry
This particular move by Gillette is probably arising from wanting to at least link up a little with "woke" commercial activism, helped along a bit by how the concept of toxic masculinity has really come up a lot lately, and with #MeToo being a rather large conversation starter.

It's likely it's less a play for older, more ossified man-identified shavers, and for younger, brand-stickier ones, who, like SansPoint (and myself, back when I needed to shave my face daily), are moving to subscription models like DSC and Harry's (and likely a side-market in the women who buy men's razors because of the pink tax, though startups like Billie and Harry's-offshoot Flamingo are starting to make waves). If Gillette can *ahem* signal that they believe in specific *ahem* virtues, it'll no doubt help them.

And get them quite a bit of earned media, which leads to greater mindshare/awareness, which, honestly, for a commodity product like razors, is how, the theory goes, you bend the needle in your favor.
posted by anem0ne at 1:20 PM on January 14 [9 favorites]


"I've been buying Gillette products for 55 years ... no more. I glean from this that most men are dogs, that is simply not true," one person said. - From the Business Insider link.

I mean I know that they mostly brought these quotes up for us to laugh at (two have "sic" in them), but man, this ad seemed really positive about men to me. Like, hopeful even.

Shaving with a safety razor is a delight and those jackholes cannot have it.

It's ok. Straight razors aren't safety razors! I'm also on the safety razor bandwagon. Just bought 100 blades so I'm good for a while now.
posted by ODiV at 1:20 PM on January 14 [6 favorites]


What was the message, again? Something about #MeToo? I spent the whole time watching to see whether only the bad guys had facial hair, and wondering to what extent the whole thing serves as an advertisement for clean-shavenness in general.
posted by sfenders at 1:23 PM on January 14


You're allowed to watch it again if you want.
posted by ODiV at 1:24 PM on January 14 [57 favorites]


also, on another note, can i just say
But the ad could backfire and alienate Gillette’s base, Mr. Crutchfield cautioned. “Does the customer want to be told they’re a naughty boy? Are you asking too much of your consumer to be having this conversation with them?”
whenever i hear an older dude use the phrase "naughty boy", my skin crawls

so please, older dudes, don't use that phrase
posted by anem0ne at 1:25 PM on January 14 [16 favorites]


Yeah, being "naughty" implies impish youth, irresponsibility for being young, and the action being fairly innocuous. Which doesn't apply to sexual harassment and assault.
posted by agregoli at 1:28 PM on January 14 [7 favorites]


Oh, so, Saturday night Mr. Offalark and I were out for once without the larklings and there was a...commercial? Is that what it's called? On the TV in the bar and it was for something called "Force Factor X" on ESPN. All about how men were losing their testosterone and implying spa days and crying and loofahs had something to do with it.

I turned around and looked at my husband and was all, "Whaaaaat is this horseshit?" and he said, "Oh, yeah, that commercial." To which I said, "WHAT DO YOU MEAN THAT COMMERCIAL?" Apparently, he has seen it many times because keywords and internet and I guess I don't hit those flags. Or maybe my ad blockers are better.

Anyway, I prefer this advertising better. Because that ad was just dumb and insulting and I'm shocked it hasn't been brought up before. Then again, it's a shitty snake oil product and doesn't deserve to be talked about anyway, so maybe I shouldn't care so much.
posted by offalark at 1:29 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


The video has 19K dislikes vs 2.9K likes, today.
Wow, tragic.
posted by artdrectr at 1:29 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


despite a lot of dumb, bigoted pieces of shit burning [Nike brand] stuff they had already paid for

Ooooh, thanks for reminding me of that fine internet moment which I had forgotten about because last year seemed a thousand years long. The memory made me smile. Trumpsters destroying their own belongings to own the libs was definitely on brand for them. Do you think there is some way we could get them to renounce voting next? We'd be so owned.
posted by orange swan at 1:29 PM on January 14 [23 favorites]


I mean I know that they mostly brought these quotes up for us to laugh at (two have "sic" in them), but man, this ad seemed really positive about men to me. Like, hopeful even.

