Gillette’s new brand campaign has had more than 2-million views on YouTube since it launched on January 14, and an astounding 10:1 ratio of dislikes to likes. Those who dislike the ad have taken umbrage with Gillette’s stance that all men are bad.

The ad showcases every bigoted, bullying type of behaviour you can think of in relation to boorish, chauvinistic males and was always going to elicit strong opinion. Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson is in the anti camp. He argues that the ad sends a clear message that no men are good enough and all need to improve.

This Gillette commercial is about our belief in the best in men. #TheBestMenCanBe #Gillette

In Gillette’s defence, Ritson points out that the campaign is not an example of strategy gone wrong – the brand’s marketing team clearly had their thinking caps on, but their thinking is somewhat misguided. It’s more of a “tactical failure”, he says.

While he lauds Gillette’s 30-year-old pay-off line, “The Best a Man Can Get”, as one of the most impactful and successful in recent history, and commends the team for attempting to modernise it and align to a more current definition of masculinity, he argues that the actual work translates to a “tedious public service announcement that one has been forced to watch”. The result is preachy and heavy-handed, and instead of showing an inspirational way of being, it comes across as saying all men are bad and must change immediately.

Peter Khoury, chief creative officer at TBWA, disagrees with this viewpoint, saying that the commercial illustrates that the brand cares more about people than profits. “This is a brave moment in the brand’s history. They have finally given real meaning to ‘the best a man can get’, even evolving the tagline slightly to become more inclusive – ‘the best a man can be’.”

The big take-out

Love it or hate it, Gillette’s new campaign has got people talking – which is exactly what a brand needs to do to stay relevant in today’s market.

Most brands, says Khoury, are scared to take a stand for something because of the dire consequences it can have for their business should they get it wrong. That said, in this day and age, playing it safe just isn’t good enough if brands wish to stay relevant, he adds.

“There has been support and there has been backlash, with both sides making strong arguments for their respective points of view.  The important thing for Gillette is not to back down now and face the gauntlet of negativity. If the brand can do this, it will be a stronger, more relevant brand on the other side. Ultimately, Gillette seems to be doing more than simply making ads. Some of their broader brand initiatives show they are focused on making real change and having a direct impact on people’s lives – which is how brands need to behave in the 21st century,” Khoury says.

There is no disputing that it’s a brave campaign – and isn’t that what brands today need if they’re to differentiate themselves to lukewarm consumer audiences?