Gillette is doubling down on its strategy of taking a strong stand on divisive social issues.
In its latest ad, the razor manufacturer created a pro-LGBTQ spot featuring a father teaching his transgender son how to shave.
The ad’s powerful story has gotten plenty of attention online and from mainstream news outlets. Gillette says it’s a message of support for those trying to be their truest self.
When asked about the ad, a Gillette spokesperson said the company supports “everyone in their journey to looking, feeling and acting their best every day.”
“Gender conversations are happening all around us and we believe brands play a role in influencing culture and have a responsibility to use their voice to champion issues of great relevance to both the brand and our customers,” spokesperson Corey Manuel said in an emailed statement.
The ad features Samson Bonkeabantu Brown, a Toronto-based transgender artist who shares his story openly with the camera. It’s the first razor ad to ever feature a transgender man.
Brown has been an integral part of distributing the story online.
NBC News reported:
In a public post on his personal Facebook page, Brown said he wanted to include his father in the video since his dad has been one of his main supporters throughout his transitioning process.
“I’m keenly aware of how blessed I am to be able to exist in this world being supported by my family in ways that all too often many of my trans brothers, sisters, and siblings who exist outside the binary are not always as fortunate,” Brown wrote.
The ad has received widespread, positive feedback — especially from transgender individuals who see themselves represented onscreen.
Brown helped influence the story told in the ad, including asking his father to participate.
On Facebook, Brown wrote a post thanking Gillette for allowing him to share the tender moment with his father. He wrote: ‘I shot this ad for Gillette and wanted to include my father, who has been one of my greatest supporters throughout my transition, encouraging me to be confident and live authentically as my best self.’
The importance of the ad’s simple message wasn’t lost on its creators.
“As I dove deeper into the stories of the subjects, I really started to understand how big of a moment the ‘first shave’ was to them,” said Angie Bird, of Skin and Bones, who directed the film.
Yet in its simplicity, in its much more quiet and intimate approach, there is no clutter in what the message is truly about: happiness.
“I didn’t know that there was a term for the type of person that I was,” Brown notes in the spot. “I went into my transition just wanting to be happy and glad [that] I’m at the point where I’m able to shave.”
Indeed, it is a joyous moment for father and son that ends on a positive note, yet with a significant rallying cry from Brown about the fact that it’s not only he who is transitioning, but everyone around him as well.
The ad has received a positive response from many viewers.
The ad, which has been viewed more than a million times, drew a supportive reaction, including from other trans men who said they could relate to the experience.
“My first shave was made with my husband because my dad passed away years before I started to transition last year and thank you! This makes me feel so good this morning at work,” Lee Stephens wrote on Facebook.
“This commercial made me cry,” wrote Asher Shaun Jensen. “You have videos on how to shave on your YouTube which helped immensely as my dad does not support me. You’re making a difference, and I appreciate it greatly.”
Others expressed mixed thoughts about the message, highlighting the challenges for organizations seeking to reach consumers.
I’m conflicted over how to feel about this. On the one hand, Gillette is a corporation that weighed the odds of (further) alienating a contingent of customers in the hopes that a mountain of press-generated goodwill would make up for the loss. On the other, it comes at a time when LGBTQ+ people need all the positive visibility possible as previously hard-won rights are rolled back in new and devastating ways each day.
… Is my appreciation of this advertisement—which again, was created entirely for the profit of a multi-billion dollar corporation!—reasonable, or am I capitalism-perpetuating sucker? Will it make me buy a Gillette razor? (The answer, for me, is “no,” as I prefer to tear the hair from my body with wax because it reminds me that I’m alive.)
On social media, many users were excited by the ad, including the accounts for LGBTQ-advocacy groups.
— Valerie Jarrett (@ValerieJarrett) May 28, 2019
.@Gillette’s new ad shows a father teaching his trans son how to shave. We’re not crying, you’re crying. 😭
Bravo to brave companies like Gillette that are paving the way for a more inclusive world! pic.twitter.com/ABwd1k981C
— The Mask You Live In (@MaskYouLiveIn) May 25, 2019
— Wanda Sykes (@iamwandasykes) May 28, 2019
— It Gets Better (@ItGetsBetter) May 25, 2019
"I went into my transition just wanting to be happy. I’m glad I’m at the point where I’m able to shave."
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) May 28, 2019
— Tom Knight (@TJ_Knight) May 26, 2019
Some Twitter users weren’t ready for the ad’s message of inclusion.
The new @Gillette ad features a transgender boy shaving for the first time.
It’s a little much to normalize and promote high-school-aged kids undergoing hormone therapy and gender reassignment. Don’t ya think?
— Tomi Lahren (@TomiLahren) May 28, 2019
— Rory O'Connor (@roryinvermont) May 27, 2019
However, those opinions appear to be in the minority.
The ad is the latest message from Gillette addressing cultural divides in the U.S. Earlier this year, Gillette made waves with an ad that called on men to embody more positive masculinity.
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.
The ad also shows the importance for companies to share diversity in marketing campaigns and PR messages.
Converse’s recent marketing underlines the importance of including more inclusive images and messages within PR and marketing campaigns, whether or not you have products that cater to specific consumer groups.
A Shutterstock study revealed that the majority of marketers in the United States and the United Kingdom prioritize imagery that includes both racial diversity and same-sex couples over their brand messages, in order to represent (and appeal to) a larger segment of today’s consumer groups.
As LGBTQ communities and activism efforts expand, brand managers should consider how these changes affect your target audiences and how inclusive messages might fit into future PR and marketing efforts.
What do you think of this latest ad campaign?