The miracle of selling razors

This is a really good commercial.

Without saying a single outrageous thing, by presenting a purely optimistic message, it has generated a huge amount of controversy and has everyone talking about it (gosh, I just put it on my blog). It’s selling razor blades, and it doesn’t show any razors — none of the male models in the ad are lathered up, or even in need of a shave or a trim. Nobody is shaving. I’m impressed with how neatly capitalism can exploit both good and bad sentiments to serve the cause of selling stuff.

From another perspective, it’s also cool how it has maneuvered a lot of men into whipping out their manly six-shooters and blasting away at their feet. The message is that bullying, sexual harassment, and condoning bad behavior with silent assent are bad, but that good men can and will oppose such behavior, which has provoked the peculiar, guilt-ridden response of “how dare Gillette accuse me of bullying and harassment!”, completely missing the opportunity to identify with the good-looking, well-groomed men who are stopping bullying and harassment. You’ve got a chance to see yourself mirrored in commendable behavior, or oppressive behavior, and thousands of men are screaming, “How dare you criticize my choice to catcall, or mansplain, or punch people!”

And now everyone is selling razors for Gillette. It’s a marvel.


  1. Saad says

    Nothing brings out masculine fragility than the mere mention of toxic masculinity. Us cis men are the most sensitive snowflakes in the world.

  2. says

    Using such an important topic to sell over-priced and over-hyped razors makes me more than a bit uneasy. But it’s well made and does send a good, strong message. AND it pisses off all the right (i.e. wrong) people. All in all I think I prefer this to the jet fighter, race car, fotballer BS they used to push.

  3. says

    Cue men lathering their face in Gillette shaving foam and setting fire to it.

    I’m torn between my cynical view of brands latching themselves to a cause like a tick to a cow, and the belief that this is a genuine issue that’s been put forward carefully and considerately, and that the majority of the backlash has been disgustingly chauvenistic. When this approach doesn’t work, you end up with a girl handing a can of soda to riot police, but I think they handled this well.

    My company (a large multi-national) does what Gillette do. On the one hand it frustrates me, on the other I see capitalism’s human side; people wanting their organisation to reflect their own values, to use their collective (capitalist collective?) power to influence things beyond the shareholder’s dividends that the individuals care about, but don’t have the time/resources/know-how to do anything about (due to their time being taken up in the job); we find it preferable than to sit silent or worse, find themselves stuck working for Chick-Fil-A.

    How often do we threaten to boycott companies who come out with vile opinions, or look at the faceless corporations with all their wealth and power and lament their ambivalence towards the evils of culture. How do we feel about Fearless Girl? About Nike/Kaepernick? James Damore happened because the culture in his work-space was (or was becoming) hostile to his bigotry and he felt cornered and alone.

    While I won’t be rushing out to purchase Gillette products (I dry-shave with a Phillips electric razor), I’m glad that they chose to use their voice to contribute to a cause I care about.

  4. says

    I should, in the interests of full disclosure, mention that I don’t shave at all, and therefore have no opinion on the quality of various brands of razors.

  5. hemidactylus says

    Going beyond strict adherence to the fiduciary responsibility toward shareholders (Frienan below) and going out on a socially responsible limb sounds great on its face and hopefully has beneficial consequences. But are they expediently aligning their bottom-line with the blowing winds of progressive social change? They wet their fingers to see which way the wind is blowing and pursued that direction. Maybe I have some jaded cynicism toward latent corporate motives. But the manifest aspect I can agree is awesome.

    I am reminded of Nike’s pro-Kaepernick campaign which took fortitude and ran counter to say….Papa Johns complaining about NFL players. But Nike has a checkered history on social responsibility given its pricing for Air Jordans and its status symbol nature (reminded of Atlanta episode on FUBU). Also:

    Here’s an article I picked out of the blue that compares the socially responsible marketing of Gillette and Nike.

    Takes a negative stance on alleged preachy Gillette. Here’s the clincher: “Nike’s message to customers is uplifting rather than accusatory. It doesn’t urge them to interrogate their roles in societal structures that may cause oppression, let alone the roles played by corporations like Nike. It skips past that, looking toward a solution rather than a problem. The Gillette campaign, by comparison, is a downer.”

    Really? Is Gillette accusatory? Or is that in the eye of the beholder? And didn’t people start burning their Nikes because Kaepernick?

    Do these ads run counter to Milton Friedman’s emphasis on bottom line:
    “There is, however, one instance when corporate social responsibility can be tolerated, according to Friedman—when it is insincere. The executive who treats social and environmental values as means to maximize shareholders’ wealth—not as ends in themselves—commits no wrong.” From The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power by Joel Bakan

  6. quotetheunquote says

    Cue men lathering their face in Gillette shaving foam and setting fire to it.

    Are there Youtube videos yet? /sn

    On the original topic:
    Yes, it’s selling stuff, but it is a really good video. The bit in the boardroom where the man touches his colleague’s shoulder and says “what she meant to say…” was particularly affecting – I saw this kind of thing so often during a previous career. It was in kitchens, not offices, but the attitude (and the effect) was exactly the same.

  7. Akira MacKenzie says

    M Smith @ 3

    Cue men lathering their face in Gillette shaving foam and setting fire to it.

    I can see it all know:


  8. mrquotidian says

    This is an interesting topic… Good comments so far.

    As for the ad itself, I’m conflicted. I work in marketing so from my own experience, it’s hard to see it as anything except cynical. I certainly prefer this kind of messaging to the alternative, and it is undoubtedly well-done for what it is. But I also don’t care to pat Procter & Gamble (same company that makes Old Spice btw) on the back for hiring the right mercenary ad firm to “get the PR right” and garner a bunch of clicks and “thought pieces.” Remember, if they thought they could score points by appealing to fascism, they would!

