NBC Cheers Gillette Bashing ‘Toxic Masculinity’: ‘Advertisers Are Evolving’

On Tuesday, the network morning show that employed an alleged sexual harasser for 20 years thought it was great that shave company Gillette produced a commercial condemning “toxic masculinity.” Reporting for NBC’s Today show, correspondent Morgan Radford hailed the “big message” “going viral” and celebrated how “advertisers are evolving” by taking stands on social issues.

“A new commercial from Gillette that’s getting a lot of attention,” co-host Hoda Kotb announced as she introduced the segment. Fellow co–host Savannah Guthrie chimed in: “It is, because of the message it’s trying to send to men.” Radford began her favorable report by proclaiming: “It’s a big message and it’s going viral....Gillette is challenging its customers and making one thing clear with this ad, the common saying, ‘Boys will be boys’ is old, it’s outdated, and it’s not an excuse for bad behavior.”

 

 

She applauded the company for “flipping the script on its famous tag line in a new commercial,” noting how they took the slogan “The best a man can get” and were “Framing it in the context of the #MeToo movement that has swept the country.” Amid lengthy clips of the controversial ad, Radford declared: “It addresses toxic masculinity, or stereotypical male gender roles, head on.”

The reporter briefly noted objections to the commercial: “Despite lots of support, some customers say the ad paints men in a bad light. One person tweeted, ‘I will no longer be using your products. I am not a bad person because I am male.’ Another saying, ‘I am a woman who uses Gillette razors, and this even bothers me.’”

However, that acknowledgment of customers being offended was immediately followed by this soundbite of USA Today National Business Correspondent Charisse Jones fawning over the spot: “It’s really powerful for a company that’s so tied with a male rite of passage, which is shaving, to talk about masculinity and basically to issue a challenge to Americans to rethink what they think a man is.”

Radford then took the opportunity to observe how “Gillette is just the latest prominent brand to wade into social issues.” In part, she touted: “A recent Nike ad starred former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who led player protests against racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem.”

The correspondent hopefully wondered: “Could more socially conscious ads dominate this year’s Super Bowl?” Jones returned to eagerly predict: “I think during the Super Bowl this year, we’re probably going to see a lot more commercials that have social commentary. That’s the trend we’ve been seeing the last few years.”

The report concluded with Radford telling viewers: “Either way, in the era of #MeToo, advertisers are evolving, along with our culture.”

“We’ll be able to find out if the ad worked just to see what happens with sales after the Super Bowl,” Kotb noted. Guthrie added: “Yeah, I can see why it touched a nerve, absolutely. So we’ll see if it ultimately is a good bet for them.”

After the two female co-hosts and female reporter all discussed the topic in the 8:00 a.m. ET hour, it wasn’t until the 9:00 a.m. ET hour that the male hosts were given the chance to react to the story. Craig Melvin hammered the ad:

 

 

First of all, I don’t know if it’s going to help them sell a single razor....I do think that we are living in a time now....It’s hard to rear boys right now. For a host of reasons, but I do think that one of the drawbacks of the current climate is that we’ve muddied the waters a bit, and I don’t know if this ad does anything to help that. And by that I mean, I feel like a lot of times now when I watch ads for women products it’s, you know, “Embrace who you are, be yourself, and don’t dye your gray and be comfortable with your body? And blah, blah, blah – ”

Co-host Sheinelle Jones interjected: “You don’t think you get enough of that just living?” Melvin replied: “I think this is an ad that presupposes the worst in men.”

Al Roker joined Melvin in criticizing the commercial: “I think it panders a little bit.” Melvin agreed: “Yes, completely panders.” Roker continued: “I do. And I think that there may be other ways to be a little more effective about it.”

Later, Jones commented on the “message” of the ad, prompting Melvin to ask: “Who is that message for?” Jones argued: “Is it wrong to say, ‘You know what, guys, if you see guys picking on each other or, you know, stand up and be – ’” Carson Daly chimed in: “But also, like the idea of ‘Boys will be boys,’ that’s not necessarily, you know, synonymous with toxic masculinity.” Roker added: “Yeah, and I don’t think you hear it that much anymore. I really don’t.”

