Australian creatives dissect Gillette ad furore

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 16 January 2019

We are just 16 days into the year but many have already condemned Gillette's latest ad as the worst ad of 2019 with Mark Ritson labelling it "vindictive” and “accusatory”.

Tapping into the #MeToo movement, the shaving company's new advertising campaign plays on its 30-year tagline “The best a man can get”, replacing it with “The best men can be”.

The ad features news clips of reporting on the #MeToo movement, as well as images showing sexism in films, in boardrooms, and of violence between boys, with a voice over saying: “Bullying, the MeToo movement against sexual harassment, toxic masculinity, is this the best a man can get?”

The campaign has generated both praise and criticism with some, like Walkley award winner Jane Caro, congratulating the P&G-owned brand for using its platform to address toxic masculinity. Others have vowed to now only use rival Schick, posting videos on Twitter throwing their Gillette razors in the rubbish.

The sensation around the ad is being likened to the backlash surrounding Nike's 2018 ad featuring Colin Kaepernick.

AdNews approached creative leaders across Australia's ad agencies to share their thoughts on the ad.

CHE Proximity chief creative officer Ant White

How is this controversial? It’s a perfectly relevant question for today. If men find it polarising, those men are fucking idiots. It’s not even that bold. How is asking ‘what it means to be a man’ bold? Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ad. That was bold. They took a stand against Trump and everything he stands for. They took on the president and they won. When your brand has always been about ‘what it means to be a man’, then Gillette have just entered a discussion that they should be leading. The ad itself has some cheesy moments and kind of reads like a mood film but it’s got us talking, hasn’t it? And that’s exactly the role brands need to play today. They have massive reach, and deep pockets that can influence culture, and they have a responsibility to lead conversations in a time where most politicians are too scared to.

MediaCom Beyond Advertising ECD Gemma Hunter

I have mixed emotions about the new Gillette ad. On one hand I applaud any brand that actively stands up for social justice. P&G have been doing this for a long time, it's a part of their brand to promote fairness and equality. On the other hand, saying is one thing, doing is another. Great content alone does not change behaviour. I wonder how they will activate this, how will they actually help to change a generation's attitudes rather than just shine a light? Creatively I applaud the use of news and social content in this, it's real as opposed to dramatic but I wonder if there is too much going on, too many messages? May have it been better to focus on one or two behaviours? Perhaps we'll see shorter cuts with that focus.

Gemma Hunter

M&C Saatchi Sydney group creative director Andy Flemming

After literally just watching this spot I can dislike certain elements of its execution but not its intent. What is being attacked here? Let's forget fucking 'continuity marketing' for one moment and respect one of the most testosterone-fuelled brands in the world actually standing up and making a stand against horrific male behaviour. Good on them. Maybe the best gauge for where to stand is seeing who's pro and who's against. As far as I can see, James Woods, who allegedly propositioned underage girls to go to Las Vegas with him hates the ad. As does the far right magazine 'The New American.' Oh, and Piers Morgan. Those who like it include the daughter of Martin Luther King who wrote "This commercial isn’t anti-male. It’s pro-humanity." I think I know who I'd rather stand alongside.

VMLY&R chief creative officer Paul Nagy

Have all men gone bad? No, and this ad is wrong to suggest we have. (For a brand that has historically preached that all you need to do is shave with nineteen razor sharp blades to get the mute, pretty girl… it is particularly questionable.) If modern toxicity exists, it is not unique to any sex or race as far as I can tell. We’re all capable of it. But is this a good time for men to have a close look at themselves and re-evaluate what it means to own a pair? Yes, I think it is, and the hysterical gnashing of teeth from men who are threatened by this ad, feels like strong evidence to support this belief. The values it clumsily highlights (well… shoves down your throat) are mutual respect, decency, setting a good example and sticking up for those weaker than ourselves. Any man who is offended by these values, is no man at all.

BMF deputy ECD Jen Speirs

I’m actually disappointed. Not in the ad, though there are a few things in there that stop me from loving it. I’m disappointed because when I see such outrage at the message, I’m reminded of just how far we have to go on this road to equality and respect. To me, the ad was a reminder that the world has changed. That all of us, not just men, need to hold each other accountable. Let’s not excuse toxic, disrespectful behaviour because of gender. Let’s not discourage any kids from expressing emotions because of gender. Good on P&G for doing work that starts conversations – like with ‘The Talk’ last year. I hope like hell they’re backing it up with funding for services to make real, long-lasting change. Of course, they knew there’d be a backlash – but they went ahead and did it anyway. Because for brands and people alike, complacency is no longer an option. The world has changed. And like the ad says, “there will be no going back”.

Jen Speirs

Cummins&Partners creative director Sarah McGregor

As the mother of a young boy, this immediately got my attention. It’s a poignant, important message and a very smart way to make an ageing brand instantly relevant again. Gillette have been criticised for paying lip service to a trendy cause, however they are putting their money where their mouth is by backing this up with significant donations to not-for-profits and pledging to change the way they as a brand communicate into the future. The piece itself doesn’t just highlight the issue, but gives purposeful solutions – making it a timely and powerful reminder that we can change the way of the world. And we can start now.

The Works managing partner Paul Swann

I woke up this morning to an email from my sister in the UK who has never previously expressed any interest in advertising, asking what I thought of this ad. So I think it’s fair to say that everyone is talking about it, but from a quick look at the comments clearly not everyone loves it. I do love the overarching message, ‘men, take more responsibility and be nicer to other humans’ and I’m confident that once the dust has settled, Gillette will be applauded for taking this bold stance. However, a slightly heavy-handed execution in terms of weighting and emphasis is what’s muddling the takeout, allowing some to focus exclusively on the confronting message rather than leaving with the positive one. While this didn’t quite hit the bullseye it’s a very gallant effort.

paul swann

AnalogFolk art director Bronte Wilson

TL;DR: Meh. Maybe it's the over-Americanisation of it all, but to me the spot felt flaccid and quite frankly, a little cheesy. I'd rather feel kicked in the guts by the end, not coddled. It doesn't feel honest at all, just another big brand jumping on a trending social issue and trying to reach a new audience. It's not the sentiment but the way they handle it, which comes across as pandering and phoney. Sorry, but to me it just feels like another jump on the already overcrowded bandwagon. Can't wait to see the parody.

Host/Havas ECD Seamus Higgins

I haven’t heard this much discussion about an ad since Nike dropped its Kaepernick bomb. Some people love it and some people hate it. That’s a good thing. On something as important as this, if you’re not polarizing, you’ve failed. Personally, I think it’s a great thing that Gillette are taking a stand. They’ve got a lot of men talking, and most of the negative commentary is defensive and misses the point. So I’m glad they did it, I just wish they did it better. I wish the messages were delivered with more power and originality. Does it inspire the men out there who already get it to be better? Maybe. Will it inspire the men who don’t to change their thinking? I don’t think so. Criticise Gillette’s effort if you want. But if you think you could have done a better job with that brief, then do it. Because the brief is out there. We’ve all got it.

Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop us a line at adnews@yaffa.com.au

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