This, exactly. A lot of the YouTube comments criticize the ad for "making men look evil." If that's your takeaway, I think you may be bringing your own biases into the experience.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 1:35 PM on January 14 [17 favorites]


The video has 19K dislikes vs 2.9K likes

Perhaps people who approve of the story it tries to tell are disproportionately savvy enough to hesitate before clicking "like" on an ad for razors.
posted by sfenders at 1:42 PM on January 14 [18 favorites]


Well, it definitely made me tear up. It's hard to underestimate the impact of simply voicing some of this stuff out loud. It's just so important, right now, to just say some of these things. We can't confront our biases or systemic injustice if we don't start by naming things. You can't start splitting hairs until you acknowledge the...hair. Wait, was that a good metaphor or the best metaphor?

Also, in terms of sales...women still make the bulk of household purchasing decisions and that likely includes razors and other products for men and boys. So, if you think this ad would be appealing at all to women, then, yes, it could positively affect sales.
posted by amanda at 1:47 PM on January 14 [33 favorites]


Are there companies who are expressly going the other way on this? I know there are ones that have always embraced toxic masculinity, but are any out there doing new ads and doubling down on "real man" bullshit at this exact moment in time? Besides that Force Factor whatever thing already mentioned.
posted by agregoli at 1:49 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Are there companies who are expressly going the other way on this? I know there are ones that have always embraced toxic masculinity, but are any out there doing new ads and doubling down on "real man" bullshit at this exact moment in time? Besides that Force Factor whatever thing already mentioned.

I've always assumed that the styling of "lastMANstanding" was trying to imply something like this.
posted by MikeKD at 1:55 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Are there companies who are expressly going the other way on this? I know there are ones that have always embraced toxic masculinity, but are any out there doing new ads and doubling down on "real man" bullshit at this exact moment in time? Besides that Force Factor whatever thing already mentioned.

To be honest, I feel like I should be able to pull examples from working memory, given my job, but I can't--I have blockers everywhere (even at work), and the few areas where ads sneak in, Big Data knows me well enough that those types of ads are going to be lost on me.

I would wager that you may be able to find examples in the alt-right youtube stuff, and anywhere in the manosphere, though.

I do think much of that kind of "virtue signaling" towards that of toxicity and bigotry tends to really only work in niche markets and not very well with the general public?
posted by anem0ne at 1:56 PM on January 14


Also, in terms of sales...women still make the bulk of household purchasing decisions and that likely includes razors and other products for men and boys. So, if you think this ad would be appealing at all to women, then, yes, it could positively affect sales.

It is, actually, why Old Spice hired Isaiah Mustafa for their ads for a while--Terry Crews worked for men purchasing the brand, but Mustafa worked really well getting women to buy Old Spice for their cohabiting men...
posted by anem0ne at 1:57 PM on January 14 [14 favorites]


I sure hope so. I am not going looking for any of it, definitely.
posted by agregoli at 1:58 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


stories about trying to get their teammates to be decent re: girls playing on their teams. 

I was briefly bullied by a goon on my own hockey team, briefly because my teammate Shannon cross-checked the guy into oblivion the first time he tried it. That wasn't going to happen on her team. There have always been women in leadership positions in sports who made their teams decent for others.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:00 PM on January 14 [20 favorites]


Away from my usual desk: "Day late and a dollar short," comes to mind. It's one campaign against a business model based on hegemonic masculinity: unnecessarily gender-coded product design and advertising, heavy traditional sports sponsorship, and some rather ugly marketing regarding women and body hair. It's nice that parent company P&G are going there, but not opening the cookie jar for them yet.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 2:15 PM on January 14 [10 favorites]


As to whether they will gain more customers than they will lose, that's an open question.

I like to think somewhere that the people who were asked this took a page from Luanne Van Houten's dad (executive of Southern Cracker, from the Simpsons) book about if single people eat crackers. "Happy Families. Maybe toxic masuline people use our razors, we don't know. Frankly we don't want to know. It's a market we can do without."
posted by nobeagle at 2:24 PM on January 14 [6 favorites]


I'm no media master marketeer type but just for instance, imagine building a subtle mythology about how gross it is for a bigot have to visit a polling place, because you have to stand in line and be physically close to all those objectionable-to-bigots people.

Ironically, the reverse of this was employed successfully for many years as an argument against women's suffrage. Because most elections took place in bars, it was considered unseemly for women to go to such male-dominated spaces and discuss such un-ladylike topics as politics.

