Creative Campaigns #30 – Gillette’s We Believe: The best a man can be

Gillette’s latest advert ‘We Believe’ and brand tag line revamp from ‘the best a man can get’ to ‘the best men can be’ is dividing opinions.

It’s made national headlines and has been watched over 5 million times in less than 48 hours and the controversial conversation is up for debate – does this help or hinder the #MeToo movement?

About the ad

The video depicts different bullying, sexism, aggression and sexual harassment scenes with a powerful narrative over the top saying that this is not ok, that the ‘boys will be boys’ mentality is over and that men need to lead by example.

Kim Gehrig directed Gillette’s short film and also previously the This Girl Can 2015 campaign for Sport England, from Somesuch, a the UK-based production company.

Have you seen the advert yet?

If not, watch the video here:

Twitter comments, anti and pro

There’s a real mix of positive and negative comments coming out online about the advert. Here’s a few so you can get an idea of what’s being said.

What makes this risk PR?

In a calculated move from Gillette, this is another great example of risk PR. It’s also a different type of risk PR to the tactics Fiji Water employed to execute the photobomb stunt that I wrote about in my recent post ‘CREATIVE CAMPAIGNS #29 – FIJI WATER PHOTOBOMBS THE GOLDEN GLOBES‘.

Activists are one of the most vocal stakeholder categories of PR and it often arises from the topics that are most important to our society. In most recent times this has been seen through topics like politics, environment (most notably plastics and fracking), and issues like the #MeToo movement.

Activism is also one of the most volatile parts of PR often with seriously negative connotations. In general and historically it is something brands have wanted to avoid as there’s no guarantee it can be resolved positively for the branch or company. However there’s a new wave of PR branching out looking to harness it with risk PR – they know there will be some backlash but the positives should eventually outweigh the negatives from the initial reaction. High risk, big rewards.

Brands are keen to capitalise on these important society issues and ensure their brand voice, ethos/mission statement and actions align with issues their consumers hold dear.

Four things!

1. It’s a controversial topic

All of the issues addressed in the video are in the media constantly at the moment.

2. Gillette would have know going into this that is was going cause controversy

There’s absolutely no way they thought this would go smoothly – they’ve weighed it up and it will have gone through the most senior management. They are not walking into this blindly that’s for certain. But, the risk is a measured one because…

3. The advert doesn’t actually say anything bad, degrading or rude

So really I should be calling this limited risk PR! When you logically think this through, what’s the worst thing people going to say about Gillette? Oh wait, no go on men, do grab that women’s bum, yeah let your kid fight, don’t stop bullies from chasing that kid down the road and yes mate, you cat call that woman until she’s in tears. Um, no!

It’s reiterating what men should already know and yes, it shouldn’t need to be said in an advert but, no one’s going to disagree with the examples it has pulled out- and if you do, well surely you need to take a look at what you think acceptable behaviour is. Acceptable social behaviour is to not cat call someone or grope their bottoms! This is obvious (or should be!).

Are people going to be annoyed at Gillette stating the god damn obvious, sure they are – doesn’t mean it isn’t right and that they aren’t going to get a lot of PR from it. Some men will hate being told to step up as they will say ‘they are already that man and not all men are like that’ (which is true), others will say something about it jeopardising masculinity and others won’t get it as they are those butt grabbing men that the advert is referring to.

It’s already had over 5 million views in 48 hours (correct at the time of publishing but it’s increasing by the minute at the moment!) and made headline news on the BBC and several other news sites which will result in even more views, and further conversation about Gillette’s change in approach, charities and products. This is clever-calculated-risk-PR.

4. It’s a brave move.

Being brave requires some risk. You’ve got to have some kahunas to do this- to be able to ride out the rough comments and conversations and stick to your guns. To have faith that you’re doing the right thing and your audience will most likely stick by you.

Gillette clearly thinks it’s doing the right thing, this is proven in the statement released:

Gary Coombe, Gillette’s president said: “By holding each other accountable, eliminating excuses for bad behaviour, and supporting a new generation working toward their personal ‘best,’ we can help create positive change that will matter for years to come. We knew that joining the dialogue on ‘Modern Manhood’ would mean changing how we think about and portray men at every turn. For us, the decision to publicly assert our beliefs while celebrating men who are doing things right was an easy choice that makes a difference.”

With risk comes reward – the greatest kind of reward, being remembered, in this case it will be for speaking out on doing the right thing I bet they are watching the comments come in and seeing the reactions and holding their breath to see if the risk pays off- I wondered if it’s as bad or better than they thought? Regardless, it’s being talked about everywhere, getting millions of views and is on prime time news.

