Opinion

On the Gillette ad: ‘It’s time we’re either on the change-bus, or we’re off it’ 

APD's Tobias Wilson on why while the Gillette ad, while not perfect, is not so much about an attack on men as it is an attack on toxic men

Wow…. People are REALLY triggered by this ad, huh? I’m actually pretty triggered by the ‘triggeredness’, so I’m going to try and suppress my frustration (read Mark Ritson and Piers Morgan’s comments) and break this thing down, rationally.

The first watch, I loved it. It stood for something, I thought it was emotive, relatable, and shot well… There, I said it. Let’s not fool ourselves either, it also spoke directly to the segment of the audience with the purchasing power, women.

But then I watched it a few more times, and I didn’t feel quite as positive.

There’s some good — the VO (albeit overwritten) and the retro treatment and salute to the brand, but there’s some bad too — from a few clumsy dramatisations to poor production and audio.  

Overall though, I like the piece and think Gillette were well within their boundaries to weigh-in on the topic. In the category, they own ‘best’ and I think they did well to contemporise their use of the word with, “Is this the best a man can get?”.

 

It is a valid question and if I asked myself, I’d firmly say ‘no.’ We’ve got a long way to go. The online comments seem to support this theory.

I think it’s a great brief that would’ve been incredible to work on. The platform is there, the ambition is right, and the brand is putting its money where its mouth is by investing $3,000,000 over three years into not-for-profits who are tackling the issue/s.

Sadly, as I’ve said, as well as everybody else in the industry it seems, the final product came up short.

So, I get why the industry is weighing-in but why is the broader (predominantly male) population so triggered?

To me, it seems to boil down to one part of the ad: “Boys will be boys” as surely no man in his right mind is going to be pissed off with Gillette going after bullying, sexual harassment, mansplaining or violence?

I’ll agree with the masses, the shot of the men lined up ala production line, suggesting that we’re all the same, is a clumsy generalisation that’s poorly executed.

Even without the VO, it comes across as a bit of a slap in the face. But that’s my only issue. It’s a touchy subject and touchy subjects require extra-care, care that wasn’t taken with that scene, in my opinion.

To dig a little deeper, boys, men and masculinity have changed a lot. This is not an attack on being a boy or being a man. This is an attack on being a toxic man or boy. If you can’t distinguish between the two, then you’re probably part of the problem.

As an example, I think back to my grandfather who was a total badass, one of Australia’s most highly decorated airmen, and the epitome of a ‘man’s man’ for his generation. But, with all of the respect in my body, he wouldn’t last two minutes in today’s world.

It’s changed. We’ve changed, and therefore the definition of being a man or boy has to change with it. We can’t be selective, we can’t cherry-pick, we need to recognise that it’s time and we’re either on the change-bus or we’re off it.

As the father of two boys, I’m acutely aware of how my behaviour shapes theirs, and at their young age, forms the foundation of how they will treat themselves and others for the rest of their life.

That’s a lot of pressure, but it’s also an amazing opportunity to try and think ahead to equip them with the skills to be the men of the future. I don’t accept that it’s a biological right to act like an asshole because that’s what some boys and men have always done.

We have an opportunity to set things straight and make sure that boys will be the best they’ve ever been by being the best men we can be. Anybody who doesn’t want to be the best version of themselves by oversubscribing to traditional beliefs of what it means to be a man is trying to reverse evolution, which is not only harming others but themselves according to a study released by the American Psychological Association last year.

So, whilst the ad isn’t perfect, it’s better than most of the vanilla rubbish that’s out there.

It’s got people talking about the subject, and I think that’s good enough. I for one am looking forward to the dust settling and the numbers speaking for themselves, after all, we all know where the purchasing power lies… As does P&G.

Tobias Wilson is chief executive officer at digital marketing agency APD Singapore, a GrowthOps business

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