For that matter, check out this image, which clearly attacks the masculinity of any man who would allow his wife to vote.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 2:50 PM on January 14 [6 favorites]


There have always been women in leadership positions in sports who made their teams decent for others.

Not saying there haven't been. However, it is not and should never be their sole responsibility to enforce decency as a norm. Especially in circumstances (like the ones I described) where women are NOT in leadership positions, and where they constitute a tiny minority. Messages that tell boys they can and should buck toxic groupthink benefit everyone.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 3:38 PM on January 14 [9 favorites]


This messaging needs to be out there, in many different forms. That this comes after years of terrible Lynx ads is honestly a breath of fresh air. It also really shouldn't be controversial to say "hey guys, maybe be respectful to other humans" and yet here we are.
posted by liquorice at 3:45 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


I liked this. And it made me wonder - have there been other ads or media with this basic message? I'm not a big ad-watcher, but I've definitely seen plenty of feel-good media that shows women making change (or, more cynically, implying that they're the only ones who are responsible for doing so). I hear a lot of people on places like Metafilter tell men that they need to step up, but seeing this made me realize that I don't think I have seen anything slick and mass-produced like this that asks men to do better. This is one ad and it's a good one, but imagine if it approached anything near the ubiquity of feel-good feminist ads aimed at women. It might actually start to get into people's heads.

(To avoid a derail: You can post other examples if you like, but I'm not, I guess, literally asking "has there ever in the history of our culture been another ad that asks men to step up?" I'm more musing on the relative rarity of that message vs "women will save us all.")
posted by sunset in snow country at 3:47 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]


I fucking loved this and found it legitimately affecting. The "boys will be boys" segment resonated so strongly - I see it all the time, with my daughters. Even in our circle of friends people tolerate behaviour from their male children that would never fly from girls, it makes me furious.

Yeah it's an ad, so what? Mass media is how our culture creates and maintains its mores.

We desperately need to redefine what masculinity means, and if what they put in their ad is promoting a new masculine ideal, I am all fucking for it - especially as someone who resiled from the traditional view of masculinity that was espoused in the rural area where I grew up. As a teen, I kind of had to muddle through and develop my own masculine ideal; this kind of modelling wasn't really around in the nineties.

It warms the cockles of my heart, actually, to see a super consumerist medium touting a product that for decades has been emblematic of masculinity, saying "Actually, this is what being a man looks like." Amen.
posted by smoke at 4:52 PM on January 14 [29 favorites]


I also really liked how it was careful to:

1) Show that men can also suffer from toxic masculinity
2) Didn't position women as damsels in distress who need protecting from men, but rather positioned men as custodians of masculinity.
posted by smoke at 4:56 PM on January 14 [46 favorites]


If and when I buy razors I'd generally avoid Gillette because I still think of their massive cheesy 80s best a man can get nonsense and it's left a bad taste for years.

Now, if there's a choice, they've got my (admittedly meagre) custom back.
So yeah, it'll sell some more. Dunno if it will lose them sales.

The usual feckless noisy morons are making a fuss online merrily proving the whole fucking point. Like, you can call me an effeminate soy boy all you like. It doesn't make you look like big strong boys. It makes you look scared.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 5:17 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


I liked it. It's probably got some stuff in it that in 20 years will make us wince but that's a permanent feature of existence.
posted by nikaspark at 5:43 PM on January 14 [6 favorites]


I have recently switched to safety razors, because disposable razors are terrible for the environment. Gillette now has my business. (Plus, men's razors are cheaper, better made, and longer-lasting, but that's a whole different post).
posted by dancing_angel at 6:04 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Seeing this on the same day a local ribs restaurant started a "which one has the bigger rack?" ad campaign (and I'll let your imagination fill in the obvious imagery they used), well... I'm glad one company is trying, at least.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 6:24 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


That Bill Hicks advertising bit was awful and it's fucked up how people still get wistful about it.

