The Best Men Can Be
"The Best Men Can Be" is a corporate social responsibility advertising campaign launched by safety razor and personal care brand Gillette in January 2019. On January 13, 2019, the campaign launched with a commercial entitled "We Believe", which played upon the brand's long-time slogan to address negative behavior among men, including bullying, sexism, sexual misconduct, and toxic masculinity. The campaign includes a three-year commitment by Gillette to make donations to organizations that "[help men] achieve their personal best".
Thumbnail of the advertisement video
|Official website|| gillette|
The "We Believe" advertisement was the subject of controversy. It was received negatively online by commentators who accused the company of practicing misandry and virtue signalling. The ad eventually became the 26th most disliked YouTube video.
The introductory short film for the campaign, "We Believe", directed by Kim Gehrig, begins by invoking the brand's slogan since 1989, "The Best a Man Can Get", by asking "is this the best a man can get?" This is followed by scenes demonstrating negative behavior among males, including bullying, sexism, sexual misconduct, and toxic masculinity, acknowledgement of social movements such as #MeToo, and footage of actor Terry Crews stating during Congress testimony that men "need to hold other men accountable". The ad continues on to explain that "we believe in the best in men: To say the right thing, to act the right way", since "the boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow." As a result, the original slogan is re-worked to reinforce this message, becoming "The Best Men Can Be".
This campaign includes a companion website, and a pledge by Gillette to donate $1 million per-year over the next three years to organizations, such as Boys & Girls Clubs of America, that "[help men] achieve their personal best". In the aforementioned website, Gillette explains the campaign by stating that "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."
Upon its introduction, the advertisement received praise and criticism on social media while quickly becoming one of the most disliked videos on YouTube. Gillette was applauded by some for addressing current social issues and promoting positive values among men. For example, Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., described the "We Believe" film as being "pro-humanity" and demonstrating "that character can step up to change conditions".
However, the advertisement faced criticism and threats of boycotts, for misandry, constituting left-wing propaganda, virtue signalling, and promoting contempt against Gillette's customer base while never mentioning or showing razors or shaving in the commercial. British journalist and television personality Piers Morgan described the campaign as "a direct consequence of radical feminists" who are "driving a war against masculinity".
Regarding their embrace of "woke culture" and corporate responsibility, Josh Barro of New York magazine compared the ad unfavorably to a recent Nike campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, arguing that Nike's ad was successful since it was "uplifting rather than accusatory", and consistent with Nike's values as representing "bold action — on and off the field", but that in regards to Gillette's ad, "the viewer is likely to ask: Who is Gillette to tell me this? I just came here for razors. And razors barely even feature in Gillette's new campaign." However, Barro noted that the market for razors was different from that of sporting goods, and that consumers "may be less likely to abandon a product because they feel accused by the brand when their emotional relationship to the brand wasn’t the point to begin with."
Writing for the National Review, Mona Charen noted that despite criticism to the advertisement coming from other conservatives, and "undercurrents" of "feminist influence" (such as the term "toxic masculinity"), she found that its imagery "didn't strike me as a reproof of masculinity per se but rather as a critique of bullying, boorishness, and sexual misconduct", and pointed out that "by reflexively rushing to defend men in this context, some conservatives have run smack into an irony. Imagining themselves to be men's champions, they are actually defending behavior, like sexual harassment and bullying, that a generation or two ago conservatives were the ones condemning." Andrew P. Street expressed a similar argument, considering the negative responses to the ad to be "a living document of how desperately society needs things like the [ad]", and that "if your masculinity is THAT threatened by an ad that says we should be nicer then you're doing masculinity wrong."
Anne Kingston of Maclean's felt that Gillette's parent company Procter & Gamble should have instead focused on addressing gender equality within its board, and gender-based price discrimination, concluding by hoping that "by the time both the boys and girls of today grow up, we'll have exposed and shaved away the pernicious inequities in full display on drugstore shelves. Gillette missed its opportunity. Someone smarter won't."
Defending the campaign, P&G CEO David Taylor stated that "the world would be a better place if my board of directors on down is represented by 50% of the women. We sell our products to more than 50% of the women." The Wall Street Journal noted the company's board of directors has more than twice as many men as it does women.
MarketingWeek claimed the ad backfired on the brand and affected sales metrics.
In May 2019, Gillette released a video on Facebook and Instagram entitled "First Shave" as part of a follow-up campaign, "#MyBestSelf", which features the story of a recently-transitioned trans man learning to shave from his father. The ad subverted the Gillette slogan, this time by making it inclusive of gender identity. In contrast to "We Believe", the advertisement was generally praised for its acknowledgement of the transgender community, though it received far fewer views because Gillette did not upload it to YouTube and Twitter.
- Charen, Mona (2019-01-17). "Gillette Is Not Wrong". National Review. Retrieved 2019-01-17.
- "Gillette Makes Waves With Ad Highlighting 'Toxic Masculinity'". Time. Retrieved 2019-01-17.
- Topping, Alexandra; Lyons, Kate; Weaver, Matthew (2019-01-15). "Gillette #MeToo ad on 'toxic masculinity' gets praise – and abuse". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-01-17.
- "Gillette's New Ad Campaign Is Getting Lots of Buzz. The Reason Has Nothing to Do With Razors". Inc.com. 2019-01-14. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
- "Gillette faces talks of boycott over ad campaign railing against toxic masculinity". ABC News. 2019-01-16. Retrieved 2019-01-16.
- Green, Dennis (2019-01-14). "Gillette chastises men in a new commercial highlighting the #MeToo movement — and some are furious". Business Insider. Retrieved 2019-01-14.
- "Gillette released an ad asking men to 'act the right way.' Then came the backlash". Boston.com. 2019-01-14. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
- "Gillette Asks How We Define Masculinity in the #MeToo Era as 'The Best a Man Can Get' Turns 30". Adweek. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
- "Gillette's new take on 'Best a Man Can Get' in commercial that invokes #MeToo". Advertising Age. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
- Hsu, Tiffany (2019-01-15). "Gillette Ad With a #MeToo Edge Attracts Support and Outrage". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-01-17.
- Barro, Josh (2019-01-15). "Why Nike's Woke Ad Campaign Works and Gillette's Doesn't". Intelligencer. Retrieved 2019-01-16.
- "If Gillette wants to fix gender inequity, it should start with its razors". Macleans. Retrieved 2019-01-16.
- JAMES FREEMAN (29 January 2019). "Gillette, Masculinity and 'Authenticity'". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
The world would be a better place if my board of directors on down is represented by 50% of the women. We sell our products to more than 50% of the women" [...] the company’s website suggests that the potentially toxic males outnumber the females by more than two-to-one.
- Brewis, Harry (Feb 22, 2019). WOKE BRANDS (YouTube).
- Gillette (May 23, 2019). "First Shave, the story of Samson | #MyBestSelf". Facebook. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
- Gillette (May 24, 2019). "Instagram post". Instagram. Retrieved August 8, 2019.
Whenever, wherever, however it happens—your first shave is special.
- "Gillette ad features dad teaching trans son how to shave". PinkNews. Retrieved 2019-05-27.
- Matthews, David (2019-05-26). "Gillette releases ad with trans man shaving for the first time". Boston Herald. Retrieved 2019-05-27.
- "Gillette lauded for groundbreaking transgender ad that champions gender inclusivity". The Drum. Retrieved 2019-05-27.
- on YouTube