ⓘ The Best Men Can Be


ⓘ The Best Men Can Be

The Best Men Can Be is a corporate social responsibility advertising campaign from the Procter & Gamble safety razor and personal care brand Gillette. The campaign launched on January 13, 2019 with the digital release of a short film entitled We Believe: The Best Men Can Be, which played upon the previous 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 achieve their personal best".

The release of the initial short film was the subject of controversy and was received negatively by most online commentators. The short film is one of the most disliked videos on YouTube, with a 2:1 dislike ratio and over 1.5 million dislikes. The campaign has led to calls to boycott Gillette and Procter & Gamble, and the company reported a $5.24 billion loss later in 2019, driven by a $8 billion charge on its Gillette shaving business.


1. Synopsis

The introductory short film for the campaign, We Believe: The Best Men Can Be, directed by Kim Gehrig, begins by invoking the brands 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 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."


2. Reception

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 from critics who said that it emasculated men and who disagreed with its message. 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 Nikes ad was successful since it was "uplifting rather than accusatory", and consistent with Nikes values as representing "bold action - on and off the field", but that in regards to Gillettes 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 Gillettes 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 "didnt 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 mens 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 ", and that "if your masculinity is THAT threatened by an ad that says we should be nicer then youre doing masculinity wrong."

Anne Kingston of Macleans felt that Gillettes 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, well have exposed and shaved away the pernicious inequities in full display on drugstore shelves. Gillette missed its opportunity. Someone smarter wont."

Defending the campaign, P&G CEO David S. 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 companys 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 his video WOKE BRANDS, YouTuber and cultural critic Harry Brewis argued that the advertisements intention was, in fact, to generate controversy, as a form of outrage marketing.


3. #MyBestSelf

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.