ABC’s Good Morning America also covered the Gillette ad on Tuesday, but unlike his NBC counterparts, co-host George Stephanopoulos confessed: “I was surprised by the backlash....I looked at it, thought, ‘Okay, they’re trying to get people to do the right thing.’” Fellow co-host Michael Strahan pointed out: “Trying to make you think about it at least...but I could see how somebody could be offended because you’re assuming everyone was raised in the manner in which boys have been spoken to in the video, which isn’t the case either.”

While promoting “some really good moments” in the commercial, co-host Robin Roberts worried: “But at one point I thought, are they making light of it? Are they going so overboard in trying to make a point?”

At least both broadcasts reacted with some degree of skepticism to the controversial ad, but the fact that NBC’s first instinct was to largely celebrate the advertisement perhaps showed the network’s eagerness to move on from the Matt Lauer scandal.

Here is a full transcript of Radford’s January 15 report:

8:14 AM ET

HODA KOTB: We are back with Today’s Talker. A new commercial from Gillette that’s getting a lot of attention.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: It is, because of the message it’s trying to send to men. NBC's Morgan Radford is following this. Hi, Morgan, good morning.

MORGAN RADFORD: Good morning. It’s a big message and it’s going viral. Because if you remember, 30 years ago, Gillette debuted its popular tag line, “The best a man can get,” at the Super Bowl. But now, Gillette is challenging its customers and making one thing clear with this ad, the common saying, “Boys will be boys” is old, it’s outdated, and it’s not an excuse for bad behavior.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN A [GILLETTE COMMERCIAL]: Boys will be boys.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN B: Boys will be boys.

RADFORD: Is this the best a man can get?

ANNOUNCER [GILLETTE]: Is it?

RADFORD: Gillette flipping the script on its famous tag line in a new commercial.

ANNOUNCER [GILLETTE]: The best a man can get.     

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Allegations regarding sexual assault and sexual harassment.

RADFORD: Framing it in the context of the #MeToo movement that has swept the country.

ANNOUNCER [GILLETTE]: We can’t hide from it. It’s been going on far too long. We can’t laugh it off.

RADFORD: It addresses toxic masculinity, or stereotypical male gender roles, head on.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN C [GILLETTE]: What I actually think she’s trying to say –

RADFORD: In a statement to Today, Gillette says in part, “This has sparked a passionate dialogue that is an important conversation, and as a company that encourages men to be their best, we feel compelled to both address it and take action of their own.”

ANNOUNCER [GILLETTE]: And there will be no going back because we, we believe in the best in men.

RADFORD: Despite lots of support, some customers say the ad paints men in a bad light. One person tweeted, “I will no longer be using your products. I am not a bad person because I am male.” Another saying, “I am a woman who uses Gillette razors, and this even bothers me.”

CHARISSE JONES [USA TODAY NATIONAL BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT]: It’s really powerful for a company that’s so tied with a male rite of passage, which is shaving, to talk about masculinity and basically to issue a challenge to Americans to rethink what they think a man is.

RADFORD: Gillette is just the latest prominent brand to wade into social issues.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN D [SCHICK COMMERCIAL]: You think in five seconds you already know me.

RADFORD: Gillette competitor Schick Hydro released, “The man I am” ads last year, celebrating, it says, “all expressions of what it means to be a man.”

COLIN KAEPERNICK [NIKE COMMERCIAL]: Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.

RADFORD: And a recent Nike ad starred former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who led player protests against racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem. But in 2017, a Pepsi add starring Kendall Jenner backfired after critics said it misappropriated the Black Lives Matter movement amid police shootings.  

TERRY CREWS [GILLETTE COMMERCIAL]: Men need to hold other men accountable.

RADFORD: The question now, could more socially conscious ads dominate this year’s Super Bowl?

JONES: I think during the Super Bowl this year, we’re probably going to see a lot more commercials that have social commentary. That’s the trend we’ve been seeing the last few years.

RADFORD: Either way, in the era of #MeToo, advertisers are evolving, along with our culture.

ANNOUNCER [GILLETTE]: Because the boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow.

RADFORD: We should mention that as part of this new initiative, Gillette says it will donate $1 million a year for three years to non-profits designed to help men achieve their best, whatever that best might be.  

HODA KOTB: We’ll be able to find out if the ad worked just to see what happens with sales after the Super Bowl.

RADFORD: And see how they react. Because the social media reaction has been so mixed.

GUTHRIE: Yeah, I can see why it touched a nerve, absolutely. So we’ll see if it ultimately is a good bet for them. Alright, thank you, Morgan.

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