Have you seen Gillette’s We Believe: The Best Men Can Be advert yet? If you haven’t, it’s embedded lower down this article, so scroll down and take a look. If you have, you’ll know that it’s a modern marketing masterclass that has caused quite the social media storm, with one side praising its brave stance against toxic masculinity, and the other slamming it for fuelling “the current pathetic global assault on masculinity”.
So, this is the point where I nail my colours to the pro-advert mast, high-five Gillette and rip Piers Morgan and his mates a new one, right? Wrong.
Whoa, whoa, whoa. What the?! So, behind the fancy website and praise for mothers, you’re actually just one of those pork pie-scoffing gammons who thinks Brexit means Brexit and short skirts mean up for it? No, no and, definitely, no.
This is actually the point where I offer a third perspective. One that says: I love 90% of the advert. I believe in the best in men. And I appreciate the need to hold other men accountable for the way they act and the things they say. But, as the father of an active, almost 3-year-old boy, I have an issue with the advert’s misuse of the phrase “boys will be boys”.
Right idea, wrong phrase
Before you tell me I’m wrong and have clearly missed the point, click play, take another look, and pay particular attention to the segment between 30 and 38 seconds.
See what I am talking about? The narrator says, “making the same old excuses”. Then, while a bigger boy fights a weaker child, the men standing behind the barbecues robotically repeat the words: “Boys will be boys, boys will be boys, boys will be boys.”
An expression not an excuse
I get what the brand is trying to achieve in this segment, but here’s the thing. In my view, the words they are repeating and the scene they are describing don’t match up. Boys will be boys is not a toxic excuse men use when they catch their kid bullying an innocent bystander or using their superior strength to overpower a peer. It’s an expression MEN, WOMEN and PEOPLE WHO IDENTIFY AS GENDER NEUTRAL use when their son is slightly pushing the boundaries, splashing in a muddy puddle or being a bit rambunctious.
I know this, because – stop the bus, call Gillette and alert the police – my son does all of these things. Plus he kicks his football places he shouldn’t, climbs on things that are forbidden, play wrestles with his (equally into it) friends and leaps on my head 3-4 times a day.
Boys will be boys
Does the fact I let the vast majority of these actions slide on the basis that “boys will be boys” make me “part of the problem”? Of course, it doesn’t. Does the Bubster’s behaviour mean he’s a troubled child who will almost undoubtedly grow up to disrespect the opposite sex in the future? Of course, it doesn’t. He’s a really sweet-natured kid, who looks after younger children in the soft play, says thank you to his teachers and knows right from wrong. But he is also a boy. And, as he regularly proves, boys will be boys.
So, well done, great message and fantastic attempt, but could do better next time, Gillette. Oh, and talking about next time. If you need a progressive, respectful and talented copywriter to pen your next advert’s script, give me a shout. I’ll be here by my computer. Or, you know, standing in the park, attempting to stop my son making himself dizzy on the roundabout, while shrugging “boys will be boys”.
Until next time…