A little over four months ago, I wrote a post about the “toxic masculinity” commercial released by Gillette. You can see that post here.
Now, Gillette is back with another ad, and all I have to say is BRAVO.
Bravo for deciding to CONTINUE to engage in an important national conversation about masculinity, and now about gender issues, and now about inclusivity.
Bravo for focusing on a narrow audience, and demonstrating that there’s room for all kinds of conversations around seemingly simple daily routines.
And bravo for – especially for – not abandoning the position the brand assumed in January. To do so would have been cowering, and cowardly. This takes guts at the highest levels of the brand, and it may very well alienate more people…but it’s an important statement at an important time.
In my previous post, I wrote that the “toxic masculinity” commercial was good, but that it stopped short of being great for various reasons, including:
“I wish this spot also involved gender and sexuality issues – toxic masculinity is especially reprehensible towards non-heterosexual males and the LGBTQ universe in general.”
“The real test now for Gillette is where they go from here. If they continue to embody this refreshed perspective, and if all their forthcoming ads are aspirational (where we show men aspiring to be better men, especially with and around their female counterparts,) and they continue to use their brand to inspire action and help shift attitudes, then we can look back and say, “See? This was the moment they became aware of who they were as a brand, and the responsibility they bare as a consequence.”
But if they don’t?
Then the market can have at them – and Gillette will deserve every criticism they will likely suffer, not to mention probably losing market share to a host of upstart razor companies ready to eat their lunch.
No pressure, Gillette. But the world is now watching. And you invited us all to the party.”
You can see the new ad here:
What some might be missing here is that this ad is NOT about a transgender’s journey, the “transition” as he calls it. (Although most detractors are focused on this singular point.) In fact, if you didn’t know the back story, you might miss it altogether. The editing and the dialogue shroud this point just enough that it’s not jumping up and down and calling for attention.
This ad is really about teaching old dogs new tricks. And showing how those old dogs teach their offspring their old tricks. This ad is (quietly) a lot more about Dads than it is about their transgender children.
A man teaching his son to shave is an incredibly important milestone in the father-son relationship. (Irrespective of how that son identifies his own gender.) It signals so much about the passage of time, and ushers in an opportunity for the passing on of experience. [And yes, it’s also the perfect contextualized moment to introduce emotion into a discussion around promoting a specific shaving blade.]
One of the core tenets of advertising is “Show. Don’t tell.” In other words, don’t tell people how to use products. Show them how it works when you do. And similarly, don’t tell people how to be an accepting father. Show them what it might look like if you were.
Is it Gillette’s job to poke their noses into national behavior and tell men to accept their transgender children? No, of course not. But it is always a good policy to show how it can be done. Even in an idealized way. And this ad does that very well indeed.
There is a lot of divisive discourse in America today. As the lyric goes, we seem to be “stuck in a moment, and we can’t get out of it.” But it will pass, and it may even get a scant bit better. And maybe, just maybe, ads like this will be part of that transition. (See what I did there?)
Again, Gillette has us talking about these issues, and more importantly, talking about Gillette. That’s a win.