Gilette's woke ad with trans artist


"Whenever, wherever, however it happens: Your first shave is special"

That's the caption used by Gillette on social media when their latest video ad was published.

"South, south, north, north, east, west: Never in a hurry" – these are the words Samson Bonkeabantu Brown uses to playfully describe the process of shaving. In the new commercial of the well-known shaver manufacturer Gillette, which was published on May 23rd via Facebook and Instagram, the transgender artist from Toronto is taught by his father how to shave. The video does not only deal with the special act of the "first shave", but also with the question of what kind of man Brown wants to be.

"Don't be scared", "Shaving is about being confident", those are the reassuring tips that Brown’s father gives to his son, lovingly helping him through the big transition that becoming a man is.

Woke advertising

Gillette has started since the beginning of 2019 a series of eye opening advertising campaigns focusing on deconstructing preconceived ideas regarding men and the social roles imposed on them. The brand does not shy away from drawing attention to social problems and socio-political grievances. In January, they released a progressive advertising video called "The best a man can get" which took a stand against toxic masculinity, and this video with Samson Brown seems to be a follow-up of the previous spot. The only difference lies in how closer to reality the latest one actually is. Whether it's the environment, the viewer’s connection to the protagonist or the love of the father, this time, it’s easier to believe in Gillette's video and its message as it is less edited, less formatted.

Despite many hate comments, irritating reactions and parody videos, Gillette harvests much praise for its latest advert. However, it depends on the medium: on Instagram on the one hand, the ad only gets positive feedback with mainly other trans people praising the inclusion and recognition showcased by the brand, proving that Gillette’s video has managed to successfully reach another target group. On Youtube however, things look quite different: we mostly notice negative comments and customers threatening to buy their razors from a different brand from now on.

But this only confirms how important woke advertising is : it is necessary, not only to represent minorities and people who deviate from the binary gender and social roles, but also to sensitize other people to them and encourage people to accept them. Of course, every marketing plan is made to increase sales and better a brand’s image. But no matter how mercantile the intentions of Gillette were, spreading ideas of inclusion and acceptance via mainstream communication channels and brands is one of the most effective ways to actually reach the masses in order to create real change.

By Charlotte Westphal, edited by Jessica Ayinda