He went on to bash Gillette for "telling [its] customers that they are the problem and need to change. That masculinity is bad, and that all men are responsible for the actions of a few."
Others have blasted the company for "crapping all over" the guys who've supported the company for a century and "gender shaming" men. "Stop trying to emasculate men!!" @angelsvoice66, tweeted to Gillette. "Let them be men!"
A Fox News commentator asked: "Does Gillette want men to start shaving their legs, too?"
"This ad is offensive and insulting," tweeted @Willpowers5, calling out Gillette for "imply[ing] that this is what men do, fight, barbecue and harass women."
But others have shot back, suggesting those most offended might be those who most need to heed the message. "Wow somebody got triggered. You okay there snowflake?" @kirrasdad tweeted back to @JoeS3678. "The ad is just suggesting we try to be better people in my opinion. If it threatens you to the point of hatred, you may want to think a little about that."
For its part, Gillette says its goal was to spark discussion, and it takes heart in seeing that happening.
"If we get people to pause, reflect and to challenge themselves and others to ensure that their actions reflect who they really are, then this campaign will be a success," a Gillette spokesperson tells NPR in an email.
Gillette says it's "setting a new standard for our brand ... to encourage and inspire the next generation to be its best."
In an earlier statement launching the ad, the company seemed to be anticipating some of the backlash, noting that "in a world where the actions of the few can taint the reputation of the many, we know there's work to be done—together."
It remains to be seen how the ad impacts sales. It comes at a precarious time for the company, as Gillette faces stiff new competition from startup subscription clubs like Dollar Shave Club and Harry's.
Gillette, however, may be buoyed by the experience of other companies who have plunged into similarly divisive social issues. For example, controversy followed a Nike ad featuring ex-NFL player Colin Kaepernick, who had sparked many players to protest police brutality and racial inequality by taking a knee during the national anthem before games.
But ultimately, the Nike's controversial ad did not hurt its sales. Counter to some fears, the controversial ad drove a spike in sales, social engagement and online buzz, all of which helped the company emerge from a slump.
Gillette is so far exuding a quiet confidence.
"Successful brands today have to be relevant and engage consumers in topics that matter to them," a spokesperson tells NPR. "This is especially true when it comes to younger consumers—a key demographic for us."
Call it a new kind of corporate machismo, volunteering to march bravely ahead into the culture wars.
No longer can companies "just advertis[e] product benefits," the Gillette spokesperson says in the email. These days "brand-building" also means taking a stand on important societal issues, controversial as they may be.
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