Earlier this year Gillette decided to bring down the very foundations of civilised society – or, to put it another way, made an ad for their company.
The ad in question – ‘The Best Men Can Be’ – basically said to their predominantly male user base “hey, think of the example you set”.
And oh! the outcry! And oh! the promises from people that they would never ever ever ever buy a Gillette product again because suggesting that men be more responsible for and thoughtful about their actions is downright misandrist, for some reason.
And obviously Gillette were punished for their activist stance on whether men should be dicks or not by… um, absolutely no drop in sales in the aftermath.
And so now we come to their new advertisement:
The new video, featuring Canadian trans man Samson Bonkeabantu Brown, is similarly moving and poignant, showing a proud dad teaching his son to shave for the first time.
It’s something which cis men can easily relate to: learning to shave is a big deal as a teenager, and the anxiety about starting to develop facial hair too early or too late is very real. And for many of us it was a big deal when our dad showed us how it was done.
So watching this young man, whose transition has now reached the point where he’s growing facial hair, going through this rite of passage is another powerful reminder of just how similar people are.
And needless to say, there’s no shortage of reaction online demonstrating the sort of carefully reasoned, fact-based and well-expressed commentary which is the hallmark of frothing bigots on the internet.
However, this is all fine from the company’s perspective, because that’s how publicity works.
The angry Reddit community who (unsuccessfully) set out to make the previous ad the most disliked in history? That gave massive engagement numbers, which drove video shares and media attention.
In fact, all the evidence suggests that taking a firm stance on what masculinity means in 2019 has done nothing but help Gillette and set them apart from their competitors.
In fact, despite predictions, the follow up research showed that the ad was a hit – especially with women, who are far more engaged with the shaving (ahem) “conversation”. Short version of long data: men didn’t change their brand behaviour, even if they were supposedly furious about the virtue signalling, but women did.
So this new, inclusive, trans-visibility-enhancing ad might be genuinely admirable, but it’s also just smart business. It’s win-win!
Except for online bigots, but… actually, that seems like a bonus win.