Patrick Coffee | January 14, 2019

Gillette Asks How We Define Masculinity

New spot twists classic slogan into a question.

When Gillette debuted 'The Best a Man Can Get' during Super Bowl XXIII in 1989 with a BBDO campaign promoting its Atra razor line, ours was a different America. George H.W. Bush was president, the Cold War was an ongoing concern and sexual harassment in the workplace was an all-but-foreign concept. Now, the task of communicating a brand's message is far more complicated, as is evident in Gillette's latest attempt to explore what its now-iconic slogan means today.

"We Believe," created by AOR Grey New York, turns the classic statement into a question: Is this the best that we, as men, can be? Its answer is a somewhat hopeful "no, but..." The 90-second spot touches on a series of issues bedeviling men of all ages today like real and virtual bullying, sexual harassment and misogyny, and the persistence of gender imbalance in corporate America. Ultimately, the ad posits, this all comes down to how men see themselves. Many men are locked in a catch-22 as they attempt to be the best they can be while still satisfying society's ever-shifting but restrictively narrow definitions of masculinity. "Gillette believes in the best in men," said Gary Coombe, President, P&G Global Grooming, in a statement. "By holding each other accountable, eliminating excuses for bad behavior and supporting a new generation working toward their personal 'best,' we can help create positive change that will matter for years to come."

In a series of surveys preceding the work, P&G and the research division of Omnicom PR firm Ketchum found that men and women in the United States believed the following four attributes define a "great man": honesty, moral integrity, hard work and respect of others. Participants listed the most popular things men could do to be considered "great" as being a good father, setting a good example and taking unprompted action to help those in need. Gillette promised to donate $1 million per year over the next three years to U.S. nonprofits that share its mission of helping men be their best; the first such organization is the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. It's a small sum, but it's a start. The ad was notably directed by U.K-based Kim Gehrig, whose recent work includes Sport England's acclaimed "This Girl Can" series and "Viva La Vulva," a female empowerment anthem for Swedish brand Libresse that was one of Adweek's favorite spots of 2018. Featured in Adweek.

Originally featured in Ad Age.