For the past 30 years, Gillette has boldly stated that it was “The Best a Man Can Get.” Now the brand is challenging its own iconic tagline in a new campaign and initiative: “The Best a Man Can Be.”
Created by the agency Grey, the campaign’s lead ad targets toxic masculinity–a topic also addressed recently by the American Psychological Association, which, for the first time in its 127-year history, issued guidelines for psychologists on how to deal with what they refer to as “traditional masculinity.” The 36-page APA document states that traditional masculinity is psychologically damaging to young boys, and that is intrinsically linked to homophobia, misogyny, and aggression.
In “The Best a Man Can Be,” clips of an executive mansplaining to (and touching) a female colleague, dads excusing bad behavior in boys, and casual sexism in entertainment are interspersed with real news coverage of the #MeToo movement, including actor Terry Crews’s U.S. congressional testimony last year where he stated, “Men need to hold other men accountable.”
— Gillette (@Gillette) January 14, 2019
“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,” said Pankaj Bhalla, Gillette brand director for North America, in a statement to the Wall Street Journal. “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.” Predictably, responses to the campaign have been mixed, with conservative rabble rousers seemingly feeling threatened by the ad’s message (thus proving its point). (Others have pointed out Gillette’s opportunism.)
Gillette has also committed to donate $1 million per year for the next three years to nonprofit organizations in the U.S. that are geared toward educating and uplifting men of all ages.
The spirit of the campaign is commendable. But is this really the best Gillette can do?
The spot specifically calls out how unchecked toxic masculinity has led to sexual harassment and assault. It also puts a glaring spotlight on bullying. So why is Procter & Gamble, the parent company of Gillette, still advertising with the likes of Fox News?
The news organization itself came under fire numerous times for sexual harassment allegations against employees, including former Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes. (In fairness, Fox News is not the only network that has weathered sexual harassment claims.) There is also the damaging rhetoric the network fosters through its coverage of stories like Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, or through shows like Tucker Carlson Tonight, which saw advertisers leave in droves after Carlson said immigrants are making the U.S. “poorer and dirtier and more divided.” Procter & Gamble was not one of the departing advertisers.
Fast Company has reached out to Procter & Gamble for a statement.
According to watchdog group Media Matters, Procter & Gamble was still a top Fox News advertiser in Q4 of 2018–a fact that becomes all the more ironic, considering that the “Best a Man Can Be” spot has actual news clips of anchors calling out the very types of behavior Fox News has been accused of perpetuating.
So if Gillette really wants to be a champion for men doing better, the brand needs to take a hard look at exactly where their money is going.
An earlier version of this story stated that Fox News anchors had been accused of sexual harassment and that Roger Ailes was the owner of Fox News. We have corrected the wording.