Gillette faces backlash over campaign addressing #MeToo movement

The company vowed to ‘actively challenge the stereotypes and expectations of what it means to be a man,’ but people have mixed reactions to the new messaging.

This article originally ran in 2019 and is part of our annual countdown of the most-viewed stories from PR Daily.

Gillette has put a new spin on its 30-year-old tagline, “the best a man can get”—and many are criticizing the move.

On its website, the company wrote:

Our tagline needs to continue to inspire us all to be better every day, and to help create a new standard for boys to admire and for men to achieve… Because the boys of today are the men of tomorrow.

We’ve all got work to do. And it starts today.

Gillette launched its campaign with a short video it published on YouTube and shared across its social media profiles:

The company asks consumers to take action by visiting, which leads them to a landing page on Gillette’s site explaining the campaign and its promises.

Join Us At | Gillette

The Best Men Can Be is always evolving, but shaping the men of tomorrow starts with actions we take today. Join us at

Posted by Gillette on Sunday, January 13, 2019

Fortune reported:

When it comes to businesses boldly asserting their values through their marketing, Procter & Gamble’s Gillette just made Nike’s headline-grabbing “Believe in something” Colin Kaepernick ad look coy by comparison.

… The ad explicitly hails the #MeToo movement as a turning point for men and—through the inclusion of some old Gillette advertising material—it implies that the company’s own messaging hasn’t always been on the right side of history.

On its new landing page, Gillette wrote:

It’s time we acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture. And 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. With that in mind, we have spent the last few months taking a hard look at our past and coming communication and reflecting on the types of men and behaviors we want to celebrate. We’re inviting all men along this journey with us – to strive to be better, to make us better, and to help each other be better.

From today on, we pledge to actively challenge the stereotypes and expectations of what it means to be a man everywhere you see Gillette. In the ads we run, the images we publish to social media, the words we choose, and so much more.

In a press release, Gillette said its campaign focus is to “deliver and inspire more”:

  • RESPECT – Demonstrating respect and fostering inclusivity for all, including genders, races, religions and orientations.
  • ACCOUNTABILITY – Ending phrases like “Boys Will Be Boys” and eliminating the justification of bad behavior.
  • ROLE MODELING – Inspiring men to help create a new standard for boys to admire. We want boys to see and admire traits like honesty, integrity, hard work, empathy and respect – words that people across the U.S. use when describing what a great man looks like.

To achieve these goals, Gillette said it’s donating $1 million each year for the next three years to nonprofit organizations that “help men of all ages achieve their personal best.” The Boys & Girls Club of America is Gillette’s first nonprofit partner.

Gary Coombe, president of P&G Global Grooming, said in Gillette’s press release:

As the world’s largest marketer to men, we knew that joining the dialogue on ‘Modern Manhood’ would mean changing how we think about and portray men at every turn. As a starting point, and effective immediately, Gillette will review all public-facing content against a set of defined standards meant to ensure we fully reflect the ideals of Respect, Accountability and Role Modeling in the ads we run, the images we publish to social media, the words we choose, and more. For us, the decision to publicly assert our beliefs while celebrating men who are doing things right was an easy choice that makes a difference.

Social media users’ reactions to Gillette’s move was mixed.

Many praised the company’s video and new messaging, with tweets such as these:

However, many more slammed Gillette for the same messaging, with tweets including those below:

Some say the announcement is at odds with the company’s previous marketing messages, and others assert that a shaving brand shouldn’t be involved with movements such as #MeToo. At time of publishing, Gillette’s video has more than 3 million views and 265,000 “dislikes”—six times more the amount of people who “liked” the video.

The controversy highlights the risk organizations take when including a stance on social or political issues in its marketing messages.

Business Insider reported:

George Belch, the chair of San Diego State University’s marketing department, reviewed the ad. He said that when it comes to ads about sensitive political or social topics like #MeToo, it’s all about being “careful” and getting the execution right. Belch said Gillette’s latest effort was well done, and added that it’s likely that commenters who took personal offense to the spot may have bigger issues with the #MeToo movement.

However, the backlash doesn’t mean Gillette’s campaign is a failed attempt to effect social change—nor is it a death knell for its brand image.

The BBC reported:

“Their next steps are very important but it shouldn’t necessarily be widespread panic yet,” Rob Saunders, an account manager at UK advertising company the Media Agency Group, tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

“Their ad is getting them good publicity and good numbers and causing a debate – which they must have known when they put out this ad.

Rob says Gillette will have anticipated a negative reaction to the advert from some people.

“This ad would have been approved by many people high up at Gillette,” he adds.

“So they must have known that there may have been a backlash.”

Despite the criticism, the company is sticking to its stance.

