Gillette’s art director made their advert more “controversial” to you

Angry men are attempting to flush their buoyant razors down the toilet in protest. Why?

It’s been a big week for Gillette. They released a new film promoting a new brand direction, “the best a man can be”. The spot has been praised for being “brave, meaningful and real” – however a vocal group felt that the advert is a direct attack on men. As a result, boycotts of Gillette products have been called for.

Did Gillette realise how polarising this content would be?


Gary Coombe is President for P&G’s Male Grooming arm. He believes that the time is right for Gillette to join the dialogue on “modern manhood”. Coombe – who also sponsors P&G’s European Gender Quality, Diversity, and Inclusion Groups – responded that, “celebrating men who are doing things right” was “an easy choice”.

Gillette have been criticised by some. This advert has potentially alienated a not-insignificant sized audience. However given Coombe’s statements, it’s likely that they chose to visit these darker sides of modern masculinity in order to deliver a positive, emotional message about accountability and role-modelling.

So we want to tell a controversial story about modern masculinity. After developing a script, the next step is to look at visual language to reinforce the messaging and make it more memorable.

Gillette’s approach to visual language.

Let’s take a quick look at 20 seconds of this advert (0:09-0:29). Starting with the imagery, and diving deeper into cinematography, visual methods, and production design.

On the surface, it seems that Gillette is using dramatic imagery to engage the viewer. Fighting children, weeping mothers and unchecked lewd television are all uncomfortable topics to face. Juxtaposing this action with shots of apathetic onlookers keeps audiences watching in horror as a narrator sets out the opening argument of the film.

These dramatic images are exaggerated using visual language.

Cinematography; sharp lighting and a neutral-cold colour palettes reflect the contrasting ideals being displayed.

Disruptive visual methods; on-screen movement effecting overlaid graphics, and whip cuts
heighten the uncontrollability of what is being shown.

Production design; a literal 4th wall break, and careful physical placement of the sets ensures there is enough “bleed” between the scenes to unsettle the viewer.

Once the dust has settled, what will Gillette have achieved?

Adverts which spark discussion and demonstrate social awareness are proving valuable tools to marketers. With the quantity of conversation generated, Gillette has shown us how to capture the attention of the masses – who, unlike the audiences represented in the opening of Gillette’s story, may not be so passive anymore.

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