Gillette faces backlash over campaign addressing #MeToo movement

The company vowed to ‘actively challenge the stereotypes and expectations of what it means to be a man,’ but people have mixed reactions to the new messaging.

Gillette #metoo ad ignites debate

Gillette has put a new spin on its 30-year-old tagline, “the best a man can get”—and many are criticizing the move.

On its website, the company wrote:

Our tagline needs to continue to inspire us all to be better every day, and to help create a new standard for boys to admire and for men to achieve… Because the boys of today are the men of tomorrow.

We’ve all got work to do. And it starts today.

Gillette launched its campaign with a short video it published on YouTube and shared across its social media profiles:

The company asks consumers to take action by visiting, which leads them to a landing page on Gillette’s site explaining the campaign and its promises.

Fortune reported:

When it comes to businesses boldly asserting their values through their marketing, Procter & Gamble’s Gillette just made Nike’s headline-grabbing “Believe in something” Colin Kaepernick ad look coy by comparison.

… The ad explicitly hails the #MeToo movement as a turning point for men and—through the inclusion of some old Gillette advertising material—it implies that the company’s own messaging hasn’t always been on the right side of history.

On its new landing page, Gillette wrote:

It’s time we acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture. And as a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man. With that in mind, we have spent the last few months taking a hard look at our past and coming communication and reflecting on the types of men and behaviors we want to celebrate. We’re inviting all men along this journey with us – to strive to be better, to make us better, and to help each other be better.

From today on, we pledge to actively challenge the stereotypes and expectations of what it means to be a man everywhere you see Gillette. In the ads we run, the images we publish to social media, the words we choose, and so much more.

In a press release, Gillette said its campaign focus is to “deliver and inspire more”:

  • RESPECT – Demonstrating respect and fostering inclusivity for all, including genders, races, religions and orientations.

  • ACCOUNTABILITY – Ending phrases like “Boys Will Be Boys” and eliminating the justification of bad behavior.

  • ROLE MODELING – Inspiring men to help create a new standard for boys to admire. We want boys to see and admire traits like honesty, integrity, hard work, empathy and respect – words that people across the U.S. use when describing what a great man looks like.

To achieve these goals, Gillette said it’s donating $1 million each year for the next three years to nonprofit organizations that “help men of all ages achieve their personal best.” The Boys & Girls Club of America is Gillette’s first nonprofit partner.

Gary Coombe, president of P&G Global Grooming, said in Gillette’s press release:

As the world’s largest marketer to men, we knew that joining the dialogue on ‘Modern Manhood’ would mean changing how we think about and portray men at every turn. As a starting point, and effective immediately, Gillette will review all public-facing content against a set of defined standards meant to ensure we fully reflect the ideals of Respect, Accountability and Role Modeling in the ads we run, the images we publish to social media, the words we choose, and more. 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.

Social media users’ reactions to Gillette’s move was mixed.

Many praised the company’s video and new messaging:

However, many more slammed Gillette for the same messaging:

Some say the announcement is at odds with the company’s previous marketing messages, and others assert that a shaving brand shouldn’t be involved with movements such as #MeToo. At time of publishing, Gillette’s video has more than 3 million views and 265,000 “dislikes”—six times more the amount of people who “liked” the video.

The controversy highlights the risk organizations take when including a stance on social or political issues in its marketing messages.

Business Insider reported:

George Belch, the chair of San Diego State University’s marketing department, reviewed the ad. He said that when it comes to ads about sensitive political or social topics like #MeToo, it’s all about being “careful” and getting the execution right. Belch said Gillette’s latest effort was well done, and added that it’s likely that commenters who took personal offense to the spot may have bigger issues with the #MeToo movement.

However, the backlash doesn’t mean Gillette’s campaign is a failed attempt to effect social change—nor is it a death knell for its brand image.

The BBC reported:

“Their next steps are very important but it shouldn’t necessarily be widespread panic yet,” Rob Saunders, an account manager at UK advertising company the Media Agency Group, tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

“Their ad is getting them good publicity and good numbers and causing a debate – which they must have known when they put out this ad.

Rob says Gillette will have anticipated a negative reaction to the advert from some people.

“This ad would have been approved by many people high up at Gillette,” he adds.

“So they must have known that there may have been a backlash.”

Despite the criticism, the company is sticking to its stance.

The Wall Street Journal reported:

“This is an important conversation happening, and as a company that encourages men to be their best, we feel compelled to both address it and take action of our own,” said Pankaj Bhalla, Gillette brand director for North America, in an emailed statement. “We are taking a realistic look at what’s happening today, and aiming to inspire change by acknowledging that the old saying ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ is not an excuse.”

…P&G said it has no plans to pull the spot in the face of some negative reaction. “We recognize it’s sparking a lot of passionate dialogue—at the same time, it’s getting people to stop and think about what it means to be our best selves, which is the point of the spot,” Mr. Bhalla said.

What do you think of Gillette’s campaign, Ragan/PR Daily readers?

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