OK. I'll wade in.
How could you not have heard about how Gillette, the shaving products company, have managed to delight one half of humanity and outrage the other half, with their latest advert?
Here it is, and weighing in at just under 2 minutes, I'm surprised there hasn't been more said about how long it is -- but maybe male outrage extends the attention span.
There have been gazillions of lines of copy written in reaction to this, some in favour and some against, so if the worst thing that can happen is not being talked about, then Gillette have certainly achieved a PR coup here.
One of the main criticisms of Gillette is that people don't want to be 'lectured to' by a brand. They don't think it's the place of an advert to give us moral guidance. They don't want someone selling a product to tell them what to do.
Well guess what? That's what all adverts do, and that's what they've always done.
Just do it. Eat fresh. Have a break. Taste the rainbow. Don't be evil. Think different.
Brands have been telling us who to be, how to live, what to think, how to look, what to spend our money on and what to spend our time on since the beginning.
Gillette is no different. As a girl, in the 1980s, this was the brand positioning I saw from them. (I beg you, for all that is cringeworthy and nostalgic -- really do watch this film. You'll actually realise how far we've come as a society.)
I could see that these adverts were absolutely telling my dad and my uncles and my brothers who to be. Be handsome. Be straight. Have a pretty girlfriend. Drive a fast car. Have a chiseled chin. Be white, mostly. Do deals. Slap other men on the back. Be good at sport. Make money. You could practically smell the pine and cedar and sweat and whisky coming from the television.
They made masculinity their brand territory by running these adverts and those messages made it into the minds of customers. They have held that position for decades. Gillette, the best a man can get. Like every other message being bombarded out to men, this messaging played its part in shaping how people felt about themselves, and who they felt they ought to be.
So with this new advert, yes they are giving us guidance. But they were doing that before too, so what's really changed here? Only the nature of the guidance. Instead of telling men to be handsome straight chiseled rich stockbrokers, they're inviting men to think about how they treat women, how they treat each other, and what example they set for boys.
Wow, Gillette. You really are a bunch of monsters, suggesting that men and boys ought not to punch each other to settle disagreements.
There are more and more businesses deciding to show their conscience in their advertising. They're using the time and space they've paid for to add a new layer to their messaging. One angle on that is to be outraged that they're exploiting good causes or moral standpoints in order to shift products. My take on that is simple. It's better than exploiting our fears, biases and insecurities.
“Something finally changed, and there will be no going back,” the ad says. Damn straight something finally changed. We’re speaking up. We’re demanding better from men. We’re demanding that men stop the cycle of harassment, of bullying, of toxic masculinity. “Because the boys of today will be the men of tomorrow.”