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Gillette's new ad isn't about shaving. It's about changing 'the best a man can get'.

Even razor ads are aspirational.

Muscled men with chiseled jawlines, gliding ‘three precision blades with cushioned, comfort gel strips that soothe and cool’ their already hairless faces. Or something. (I mean, why doesn’t there ever seem to be hair falling onto the sink/clinging to every surface of the shower?)

But US grooming brand Gillette has tried its hand at promoting a different kind of aspirational message with a new 90-second commercial.

It’s called ‘We Believe’, and it re-frames the brand’s famous tagline – one it’s used for over 30 years – to explore issues of toxic masculinity. With staged snapshots of men sexually harassing women, a young boy being hounded by bullies, fathers excusing their sons’ violent tousle as ‘boys being boys’, it asks: “Is this ‘the best a man can get?'”

“We can’t hide from it. It has gone on far too long. We can’t laugh it off, making the same old excuses,” the voice-over says. “But something finally changed, and there will be no going back. Because we believe in the best in men; to say the right thing, to act the right way.”

The footage flashes from actor Terry Cruz testifying about being sexually assaulted by a Hollywood executive, back to those fictional scenes, this time with men intervening against the harassment, the bullying, the boys’ violence.

“Some already are, in ways big and small,” it continues. “But some is not enough. Because the boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow.”

Watch the clip below:

As the world’s largest marketer to men, Gillette’s parent company Procter & Gamble said it recognised that change was needed across the brand’s advertising to reflect “modern manhood”. That means change in the way men are both portrayed and addressed, said P&G’s President of Global Grooming, Gary Coombe.

“As a starting point, and effective immediately, Gillette will review all public-facing content against a set of defined standards meant to ensure we fully reflect the ideals of Respect, Accountability and Role Modelling in the ads we run, the images we publish to social media, the words we choose, and more,” he said in a statement. “For us, the decision to publicly assert our beliefs while celebrating men who are doing things right was an easy choice that makes a difference.”

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While the socially conscious move is being celebrated by most, below each posting of the ‘We Believe’ clip across Gillette’s social media channels were a clump of comments denouncing the message. Several critics pledged to boycott the brand, while hurling accusations of “virtue signalling”, even “misandry”.

But as more than one supporter noted, those who are upset by the message only help demonstrate precisely why it’s so important.

Yes, it’s just a razor brand. Yes, it’s a promotional exercise.

But it shows that these crucial messages are beginning to reach into even the most superficial corners of media. And that’s what you call progress.

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