Jan 2019 17

My thoughts on the Gillette, ‘The Best a Man Can Get’ debate this week. From a male who buys razors and most importantly, works in advertising. Cause, why not?

What is a ‘man’, anyhow?

And does the simple act of shaving make you one?


‘Creativity will become the last unfair advantage we’re legally allowed to take over our competitors.’

Bill Bernbach, one of the giants of advertising said this.

Throughout my career as a copywriter in advertising, I’ve always been happy to get a brief with a USP (unique selling proposition). That’s something that no other product can claim. It’s news. It makes the product like no other competitor’s. Like, ‘The cellphone with the longest battery life.’ or ‘The most chocolate chips per cookie.’. However most of the time, I get a brief that’s a parity product. We have the same product as everyone else so only our brand tone will differentiate it in the marketplace.

A bank is a bank is a bank is a bank – same interest rate, but we’re the bank with the dog as our spokesperson. Cause dogs are friendly and we’re friendly like that, too. Hypothetical, but I’d bank with a dog as a spokesperson probably.

You get the idea. You buy parity products all the time. I bet 99% of stuff out there is a parity product.

So my job is to take a parity product and make it different in your mind by positioning it in some way. We’re the coffee that believes in sitting down with friends over a cup and catching up. Our airline believes we’re all connected with each other so we promote tolerance and understanding. Our furniture store believes that your real life is at home, not work, so this stuff is designed just for lounging.

BTW, all of the above positionings are totally made up. Someone else does that part. Someone who maybe understands world trends or psychology.

But I do the creative idea stuff. Which I like. I bring the strategy and positioning to life.

So at this point, I take over… I use creativity to continue to try to give products an unfair advantage. The coffee ad might have people sitting around and having a good cry with each other over a cup – then we realize they’re at work and the boss is pissed that nothing is getting done. The airline ad might be in another language so you can start feeling like you’re connected to someone else or another culture already. The furniture ad might be a big song and dance musical number about how 5 o’clock (quitting time) is the best time ever.



Shaving products.

Total parity products. And also a high-thinking but low emotion product.

High thinking in that I might think about how many blades I need or whether I need a comfort lube strip or if I need a pivoting head. Other high thinking products are a washing machine, or batteries, or a TV.

But razors are low emotion in that razors don’t make me ‘feel’ anything or give emotionally in my life. It’s not a vacation, or a pair of glasses (ooh, these make me look handsome) or car I’ll have adventures in (actually both high-thinking and feeling).


Just a razor. Schick. Harry’s. Bic. It don’t matter. Sure, they can create news once in awhile by adding a 5th blade, but their competition will just copy them eventually.

So all they have … is creativity.

Gillette’s way in has always been ‘The Best a Man Can Get’. Clever line. It says they have the best razors and you’ll get the closest shave and you’ll look great. A hint of emotional benefit in a high-thinking category. But their advertising has never been emotional in any way. It’s always featured graphics, men touching their faces to show how smooth it is, or maybe a woman at their side showing their approval for their ‘man’.

So now suddenly, they want to pivot and be emotional in some way.

They want to stand for something. They want men to truly be better.

I get why… I mean, they’re probably getting hammered in the marketplace by Harry’s or other cheaper razors. And their tagline was probably raising some eyebrows with what’s going on in the world.

So they took a shot.

Creatively-speaking, there are parts of the spot that I like. It’s decently shot. And some of the writing is okay. None of it gives me goosebumps.

And the issue and their claimed stance inarguable. I’ll let the Toronto Sun commenters debate that one. There are people on the right side of history, and there are the people who are wrong today, were yesterday, and will looked back on as wrong tomorrow.

But from an advertising perspective, the issue here is: Should they have gone there? Does a razor company have the emotional consent to try to take a stand for and against something? Can a company that has no history with being on the right side of this issue (and maybe has created some of the problems it’s suddenly against) suddenly make a statement like this and it can ring true for them?

I say no, no, and no.

The tower was put up so fast, I don’t think they even took the time to build a great foundation underneath it. This stuff takes time. It has to be baked into the DNA of a product for many years. Through their actions instead of one :60 Super Bowl spot. It has to start with their culture at their own office/corporation. Giving to, or creating, programs that support this stance. Apologizing for past behaviour and advertising that supported old thinking. Creating products that reflect this outlook – for both men and women (ahem, ‘pink tax’). And then, and only then, having the right to come out with a manifesto ad. Some brands do. Some brands just say it.

The message is right. Wrong category. Wrong brand.

It’s just a razor to shave.

Low-emotion. Functional.


It should stay that way.


Unfair advantage, denied.
But it has started a talk. And that’s always a good thing.

NOTE: I feel like Gillette knows they goofed. Part of being on the right side of an issue is being brave when you have everything to lose. They’re not only late to this issue, but there’s nothing brave about releasing your ‘Super Bowl’ ad two weeks before the Super Bowl so you can gauge reaction first. I wouldn’t be surprised if they pull this ad from the broadcast.