The Best An Ad Can Get?: Why Social Media 'Trimmings' are just Spilled Milk


When a story breaks on the internet, it travels remarkably quickly, as one might expect when information shoots around the globe at about the speed of light. Unfortunately, this also can lead to opinions spreading just as quickly; A small voice of dissent becomes a murmuring crowd, becomes a mob, becomes an open revolt. I am not here to cast judgment on the opinions of anyone, but those among you who know about this already know where this is headed from the title, so allow me my brevity as I explain to those who don't.

In what some seem to regard as PR suicide, or else "an exercise in Wokenomics", Gillette recently released an ad campaign titled "The Best a Man Can Be", which focused on topics such as "Toxic Masculinity", the #MeToo movement, bullying, catcalling, and all other manners of behaviour that society frowns upon. The fundamental insistence, of course, is that not enough men are "good men", and that men need to be "better". One finds it hard to imagine how a company that, for almost its entire existence, has catered pretty much exclusively to men, could find the justification to try to shame almost their customer base by implying they aren't doing enough to be positive role models.

As a man, I find it rather hilarious. Razors are about the most easily replaceable good on the market, next to toothpaste or chewing gum. I am not outraged by Gillette, though I certainly question their decision. It seems like the kind of move a company could only make if they were completely out of touch with their own customers. That very reason, interestingly enough, is precisely why I began to question why they would do such a thing in the first place, because frankly, it seemed too stupid to believe.

After watching the ad myself, I was passed along an article by a friend who also was curious about the whole debacle. It turns out, ABC7 New York ran a story in August about how consumer research has turned up a new trend: Men aren't shaving as much anymore. Sales are down year over year for the past three years for razors. Even Gillette's North American VP admitted that "skipping a shave is no longer considered lazy or disrespectful." When you couple this with the boom of startup, which sells blades at a much cheaper rate than the likes of Gillette (with a much more effective viral marketing campaign, might I add) and it can be easy to see where some of the pains might be felt.

Stocks seem stable for the company at current, despite the ‘PR blunder', and one can't help but wonder if this isn't perhaps Gillette dipping the toe back into the Women's market for shaving needs. While they are already owners of the Venus brand, it is somewhat of an old joke in North America that "Men's razors are better than Women's", though having never used a woman's razor, I can't say I have the experience to know why exactly that might be. Regardless, with Gillette trying to position themselves in the good graces of women at large, it might help bolster against any potential losses from a struggling male market with stronger competing interests, and allow them the ability to act as though they really care and understand the fears and concerns of the modern Middle-Class woman, much in the same way that an intestinal worm really cares about your dietary intake. Perhaps that is too biting a critique.

Either way, with the ad on YouTube featuring 800k Dislikes (running a 2:1 Dislike to like ratio at the time of writing) and over 16 million views, it seems like the PR damage is done, and that Gillette is in damage control mode. Complaints are rife in the comment section about deleted comments concerning alleged price fixing and forced child labor scandals, as well as supposed massaging of the votes, though of that I have no way to verify. This could be the actions of YouTube catching false-flaggers trying to mass brigade the votes, or it could be them legitimately culling dissent. The fact that there is little way to tell is infuriating and admittedly somewhat scary, in and of itself.

The conclusion I've drawn from all of this, and one I hope you can agree to is the following: The internet is a fast-moving place, one with people acting, reacting and reacting to reactions far faster than most can keep up with. In the notice of the actions that others are taking, all too often are people swept away in the outrage and offense over the innocuous. People want to feel holier-than-thou and self-righteous about their own beliefs, and it may just be that many of these corporations are far smarter than those who make a living out of social commentary give them credit for; that they have plans within plans that stretch beyond our conception, and that what seem like blunders to us, might actually just be the groundwork for something far bigger, that our bias for recency and absorbing the daily news update might have stunted us from being able to see. Even if that isn't the case, getting wound up over things like this doesn't benefit anyone. Laugh at it if you must, but if you really care, throw your weight behind a movement with goals. Don't waste your time debating about the ethics of a company that sells razor blades moralizing about what a ‘good man' is. It’s just not worth the time or effort.