Marketing matters and exists in the same universe as everything else. How we pitch products to the public shows what our society thinks of the public. You can do something like this and be accused of simply capitalizing on the existence of Woke Dudes or you can try and reboot the Miller Lite "twins" ads. The fact that the former is what a massive corporation is opting for ought to be a good sign, right?
posted by East14thTaco at 7:33 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Meanwhile, a local radio ad for a sports bar is arguing that you should go there to watch "the game" because if your friends come to your house you have to sit on the couch with them and you might touch knees.
posted by Scattercat at 7:37 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


I always like to compare this sort of ad with the Worst of Sexist Advertising compilations that crop up. Does it matter particularly that this was meant to sell razors? What matters to me is that they're willing to acknowledge that there are better ways to make money than appeal to the lowest common denominator, and that they are contributing to an environment that is less hostile to people who don't conform to that rigid, poisonous vision of manhood.
posted by Jilder at 9:05 PM on January 14 [8 favorites]


"Day late and a dollar short," comes to mind. It's one campaign against a business model based on hegemonic masculinity

When something happens for the first time that goes against its expected environment, saying "this comes too late and doesn't do enough" is exactly the opposite of what one should do.
posted by hippybear at 9:06 PM on January 14 [32 favorites]


Man. If you're a guy and you watch that and you can't take a positive message from that ... jeez, that's just sad.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 9:53 PM on January 14 [12 favorites]


That's the patriarchy and its mortar feeling threatened by the passage of time. Eventually the entire structure will fall.
posted by hippybear at 9:54 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


Who buys men's razors? We're all assuming it's men. Is that actually true? Or is it wives, moms, girlfriends? I guarantee Gillette knows.
posted by Toddles at 10:33 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


I haven't bought a razor for personal use since 1987, and I still support this campaign and will buy Gillette razors to contribute to homeless banks if that's what it takes.
posted by hippybear at 11:28 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


(okay, we won't talking about the stuff I might have bought a razor for.... but that didn't involve staring in a mirror)
posted by hippybear at 11:30 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


I like the ad. I also looked at the site linked at the end of the ad and it looks like they are giving $1m a year for three years to programs supporting positive masculinity...starting with boys and girls clubs. So that is a plus and I'm in favour.
posted by chapps at 11:56 PM on January 14 [7 favorites]


I'm for it, and against Piers Morgan, so, maybe I'll shave my legs with some Gilettes for a while.
posted by taterpie at 12:07 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]


Not the first, and I guess everything else the company does to support toxic masculinity is now beyond criticism, so mission accomplished I guess.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 4:09 AM on January 15


Reddit giving YouTube a run for its money right now, to all our surprise I'm sure.
posted by ominous_paws at 5:19 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


I mean, given that P&G generally hasn't listened to decades of feminist and queer criticism of the pervasive sexism in their marketing so far, the risk they will cancel a new campaign now is rather low.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 5:33 AM on January 15


Pepsi Blue! Pepsi Red Play Button too!

This seems like a stunt. Had they been quietly funding men's groups I would look at this ad much differently. This is a subsidiary of a large publicly traded company. By definition it exists to increase shareholder value.

There is a bit of social good in a commercial like this, it does normalize the idea of toxic masculinity.
I question the motivation and depth of it however. It reads like capitalization of the culture war. For all the good that it may or may not do, what is it's cost?

Along with the ad the company is committing to pledge a million dollars a year to the boys and girls clubs. So that's... Something? (A rounding error in their revenue).

Now, if they were quietly supporting charities that help sexual assult victims or teach consent-based sex-ed, I'd be more impressed and less suspicious.
posted by jonnay at 5:52 AM on January 15


Generally, I think anything that gives the MRAs on the internet the vapors is something that should be encouraged.

All these assholes whining about being emasculated and what about toxic femininity and why can't I bully people in peace?? is proof positive that a) this messaging is not "a day late and a dollar short" because there are plenty of shits who need to hear it constantly repeated until it maybe sinks in for them or their descendants and b) screw them, they've had the whole world catering to their insecurities for millennia and pushing back is always a good thing, even if it might make a corporation some money in the process.
posted by lydhre at 5:53 AM on January 15 [18 favorites]


I liked the ad. I'm sure they did their research and are gambling that the attention and positive vibes will outweigh any consequences from the negative splashback; I hope they are correct and others follow their example. Resetting cultural norms isn't fast or easy, but it does happen.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:26 AM on January 15 [4 favorites]


One thing about all the snowflakes reacting to this on youtube, is how many say things like 'it's ok to be male and white'.
They're not really reacting to anything in the ad itself, but rather their own internal fantasies of persecution.
Reminds me of the war on the war on Christmas.
posted by signal at 6:40 AM on January 15 [13 favorites]


is it reasonable to think (or to be more precise, reasonable to predict) that this ad will help Gillette sell more razors?

