• Neal Moore


Updated: Feb 5, 2019

There was a time when everyone wanted to "go viral”, it was the ultimate goal of any online video and despite the fact that viral videos are rare as rocking horse shit most people assumed by putting it on the brief they’d get one. Well, congratulations Gillette because their video, ‘The Best Men Can Be’, released on 13th January 2019 has gone well and truly viral!

Let’s look at the stats; a staggering 24.5million YouTube views and 346,147 comments in a week and still climbing. Reams of press coverage including five whole minutes of the UK’s biggest breakfast show, Good Morning Britain, made hilarious not by the ranting of human clickbait Piers Morgan but the ribbing of his co-host Susanna Reid. 

But wait a minute, what’s that in the bottom right-hand corner of my screen, just below the video and above the comments? It’s the ‘likes’, 672,000 of them, and the ‘dislikes’, all 1.2 million of them!

As my eyes scroll down the page to the comments the first three I can see (in English) are:

Overman: 🧔🏼 "Gillette the best a cisgender soy boy can get." 🎶 🎶

21 Studios: Feminism is the ultimate hate and supremacist movement of our time.

Covfefe Dreams: Rough and tumble play is extremely essential to the development of children into healthy members of society. They have to experiment and test boundaries in order to have healthy relationships with their peers. This has been researched and documented. It's not "toxic masculinity". Look it up. Gillette needs to stick to selling their products and not these retarded ideas.

Is this the unintended consequence of an ad produced by out-of-touch liberal media elites? Or is it their dream come true, an ad designed to polarise people, provoke publicity and public debate? Yesterday I was invited by Hong Bao Media's Mark Laudi to join a live webcast with APAC Marketing & Growth Strategist Damini Roy to discuss exactly this:

My personal concern was about the intention of this video; what is it supposed to do? Sell razors? Educate men? Pander to women who still largely control the shopping basket? Eminent marketing professor (and Gary Vee baiter) Mark Ritson expressed his doubts about its effectives as an ad in his op-ed ‘How Vexed A Man Can Get’ for The Australian:

"Research reveals that Gillette’s customers are far more conservative in their general outlook than the average male. In fact, of all the multitude of societal concerns that motive Gillette’s customers, what interests them the least, according to the available data, is gender diversity."

That being said, brand intelligence firm Morning Consult conducted their own research and concluded that, "Gillette’s ad (was) well received by consumers (and) positions its brand as socially responsible”, citing the fact that 71% of American consumers felt Gillette shared their values after having watched the add, though it made a negligible impact on their purchase consideration.

So, as an ad for razors it probably wasn’t that effective. What then, was it for? My fellow panelist Damini Roy yesterday argued that it was about re-positioning Gillette for a younger audience as their traditional audience, who grew up on the Gillette ads of the 80s and 90s, fall off the personal grooming bandwagon and presumably become hairy old men.

I think it’s a shrewd view; we know younger consumers expect more from brands than products, they expect them to have a purpose and a point of view on the world that they can share but only if it's authentic. Gillette has, in its advertising, presented a consistently positive image of masculinity for decades. However, we are in the midst of a cultural moment that is asking us to consider the negative aspects of masculinity too, which is a perfectly legitimate debate for Gillette to weigh in on as opposed to the plight of, say, polar bears or whales.

But what to do about the haters? There is risk of a liberal backlash to their conservative backlash, which will further polarise audiences and force them to pick a side. That definitely won’t contribute to making the world a better place as Gillette and so many other brands claim to want to do. 

Vocal conservatives see the ad as an attack on all masculinity as opposed to just ‘toxic' masculinity. Gillette has told part of the story but they need to continue to tell it and try to bring their largely conservative base along for the ride too. Conservatives aren’t just hairy old men, but hairy young men, and women. Morning Consult’s research also showed that, in America, Republicans were far less likely to rate the ad positively as compared to Democrats.

Preaching to the choir is easy, Gillette must be brave enough to step out of their liberal, coastal, media bubble and take the message to their core consumer if they truly want to change the world and remain its #1 shaving brand too.

© Neal Moore 2018, All Rights Reserved
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