    I’m against consumerism-as-activism in general; we aren’t going to buy our way into a better world by picking the brands with the most thoughtful ads… It’s going to take more than that.

  9. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    M Smith@3: “Cue men lathering their face in Gillette shaving foam and setting fire to it.”

    It might be just about as much fun watching them toss aerosol cans of shaving cream onto a bonfire and then hightailing it as the scalding hot foam sticks to them like napalm.

  10. hemidactylus says

    Consumerism and self-branding as identity are in large negative things. Razors aren’t really status symbols, though I guess in some circles neck beards are. They are more like copy machines. I still have the free handle they were nice enough to send in mail years ago and still pay for replacement cartridges. Their apparent act of kindness was profitable.

    Apparel, or putting on appearances via clothing, is problematic. The FUBU episode of Atlanta, ironically a corporate product of FOX, hits the nail on the head as analyzed here:

    Branding as identity and status has negative social consequences the rest of society pays for as “externalities”. Capitalism, the unknown ideal.

    So I guess cynical socially responsible advertizing doesn’t quite make up for deleterious effects of the profit motive, but at least eases the pain, as when alcoholic beverage commercials urge us to drink responsibility while unleashing urges in watchers trying to stay sober.

  11. cartomancer says

    I think we can feel positive about this one. Not because it’s a cynical attempt to cash in on popular sentiments, but because it’s a bellwether that shows just how mainstream and significant those sentiments are becoming.

  12. pipefighter says

    One of the things that disappoints me is how the expression “boys will be boys gets used” . When I was a kid it was usually used when one of us would go down a hill a little too fast on a bike or toboggan. Now it always seems to be used either excuse something violent and/ or rapey. I suppose that was probably the case before too.

  13. lotharloo says

    I was also conflicted about this because obviously it’s an ad for a giant company but then on the other hand, ads have been shaping our culture as well as the global culture. And this ad is so much better than some smoothly shaved shirtless muscular dood hanging out with a bunch of thin women in bikinis.

    So kudos for Gillette and I hope they sell a lot more because of it.

  14. auraboy says

    I’ve worked in advertising, and I know how cynically the P&G in-house marketing team were thinking around this (inspired by the vegan sausage roll furore in the UK, apparently) . But, really, who cares? They’ve committed to anti MRA causes and employed a feminist film director to make this and other adverts. If they’ve done it for purely marketing reasons, I don’t care. I don’t need my corporations to be purist socialist concerns (are corporations ever going to be?) I just need them to commit to public pressure to not be arseholes.
    All this tells me is that progressive forces outweigh regressive ones in marketing forecasts. We’re winning, very slowly, but that’s better than losing quickly.

  15. says

    Agreed with Cartomancer.

    Plus, this is a good, maybe even beautiful message.

    Produced for cynical reasons? Nothing but corporate virtue signalling (probably the only real kind)? Intended to whip up MRA controversy? Maybe.

    But even if it was created for awful reasons, the message itself is good. Maybe even beautiful. It made me tear up a little, and let me tell you that is NOT something an ad can normally pull off.

  16. says

    Now, I have no idea what razor blades we use (I just steal Mr’s), but the usual contingent of howling snowflakes (somebody needs to draw that) makes me feel good.

  17. hemidactylus says

    I concede I poured on the anticorporate rhetoric a bit too heavy. The positives of this Gillette ad are heartening and the We Hunted the Mammoth link shows the bonus byproduct of causing a meltdown in the manosphere. Given my Sonny Crockett stubble situation it’s time I visit my Gillette Mach3Turbo* soon.

    *- I hope it never lives up to the hype and breaks the speed of sound while a sharp set of blades are dragged across my facial skin. 2301.8 miles per hour might hurt.

  18. jrkrideau says

    Given the mad reations, this suggests to me that there are a lot of men out there who know how toxic they have been. I like the ad just for the fact that it has stirred up the patriarchy. If they did not feel guilty/challenged the response would be “Ho hum, weird ad”.

    I have had a beard probably for a longer time than PZ but I may go by a couple of razors just for the hell of it.

  19. says

    Whats the fuss about ? At least they aren’t advertising those useless new-fangled multi-bladed pieces of crap that are only good for the garbage bin. I still use my old 1950’s single blade Gillette razor. Its still the best a man can get. Meanwhile here’s some toxically masculine, politically incorrect commercials including a cringeworthy one from Gillette.

  20. methuseus says

    I think it’s great that such a large company as P&G has put out something like this. It gives me hope that society is becoming more aware of itself, and the shit we’ve been living with for centuries may finally be starting to die out.

  21. Golgafrinchan Captain says

    Since this is a corporation, I don’t see how this can be anything other than a cynical self-serving calculation. But… this brings me great joy because it shows that we are winning. Corporations are also cautious, so the calculation must be clear.

    Same with the Nike / Kaepernick ads.

  22. Akira MacKenzie says

    Golgafinchan Captain @ 23

    I consider myself a hardcore socialist. However, just because Gillette is looking to make a few bucks doesn’t mean the overall point of the ad is wrong.

  23. Golgafrinchan Captain says

    @Akira #24 (realizing this is a somewhat necroed thread)
    I totally agree. I think it’s a great ad and it will influence people who are outside of the social circles that care about such things. I was just commenting that it’s extremely unlikely that Gillette made the add out of any sense of social responsibility.