There's a whole raft of mature consumer commodities where the goods themselves are pretty much the same thing at the same price from one brand to another. For me, deodorant is where I've been the most conscious of this -- surely they're all the same shit from the same 55 gallon drums with minor changes to the scents.

For those goods, I often buy the ones whose ads I like the best, because why not? Honestly the only things that distinguishes Old Spice from Speed Stick from Degree from Axe are (a) narrow differences in scent and (b) how good their ads are. So I buy the one that pays for Terry Crews to shout at me because *heart eyes*. Anyways, if the only thing that's really different between two razors is that one of them offers a mild fuck-you to the MRA incel turds, why wouldn't I choose buy that?

Honestly, one of the few things that heartens me about Our Times is watching companies betting real money that the future is one of diversity and tolerance and not trumpist cishet-white-supremacy. Not because anyone is making them, but because they know that's where the money's gonna be.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 6:55 AM on January 15 [13 favorites]


P&G is still spending millions catering to them, and on propping up sexism in beauty and household work. So look at what they will run on radio, on the Superbowl, in the Sunday magazine supplement and the glossy magazines this week.

When I can pick up a magazine or watch TV in a waiting room and not be treated like a freak at least once in a half hour, I'll back off my criticism of toxic marketing. But I'm not going to rush out and buy stuff where the masculinity is baked into the product design and packaging because they produced a two-minute brand film.

It's a good brand film, and maybe the start of something more. But I'm just not up for giving P&G and especially Gillette a pass on the toxic gender roles they are still peddling because they are producing a few socially progressive brand films.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 6:57 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]


If you're replying directly to me, I don't see anything in my earlier comment that disagrees with you?

It's a good brand film and maybe the start of something more, so if I needed razors tomorrow I might try the gillette version to reward movement towards the goal, being confident that companies are at least as smart as dogs. It's not like this would cause me to abandon some current choice that was obviously socially better, I'm klutzy enough that I'm not gonna try any of the kinds that involve me scraping my face with an actually deadly weapon, and I'm not gonna go full Grizzly Adams to avoid buying them.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 7:19 AM on January 15 [3 favorites]


There is no 100% ethical feel-good message under capitalism, maybe?

BUT: this made me cry, and it said things that desperately need saying, no matter how compromised the messenger. At the end of the day, Gillette will still just be a razor company, but the message of "bullying and harassment is not what makes a man," will have an impact.

It's ok to doubt Gillette's motives! And Dove's with their love-your-body messages! But the messages are still good.

The thing about great advertising is (and this is amazingly well-done), it's powerful. Even using a tiny bit of that power for good is something to celebrate.
posted by emjaybee at 7:26 AM on January 15 [11 favorites]


I think it does matter that this exists to sell razor blades. It says volumes about our culture that corporations and brands are consciously, openly making these bids to shape that culture; and that at the end of the day the motivation behind that is not to make the world better, but to sell more razor blades. (Or, at best, to make the world better while selling more razor blades.) I think it's really important for me to remain conscious of that motivation even when their message happens to align with my own beliefs, because at the end of the day if they'd done the math and decided that this ad campaign wouldn't result in selling more razor blades, this ad campaign would not exist. (I take a little bit of hope from the fact that they did predict that it would sell more razor blades, even as I marvel at the realization that I trust Proctor & Gamble's market research department as much or more than I trust public polling.)

I think it's unnerving that advertising has slowly frogboiled its way from "we have this product, and these are its superior qualities, therefore you should buy our product" to "here is a philosophical or cultural ideal that you support, therefore you should buy our product." I think it's a little frightening how much more skilled we / they have gotten at producing these packets of cultural propaganda, compared to the ridiculous PSAs of my youth ("This is your brain on drugs" etc) or the even more ridiculous government-sponsored "educational" films that preceded those and now serve mostly as fodder for MST3K shorts.