Personal opinion

Even if you’re not aware of the name you’ll be familiar with Kim Gehrig’s work from just one advert  – Kim directed John Lewis’ Man on the Moon. I am a big fan of Kim – the Chaka Khan ‘Like Sugar’ video and ‘Viva la Vulcha‘ are a slice of pure genius. However, I HATED the This Girl Can advert, I was was like ‘I know I can, I don’t need this advert to tell me’. I was all for getting women into sport but, the advert felt like it was speaking down to me.

I really like this Gillette advert but, the same principle applies and I can see why men would get annoyed – they feel like it’s talking down to them, decent men know how to behave they don’t need a lesson in it. I don’t think there’s any need for Gillette to point out that this is how men should behave but I do think there needs to be conversations and education around the topics to help reduce unacceptable behaviour and this advert is one way of achieving that.

Also a teeny tiny part of me wonders what percentage of women buy Gillette’s products for the men adult or teen in their lives? It would be interesting to see if this demographic improves sales post this ad and campaign.

Final thoughts

In essence, I think the backlash will help the #MeToo movement and all the other issues addressed in the film as it sparks conversation. Important conversations between friends, family, parents is how these issues become historic not part of our present. Conversations are used to discuss and teach appropriate behaviour.

Without communication on issues like these behaviours won’t change within a generation or from one generation to the next. Just from being out there now causing controversy it will spark these conversations, or it might make parents think about how they convey those messages into the raising of their children. And, I can’t help but wonder, that can only be a good thing right?

The message in the advert is strong. Communication, as PR professionals already understand, is important for change. Popular culture has always shaped and moulded societies perceptions, thoughts and standards – Gillette’s advert is a part of this.

Great articles about this issue that are out already:

  • BBC– Gillette faces backlash and boycott over ‘#MeToo advert’
  • The Guardian – Gillette #MeToo ad on ‘toxic masculinity’ gets praise – and abuse
  • GQ – Men Are Mad Online Because of a New Gillette Commercial

What do you think about Gillette’s campaign advert? Share your thoughts with me!


7 thoughts on “Creative Campaigns #30 – Gillette’s We Believe: The best a man can be

  1. Oh I’m so glad you covered this! I love your take on it. I’m interested to hear what you think of David Meerman Scott’s opinion on this — his New Rules of PR and Marketing was one of my college textbooks and I learned a lot from it, but he dismissed this video fairly harshly because of the Gillette logo at the beginning.

    IMO I am just so freaking glad to see a male-targeted brand taking a stand against toxic masculinity that I don’t give a crap about the brief logo placement. This message is so needed from entities who can actually make people think and talk about it.

    Here’s Scott’s article if you haven’t read it:

    1. Hi! Thanks for sending me that link, I hadn’t read that article about it. It’s SO interesting – I really appreciate this. Where did you go to college?

      David’s opinion is interesting – the link he refers to I think has changed. And, I think he’s right on that point that they didn’t need to link straight out to the sales site, it should have been the sites they are supporting – it is now I think, or has been when I viewed it. But, never forget that everything comes down to money for big companies – yes, Gillette are aligning their values with the #MeToo movement but don’t forget that money will always be their bottom line and most important priority. Aligning values is one way of them making money, getting global PR coverage for a little ruffling of feathers that cause just that right amount of controversy to get people talking is the exact calculate risk they wanted.

      I don’t think it’s a fail as it sparks conversation about the topic, the message is strong, clear and ultimately correct and society needs brands to be brave like this.

      The same applies to the branding/advert that he refers to in the video – yes the message and action is strong but we must not forget this is a razor brand trying to earn money. Of course it’s going to reference it’s tag line or products. Gillette is not a human rights group or a charity or company that works to eradicate inappropriate behaviour – it is a razor company. It is an advert even if they do want to dress it up with the title of ‘short film’.

      What’s important is that popular culture is often a powerful tool in driving change. Now that one brand has done this it sets a precedent for other companies to be braver in their PR tactics – the justification will be ‘Well it worked for Gillette!’

      I’ll have to pick up David’s book and give it a read! Thanks for taking the time to share – great comment! 👍🏻

      1. I went to TN Tech! I’m excited you read the article! The dynamic between companies who leverage these issues and consumers is so interesting when everyone knows it’s an ad but it starts a conversation anyway. Now I’ll be watching to see whether anything else like this pops up.

    2. Oh and if you liked this you should take a look at Iceland’s Orangutan Christmas Palm Oil campaign. Iceland is a British frozen supermarket chain – their Christmas ad got banned – as a result it got more views than abnormal advert would have!

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