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Raheem Sterling best Gillette Ads blog ehader

In 2019, the well-known men’s grooming brand Gillette totally changed its marketing tactic to put social justice messages at the heart of their advertising

The recent – and hugely controversial – 2019 ad was the first to explore toxic masculinity. Here, we also take a look at Gillette ads, from the 80s and throughout subsequent years, and also examine the role music plays in each one. After all, for an ad to be truly unforgettable, it has to have a great soundtrack…

If you do happen to be working on a TV, online ad or other creative project, why not explore our sizeable catalogue of production background music? Start by heading over to our keyword search bar then just filter by musical style, instrumentation, production genre and more.

Gillette Ads

  • Controversial Gillette Ad - Toxic Masculinity
    • Gillette Ad Backlash
    • Gillette Sales After Ad
    • Gillette Stocks After Ad
  • Gillette Ads Through The Years
    • The Best A Man Can Get (1989)
    • The Best A Man Can Get (1993)
    • Mach3 – The Best A Man Can Get (2000)
    • First Shave, The Story of Samson - Transgender Ad (2019)
    • Raheem Sterling – Made of What Matters (2020)
    • New Gillette Ad (2021)

Controversial Gillette Ad – Toxic Masculinity

Gillette shocked millions of viewers worldwide with their ‘We Believe: The Best Men Can Be’ commercial. The advert looks back to the brand’s ‘The Best A Man Can Get’ commercial from way back in 1989, rephrasing its tagline to ask the question: Can men do better? 

Touching on topics such as the #MeToo movement, the male gaze, the media’s portrayal of women and gender stereotypes, the ad encourages the audience to embrace a new age and suggests that men should hold themselves accountable for toxic masculinity. Aptly, the orchestral track amplifies the serious tone of the ad and underlines the brand’s stance on the issue. 

Take a look for yourself, below:

Gillette Ad Backlash

It’s common sense to assume that you’ll face a backlash if you wade into advertising that deals with controversial social issues; however, we imagine Gillette didn’t quite expect the storm that followed the release of ‘We Believe: The Best Men Can Be’. Why did the brand touch such a nerve in so many people? Well, there are two key reasons...

Firstly, viewers complained it wasn’t appropriate for Gillette to comment on social issues, feeling it was wrong for a personal care brand to explore issues around toxic masculinity for commercial benefit. By doing so, they felt it undermined the seriousness of the issue.

The second reason it didn’t go down well with the public is that, ironically, it appeared to stereotype men. In this day and age, a considerable number of men eschew sexist ideologies and have helped form new and progressive norms and values. Unfortunately, Gillette managed to alienate many potential customers, who found the ad pretty offensive. 

Gillette Sales After Ad

Did the Gillette ad hurt sales?

According to the chief financial officer of Gillette’s owners, P&G (Procter and Gamble), it didn’t. According to CNN Business, after the commercial aired, Gillette sales were in line with pre-campaign levels, by which we can infer that it didn’t make any difference, either positive or negative, to sales. He defended the commercial, explaining it was a genuine effort to ‘connect more meaningfully with younger consumer groups’.

What was wrong with the Gillette Ad?

And in general, despite the backlash of a vocal minority, consumers didn’t boycott Gillette? Why? There are four reasons: 1) the media exaggerated the controversy around the ad; 2) there were more people who supported the commercial than who didn’t; 3) those who complained didn’t actually feel strongly enough to go as far as a boycott 4) the CFO was lying about its sales. And after looking at the statistics around parent company P&G’s stocks, we’re inclined to believe the latter.

Gillette Stocks After Ad 

According to acclaimed statistician Georgi Georgiev, the market share in P&G’s blades and razor category in fact did decline in 2019 after the release of the toxic masculinity advertisement. He reports that this was the biggest change ever and speculates the dip was largely due to YouTube and other reastions on social media. In the light of this, it’s hard to believe Gillette’s sales were unaffected by the controversy. 

Gillette Ads Through The Years

The Best A Man Can Get (1989)

The original late 80s ad takes us through some of the most important moments of a ‘typical’ man’s life – from his career and sporting successes to the birth of his first child. The commercial plays on a deeply traditional ideal of masculinity and underlines the message that Gillette supports them to look their best throughout their life. 

The music is exactly as you’d expect in an 80s American ad – a bona fide, hard-hitting power ballad (well, at least it got the point across!). With elements of rock and pop, its led by male vocals, supported by electric guitars over a booming percussive background. 

The Best A Man Can Get (1993)

In the early 90s, Gillette released a new version of the ad, which followed much the same structure as the original. The main difference between them was that the 90s commercial focussed on a range of Gillette products – including the brand’s shaving gel and aftershave skin conditioner – as well as the razors. In expanding the brand’s offer with the ‘Gillette Series’ it acknowledges that men’s grooming rituals are changing.

The 1993 ad uses the same track as the original The Best A Man Can Get commercial, as it is consistent and familiar. It The only addition to the audio is that the narrator of the ad now goes on to call attention to the brand extensions.

Mach3 – The Best A Man Can Get (2000)

For the new millennium, Gillette switched up their marketing approach; their 2000 ad, which focuses on the new Mach3 razor, moved away from the focus on seminal moments in a man’s life to focus instead on the synergy between their products and aerospace technology (random, we know). The commercial uses a pulsing, futuristic track that helps link the Mach3 razor with the aerospace industry. 

First Shave, The Story of Samson - Transgender Ad (2019)

After the famous toxic masculinity ad of January 2019, Gillette continued to create conversation with its spring commercial focusing on a Black transgender male, Samson Bonkeabantu Brown. Fortunately for the brand, viewers seemed to support the inclusive advert more than its predecessor, as many felt this was a more positive and sincere message. That said, some viewers still felt Gillette’s attempt to be ‘woke’ felt a bit desperate…

As the young man’s father teaches his son how to shave, a thoughtful, delicate and earnest track plays, ebbing and flowing smoothly, just like the ProGlide razor on the young man’s skin. How poetic. 

Raheem Sterling – Made of What Matters (2020)

Gillette then moved in a safer direction for 2020, with an ad starring the young English footballer Raheem Sterling. It combined the strong brand identity of the pre-2019 ads with an important message for men that didn’t seem too controversial: stay determined and stand up to prejudice.

Here, Gillette opted for a punchy instrumental track that works well for an piece that pivots around the sports star. The repetitive beat aids the visuals in keeping momentum, ensuring the audience pays attention.

New Gillette Ad (2021)

Interestingly, it now seems Gillette has taken a back-to-basics approach with their 2021 ad. Much like the brand’s 20th-century commercials, the ad is product-focused and reminds the audience that Gillette is here to help them look dapper on their life’s journey. But unlike the late 80s/90s ads, Gillette uses a momentum-filled pop music track to accompany the visuals: ‘Human’ by Rag’n’Bone Man. 

The song is not only instantly recognisable, but it’s also fitting for a commercial that takes a pretty traditional approach to appeal to masculinity, and the combination of gritty vocals, bold percussion and emotive strings is an appropriate soundtrack.

Music For Your Commercial 

As you can see, music plays a vital role in television and online advertisements; thus, if you’re in the process of creating one of your own, why not consider using one of our high-quality production music tracks?

To start exploring our catalogue, we suggest you start at our Playlists page where you can find some of the most popular, regularly updated playlists, including New Releases, and head over to our Discover page, where you can find explore the hottest artists and composers, albums and more.

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