I don't really know what to make of my impression that the primary vehicle, the generally trusted source, for transmission of cultural ideals seems to have migrated, over decades or centuries, from the church to the government to the multinational corporation. (I could make the case that this one aspect is an improvement: corporate culture is more democratic than the others, you can choose a different product much more easily than you can choose your government or your religion. I could also make the case for despair that we've individually been reduced to expressing our ideals via the selection of the correct brand of razor blades, and that voting with my dollars probably has more real-world effect than voting with a ballot.)

I'm very very uncomfortable with the fact that I just teared up over an ad for razor blades, and that my next purchase of razor blades is going to be so heavily influenced by something that has fuck-all to do with the razor blades or their quality. But I also kinda wish I hadn't been buying Gillette by default all along anyway, because then I'd be able to send my small signal to them that it worked, by switching to their brand.
posted by ook at 7:37 AM on January 15 [6 favorites]


Stuff like this is maddening, because yes it's a good message but we shouldn't be looking to corporations to lead the way on discussions of values and morals and society. I mean, that's fucking dangerous.

jonnay: It reads like capitalization of the culture war.

See any product ever geared towards "women's empowerment" (shirts! clothes! journals!), because that is well-trodden territory.
posted by hijinx at 8:06 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]


the motivation behind that is not to make the world better, but to sell more razor blades

Those aren't mutually exclusive. Or at least, they don't have to be; the ad is evidence of that.

I mean: they're a razor blade company (well, P&G is more than that, but the Gillette division is functionally a razor blade company). They're gonna sell razor blades. Because if they don't, they don't exist, and organizations generally don't commit suicide. So, that much goes on premise.

Now, given that they're gonna try to sell razor blades, they have a bunch of ways they can try to accomplish that. They could take the cheap shot, which is to play into homophobia and toxic masculinity and basically imply "buy our shit and get laid! don't buy our shit and you're probably a homo!". This might work—it might also backfire, in fact one would hope it would, but who knows. But as recently as a couple of decades ago, it would have been the obvious easy path. Today the default path is probably some milquetoast offend-nobody, have-no-opinions feelgood campaign. That's what they could have produced, and it would have faded immediately into the background, maybe doing nothing, maybe making our shared culture a little worse.

They didn't do that, and instead took a stance that they presumably knew was going to alienate some potential customers. I can only assume that someone must have decided this was a worthwhile risk, in terms of the free publicity they'd get, but it also has a positive message. That's at least mildly laudable.

It's not reasonable to expect companies in the marketplace to do things that are prima facie unprofitable; everything they're doing has to fit into the profit-driven context. But how they go about that, and whether or not they engage in the equivalent of toxic waste dumping into our culture, or try to be responsible and maybe make our culture slightly better while doing what they're going to do anyway, is a decision that they made. I think it's probably good to reward companies who do the better thing.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:17 AM on January 15 [15 favorites]


I kind of feel selectively quoted there, Kadin2048. I agree that "do good while selling more razor blades" is better than "just sell more razor blades", and hope I made it clear that on balance I do support this, compared to the alternative -- but the fact that the underlying context is still necessarily "sell more razor blades" has a real distorting effect.

I wish there were a plausible venue for the obvious skill, talent, and good intentions that went into this advertisement that didn't have to be based on selling more razor blades.
posted by ook at 8:48 AM on January 15 [3 favorites]


Finally watched the ad: wow that's some tame-ass shit. And of course men are freaking out over the mildest of "maybe don't be a piece of shit?" advice.
posted by odinsdream at 9:03 AM on January 15 [13 favorites]


This seems like a stunt

It is a stunt. Nobody is saying otherwise. But the stunt has an angle and it's not a bad one.

Fuck capitalism, but at least hope marketing that encourages men NOT to be awful catches on?
posted by East14thTaco at 9:13 AM on January 15 [5 favorites]


Also, I am a hairy man on my face. A grew a beard at 17. I am going to buy razors because they are things I need. I would prefer to buy razors from a company that at least acknowledges that toxic masculinity exists rather than one that pretends I've never heard of scotch.

Give this copy writer a raise!
posted by East14thTaco at 9:18 AM on January 15 [5 favorites]


I wish there were a plausible venue for the obvious skill, talent, and good intentions that went into this advertisement that didn't have to be based on selling more razor blades.

Within the mainstream, capital-motivated media? There isn't. But as a familiar quote from the Dubya era goes (and I can't believe I'm quoting it!), you go to war with the army you have, not the one you wish you have.

