After 30 years of ‘The best a man can get,’ can Gillette really make masculinity less toxic?

A disposable razor was never really going to be “the best a man can get.” Life has a lot more to offer than that, whatever your breed of masculinity.

But the tagline, which is 30 years old, has become one of advertising’s most famous over the decades, and Procter & Gamble has taken the anniversary as an opportunity to update the brand’s message, with a bid to support the #MeToo movement and overturn the kind of standard masculinity that it’s been promoting for three decades.

Cue outrage from the chief apologist for the toxic male, Piers Morgan, who is threatening to boycott Gillette for its “pathetic assault on masculinity.” He tweeted “Let boys be damn boys. Let men be damn men.”

It’s not worth repeating the other, even more extreme responses from men’s rights activists, who seem unable to countenance the ad’s suggestion that men shouldn’t patronize women in the boardroom, encourage their sons to fight, hassle women on the street, or be brave enough to shake hands instead of resorting to violence.

Gillette’s 30 year-old line has been replaced by a hashtag, #TheBestMenCanBe, in the ad by Grey New York, which cleverly put director Kim Gehrig of “Viva La Vulva” and “This Girl Can” fame at the helm.

Of course Gillette is also being accused of virtue signaling and brandstanding, jumping on a cause that it has done so little for during 30 years of presenting a less “woke” version of masculinity.

However, the brand has been moving towards this point; last year’s “The Best Men” ad by Grey London reminded us rather unconvincingly that “the best men take a good look inside, they let it out, hug it out.”

Gillette is now taking that message more seriously. It says: “From today on, we pledge to actively challenge the stereotypes and expectations of what it means to be a man everywhere you see Gillette.”

The immediate backlash – the ad had 203,000 dislikes and just 21,000 likes on YouTube at the time of writing – shows just what they are up against, so good on Gillette for making a stand on a subject that is so divisive for its audience.

Although all this polarised opinion is getting pretty exhausting, even if it does attract a lot of publicity. Perhaps Gillette should also work to bringing the haters on board instead of alienating them, which, to be fair, is what they claim to be doing with a $3 million donation to non-profit organisations that support programmes in keeping with #TheBestMenCanBe campaign.

The ad itself is very American and a little cloying, but it has a big impact because it’s such a departure from the macho posturing we are used to from the brand.

MAA creative scale: 7

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About Emma Hall

Emma Hall
Emma Hall is the former London Editor of Ad Age, where she covered European marketing advertising, digital and media stories. She has written for newspapers including the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Times and the Telegraph, and was previously a section editor at Campaign. Emma started her career in New York as a researcher for a biography of Keith Richards.