Gillette ad takes on ‘toxic masculinity’ in #MeToo-era rebrand

A Procter & Gamble Co. Gillette brand razor.Daniel Acker / Bloomberg

For three decades, Gillette promised its customers “The Best a Man Can Get.”

An individual. Acquisitive. Assertive. And always clean-shaven.

This was the vision of masculinity depicted in an ad campaign that debuted in January 1989 during Super Bowl XXIII. The early days of the George H.W. Bush administration and the end stage of the Cold War, it was the year of “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” Promoting Gillette’s top-of-the-line Atra razor, the 60-second spot portrayed variations on a single theme: a white man scoring, whether at the office, on an athletic field or with a woman. The one specific location it invoked was Wall Street, the arena of the ultimate alpha male.

Now, Procter & Gamble, the maker of Gillette, is out with a new ad, “We Believe,” that challenges the image of masculinity it once promoted. The consumer goods company, whose net sales totalled US$66.8 billion last year, has ignited a debate about gender and cultural branding, as well as about the power exercised by multinational corporations in shaping evolving ideas about family and relationships in the #MeToo era.

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