It's a bit like strategic voting; the aim is to effect harm reduction wherever you can achieve it, given the deep flaws in the system that may prevent the more substantive, revolutionary changes we really need from being achieved via that route any time soon. Or as Rebecca Solnit puts it, "Voting is a chess move, not a love letter." It's not the only route to change - far from it! - and it has some utility, not none. Also, like voting, buying a product takes up a fairly negligible amount of your time overall, so why not do it, and while doing so, make the best, or, at least, the least bad choice when doing so? You don't have to pretend it's storming the Bastille.
posted by Philofacts at 9:57 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


Finally watched the ad: wow that's some tame-ass shit.

Yeah, it's a fundamentally "conservative"—in a broader sense of the word—message. Men should buck up, play fair, be a friend to those in need, and never be a bully or a cad. It's practically the Scout's Law. Which isn't to deprecate it, necessarily, more to note that there isn't any exhortation in there that men haven't at least professed to believe for decades, if not centuries. The objections to that (from the right) are a measure of a, frankly, fascist claim to entitlement, one that scorns fairness as weakness, women as chattel, and ordinarily civility as a sucker's mistake.

It's ok to doubt Gillette's motives! And Dove's with their love-your-body messages! But the messages are still good.

One of the more tortured objections I saw to this ad was a dude (I'm guessing a dude) on twitter protesting that it was a bad commercial because Gillette's exhortations were too important to be sullied by mere advertising. (All very much of the Bill Hicks school of finding moral reasons to oppose the things you chafed at in the first place.) But if commendable advertising isn't at all sufficient political praxis, then I think that an ad that at least pretends to believe that its targets are humans is superior to one that assumes that they aren't.

Mostly, however, I'm just happy to see Proctor & Gamble back in league with the Devil.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:32 PM on January 15 [3 favorites]


my downvote and reporting finger sure got busy with those youtube comments! they might not have the perfect message but it's a step in the right direction and i'll be damned if those assholes think they can stink up the place.
posted by numaner at 7:40 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]




I've been totally jaded by Dove's various "empowerment" campaigns.

They're owned by unilever, which also owns Axe, which means their ad campaign showing a young girl being bombarded with highly sexualized advertising was airing at the same time as this (warning for highly sexualized advertising)

So they don't believe in their message enough to do anything about it beyond sell more products (there are many, many other additional problems with Dove's campaigns)

----

anyway Gillette is owned by Proctor & Gamble, and the barest shallow level google search doesn't seem to turn up much dirt on them being nestle-level evil, plus they also brought us Old Spice Man, so who knows, maybe this cynical corporate ploy isn't also transparently hypocritical.
posted by Cozybee at 7:20 AM on January 16


So here's an honest question: How much say does a parent company get in the individual brand's advertising and messaging? Does Unilever oversee advertising for all its brands, or do Dove and Axe have their own independent marketing people that don't coordinate with one another? If it's the latter, I'm less concerned about the perceived hypocrisy of different brands under the same corporate parents appearing to have inconsistent messages.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 7:27 AM on January 16 [1 favorite]


Wow, those YouTube comments are something else. If one read them without watching the video, one would think that Gillette was doing no less than compelling these guys to wear women's undergarments. As @popehat put it, "it appears that Gillette isn't a good product for sensitive skin after all."
posted by exogenous at 7:59 AM on January 16 [3 favorites]


> is it reasonable to think (or to be more precise, reasonable to predict) that this ad will help Gillette sell more razors?

Tom Morton makes a decent case it will
posted by CheapB at 9:11 AM on January 16 [1 favorite]


Does Unilever oversee advertising for all its brands, or do Dove and Axe have their own independent marketing people that don't coordinate with one another?

It's hard to say for sure; most big conglomerates tend to give a fair degree of autonomy to different branded divisions, though. My guess is they have separate advertising budgets, work with different ad agencies, and basically don't have much coordination except perhaps someone at a very high level trying to ensure they stay out of each other's lane. They probably have different demographic targets and Axe wouldn't be allowed by corporate to push into Dove's market and vice versa.

