Gillette 'shifting spotlight from social issues' after 'toxic men' ad leads to big losses

Gillette 'shifting spotlight from social issues' after 'toxic men' ad leads to big losses

CultureAugust 26, 2019 By Reilly Capps

The phrase "Get woke, go broke" is trending. 

The razor company Gillette told News.com.au it is “shifting the spotlight from social issues." Gillette was quicksanded into controversy by a super-woke ad earlier this year about toxic masculinity called "The Best Men Can Be." 

Coincidentally or not, the Gillette brand lost $8 billion last quarter. 

A month ago, Gillette blamed the losses on men shaving less often. (“Men are not judged negatively when they skip a shave—it is not considered lazy or disrespectful,” a Gillette vice president told CNN.) 

But this week, Gillette is half-admitting the ad campaign is to blame. 

Advertising used to be about products. Today, advertising is prime battle territory of the culture wars. Consumers want to buy a feeling. Two-thirds of buyers want brands to take stands on social issues — like Nike with Colin Kaepernick and Chick-fil-A with traditional marriage

But Gillette's decision to criticise men was weird, since the company's revenues come from men. It would be like Chick-fil-A making fun of Christian rock, or Fisher Price making an ad titled "Modern Kids are Spoiled Brats, Am I Right?" 

The Gillette ad, released in January, stereotyped men as a mob of thick-headed apes, bullies, sexual harassers and mansplainers, as if we were all castable in Jersey Shore or All in the Family. The ad issued a call to action to all the decent clean-shaven Good Men — I'm looking at you, noble warrior — to heroically block the gorillas by stopping kids' fights and cockblocking catcalls. 

The ad was built to rocket to the top of social media feeds, blasted upward by an algorithmic vortex of likes, shares and retweets as Enlightened Men signaled their agreement that men should aspire to right wrongs and (possibly) become limp, sexless, hairless beta chimps. 

And why not? Other ads battling sexism have done extremely well. This #LikeAGirl ad from Always, which demolishes the insult "like a girl," crushed on social media. And, as an uncle to two strong nieces, makes me frickin cry every time. (Crying is manly if you do it in relation to family members.)

The Always ad is awesome because it celebrates the best in girls, because feminity is awesome. The world needs feminity. 

But there is still a sense that there's value to masculinity, too, even the loud, rough, brawling, hard-edged, aggression that men are, on average, more naturally equipped for, like male chimps and male lions. 

After the Gillette's ad in January, reaction was loud and quick. People love to argue on the Internet — here we are! — and the ad was a steak thrown in a baboon cage. Some comments: 

"Normal people don't buy products from people who despise them." 

"As a former wrestler....what is wrong with rough playing? It makes us tough. We need tough."

"Masculinity is sexy to women. Like femininity is attractive to men." 

"Peeing on a good chunk of your customer's shoes." 

The commercial got 20 times more downvotes than upvotes on YouTube. It was caught in the negative cycle of downvotes and anger-shares. One dude threw his Gillette razor in the toilet and took a pic, but later said he did not flush because it would clog, instead fishing the razor out and trashing it, but probably picking up a little e. coli along the way. 

Today, right of center websites are gleeful Gillette lost money. One dude called it "the punishment of natural consequences."

And they're stoked Gillette's newest ad is about a firefighter who could not be manlier if he was smashing beer cans on his forehead, who saves lives and protects his daughter, and only shaves because he fucking has to. Firefighters, like EMTs, must shave so gas masks and respirators seal.

See, we all kind of know that real men don't shave. Facial hair is about the fourth manliest thing men have, and the first three can't be shown in public. There's a reason trans males rejoice when the hormones finally help them sprout chin hair: beards are manly as shit. Gillette also ran an ad celebrating a trans dude's first shave. That ad seemed awesome, because a former woman decided to join the man club, and the man club is pretty great. 

Most men already feel prissy shaving — the good-smelling lather, the moisturizer, the four-bladed razor that makes it impossible to cut yourself, when in fact men are built for violence. Gillette already had several wimpy YouTube videos on shaving pubes and backs so we'd be smooth like dolphins. 

If a job requires bare cheeks, real men rub their faces against the bark of rough trees, or use a lawn mower, or scrape their jawline with machetes.They don't buy razors from companies who seem to tell them they suck.