The Wall Street Journal reported:

“This is an important conversation happening, and as a company that encourages men to be their best, we feel compelled to both address it and take action of our own,” said Pankaj Bhalla, Gillette brand director for North America, in an emailed statement. “We are taking a realistic look at what’s happening today, and aiming to inspire change by acknowledging that the old saying ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ is not an excuse.”

…P&G said it has no plans to pull the spot in the face of some negative reaction. “We recognize it’s sparking a lot of passionate dialogue—at the same time, it’s getting people to stop and think about what it means to be our best selves, which is the point of the spot,” Mr. Bhalla said.

What do you think of Gillette’s campaign, PR Daily readers?

This article originally ran in January of 2019.


8 Responses to “Gillette faces backlash over campaign addressing #MeToo movement”

    Megan Evans says:

    As someone who works in the field of sexual violence, this campaign and all of the forthcoming strategy and reevaluation of their past creative is something I admire and respect. I wish more brands would align themselves this way — but the caveat here is that they need to walk their talk. I hope Gillette can follow through!

    Ellen Beth Levitt says:

    I love this campaign. It demonstrates great role models, showing men doing the right thing with boldness, respect, kindness and compassion. It conveys the clear message that the way men behave today will influence the next generation.

    I have always wondered why the company has not marketed much to women. But I think this campaign is a great way to elicit the loyalty of women, as well.

    Simon DelMonte says:

    I never think about what it means to be a man, but what it means to be a person. But if you are stuck selling a product only one gender uses, you are stuck.

    Steve says:

    I agree that men — actually all people — should treat others with respect and decency. But I fail to see how Gillette’s advertisement is going to advance its corporate goal of selling shaving products. Although noble in its intentions, Gillette is creating an issue for itself where none previously existed. For marketers like me, that isn’t what we’re paid to do. We’re paid to bring more customers on board, and keep those we already have.

      Ted Kitterman says:

      What do you say to reports that many consumers want to see their favorite brands take a stand on social issues? Should marketers and PR pros ignore these figures?

      Also, I think Gillette might have been surprised that a call for men to treat women with respect met such a backlash. It’s hard to imagine what is so upsetting about the core message.

    James Simons says:

    I’m all for men being their best. I mostly liked the commercial but there were places that felt iffy to me.

    One place that stuck out for me was the part where an attractive woman walked by and one man stopped the other from talking to her. That message seemed to be men should just never talk to women they are attracted to. I get what the message was trying to say, don’t harass, but it failed to make its point. There would be no people on earth if you couldn’t talk to those you’re attracted to. If fact if people really believe this should be the new rule then anyone who met via circumstances like that should be require to dump their S.O. to show they truly stand by their convictions. I suspect 50-90% of people would have to give up their boyfriends/girlfriends if they actually believed in this concept.

    Another was the boardroom. I’m happy that John Lasseter etc got fired for feeling women up under the table, that was horrible. But, in the commercial, grabbing a coworkers arm as a show of support and solidarity seems like a common non-sexual endorsement. It’s sad to me if a few bad men made it so it’s impossible non-sexuallly embrace your co-workers in any way. Again, I get the message, but feel like the commercial failed to deliver it.

    I’ll even go so far as to say I’m not 100% sold on the tap on the behind. In plenty of cultures that’s a non-sexual joke you play on people who are close to you (friends). It’s got nothing to do with sexuality and everything to do with surprise and teasing your friends because they are close. It’s no different than sneaking up behind someone and shouting “BOO!” except a touch to he behind gets a stronger and more funny reaction. That some people outside are inserting a sexual connotation into it says more about them and less about the people actually involved.

    Heather says:

    I’d like to address some of your issues if you don’t mind. The man in the street that wanted to approach the woman but was stopped… it appeared he wanted to cat call her. While we don’t know the exact intent, considering the content of this commercial it’s a pretty safe bet he was wanting to harass her in some way that many men find innocent, but women usually find insulting. No, don’t randomly stop men from talking to other women, but please do stop them from degrading women by cat calling and shamelessly hitting on them when they clearly want to be left alone.
    As for the board room, I dont believe it was the touch of her shoulder but the fact that he is trying to explain what she meant, she is clearly a smart accomplished woman that doesn’t need a man to translate what she said.
    As for a touch on the bottom, I don’t personally know of any culture where that is appropriate but a good rule of thumb is to keep your hands to yourself unless you have that type of relationship with someone and you are beyond certain they dont mind. And even then think twice, Because I would imagine the stronger reaction you mentioned could be because they are receiving an unwanted touch.
    It’s a commercial and sometimes it’s hard to demonstrate some of this in such a short time, but as a woman that has been in many of those positions, I appreciate the effort Gillette has made and am hopeful other companies will follow. And I genuinely hope this has an impact on society… although I doubt it will…

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