Generally, the amount of autonomy you get is directly proportional to your profitability. Nobody likes to fuck with something that's working well. If your numbers slip, suddenly you attract... interest.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:43 AM on January 16 [1 favorite]


from twitter @timescanner :"Those Gillette ads are nice, but get this: The company's founder wanted to build a socialist utopian city of tessellating hexagons on Niagara Falls where money would "pass into the oblivion of an ignorant age." - http://urbanplanning.library.cornell.edu/DOCS/gillette.htm
posted by Fence at 12:05 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]


All these assholes whining about being emasculated and what about toxic femininity and why can't I bully people in peace?? is proof positive that a) this messaging is not "a day late and a dollar short" because there are plenty of shits who need to hear it constantly repeated until it maybe sinks in for them or their descendants

This.

Oh sure, it's a stunt and designed to sell things and ultimately created by a huge multinational corporation.

But ALSO you can tell that more messaging like this is important because of all of the negative whiny reactions we're still getting from it. And that it will ultimately have a positive impact.

It can be both. Is this going to make me say "yay, Gillette is so great!"?
No.
Am I super glad this exists?
Yes.
posted by suedehead at 1:33 PM on January 17 [5 favorites]


Where are the toxic women in that Gillette ad about masculinity?

What fresh silver-medalling fuckery is this
posted by ominous_paws at 10:52 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


Does Unilever oversee advertising for all its brands, or do Dove and Axe have their own independent marketing people that don't coordinate with one another?

I do contract design/advertising work with a huge evil company on par with Proctor & Gamble because that Evil Co purchased the non-evil offshoot I had a relationship with, and I have other contract work with big multinationals. So, I am now familiar with working with different divisions of big Evil Co or other big companies like them and can say they don’t coordinate messages across the whole company for totally different divisions. I can think of many notable examples of people in charge of different markets under the same brand who have no idea what each other is doing and who are working against each other because there’s no communication.

The Dove advertising truly pissed me off and still does, but I also know that companies like this are less organized than you’d think for their size and profits and not often making decisions based on real measures of success, so it’s not the mark of a conspiracy that one part of the company thrives on making women hate their bodies while the other tells women to love them. It’s advertising agencies that get my fury and hatred. They come up with this shit and sell it without any reflection and they make so much money doing it. Agencies are always trying to poach clients and often they do it by shitting on what the last agency did, so who knows, maybe that’s how Gilette went in this direction.

That being said, go Gilette and whoever the agency is that pitched this and got it done. Women do most of the purchasing and it’s nice someone noticed.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 11:16 PM on January 18


I don't watch TV, and I don't live in the US, so I wouldn't have even seen this ad if it hadn't caused so much controversy on the interwebs. In that regard, Gillette/P&G have had a win - free advertising.

Personally, I can't say I know any men like the arseholes portrayed in this ad, as far as I know, so it has no impact on me.

Gillette to me are like HP. They sell printers really cheap to lock you in, then make you pay through the ... nose... for cartridges. I buy my razors from an online site which I won't mention due to metafilter rules, but it's a HELLUVA lot cheaper.

As for the ad in question's content, wouldn't it be better if they just de-sexualised their advertising. Show a man shaving his chin, a woman shaving her calf, and then tell us why their crap is better than the competition's?

Change their tune to "Gillette... the best someone can get"??

And yes, charge the same for both men and women.

I don't need corporations telling me what to think when all they're trying to do is sell printer cartridges.
posted by Diag at 12:22 AM on January 19


Stuff like this is maddening, because yes it's a good message but we shouldn't be looking to corporations to lead the way on discussions of values and morals and society.

I think of it the opposite way. The existence of this ad means the message is permeating cultural conversation. It's like when suddenly lots of Democratic politicians started agreeing that same-sex marriage should be legal. They weren't the leaders on this issue, the leaders were the community and the movement.

So we're at a point where toxic masculinity is a part of the cultural conversation, and people are picking sides. Gillette thinks this is the winning side.
posted by Emmy Rae at 3:02 PM on January 19 [8 favorites]


feminist next door (@emrazz), yesterday:
On Wednesday, a 21 y/o white man made 5 women lay down on the floor of a bank and shot them execution style.

Today, a 21 y/o white man shot and killed 5 people in what one officer called, “the worst domestic violence incident [he’d] seen.”

But do go on about a razor commercial.
posted by homunculus at 11:21 AM on January 27 [4 favorites]


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