Traditionally, most consumer brands have avoided taking positions on hot-button social issues, but several have decided lately that the risk is worth the reward, especially when appealing to a particular demographic. Consumer-brand giant Procter & Gamble Co. decided to be a part of the #MeToo conversation this week when it released its new Gillette razor commercial tackling “toxic masculinity.”
The commercial takes a spin on Gillette’s longtime tagline “The Best a Man Can Get” by challenging the old saying “boys will be boys” and asking “Is this the best a man can get? Is it? We can’t hide from it. It’s been going on far too long. We can’t laugh it off, making the same old excuses.” The commercial shows examples of bullying and sexual harassment, along with examples of enlightened men intervening in such behavior. A short-film version of the ad is approaching 12 million views on YouTube.
The ad has received both praise and backlash, with some customers saying the ad pathologizes men in general. The TV personality Piers Morgan criticized the ad on Twitter, calling it "pathetic" and "a direct consequence of radical feminists who are "driving a war on masculinity."
While the ad may alienate some customers, marketing experts said it may appeal to younger audiences, who are attracted to socially responsible companies. Pankaj Bhalla, Gillette brand director for North America, told the Wall Street Journal:
“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. 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 has shown a willingness to wade into social controversy with a positive or progressive message, notably with its "Like a Girl" ad campaign for the feminine-care brand Always.
Its brand Gillette has reason to be aggressive in getting attention, since it faces competition from upstart competitors like the Dollar Shave Club.
"They are smart people, they do so much research," New York marketing expert Rob Baiocco told NBC News about P&G. "They're making a decision on who they're appealing to. Millennials care if a company does good."