Procter & Gamble’s Marc Pritchard, broadcaster Katie Couric and Jane the Virgin actor Justin Baldoni called for a #SeeHim movement to mirror #SeeHer during a panel discussion at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
Baldoni is famous for a Ted talk on redefining men that has attracted almost 1.7 million views and a dinner conversation web series called Are You Man Enough? that tackles difficult subjects about toxic masculinity.
During a session entitled ‘A Conversation About Men’ on the Reimagine Creativity stage at Cannes, Baldoni explained how advertising has shaped images of men for decades in a negative manner.
"I’m not trying to trade in my gender; I’m proud to be a man," he said. "But let’s not shy away from the fact we are in Cannes at a marketing and advertising conference and, in reality, this is the reason why men have been so fucked up."
He added that men have been taking these signals from media and advertising for as long as he can remember, from the Marlboro man to the strong silent type, the types of men he grew up thinking he needed to be and look like.
"That has influenced every area, down to messaging when we were growing up that women were our property," he said. "If we were good looking and strong enough and put on the right deodorant, smoked the right cigarette or put on the right condom, that would make us more of a man."
Chief brand officer Pritchard admitted he was initially angry about the reaction to Procter & Gamble brand Gillette’s The Best Men Can Be activation in January, which called on men to change their behavior in light of the #MeToo movement.
"[When the ad first came out] we really fought back," added Pritchard. "I went through the angry phase. ‘We were doing so good? We were trying to do good. What’s wrong with you guys?’"
The U.S.-specific social and digital campaign attracted global attention via a short film and 30-second version of the ad on YouTube, followed up on social media.
The brand calls out "bullying," "sexual harassment," and "toxic masculinity," and questions, "Is this the best a man can get?" It then encourages men to hold one another accountable for their behavior.
"It had some triggering words," said Pritchard. "It had the #MeToo movement, toxic masculinity, which showed bad behavior and good behavior and it role-modeled good behavior. Many loved it, but some felt attacked."
Over time, Pritchard realized some men were angry and P&G needed to talk to them.
"A lot of guys are feeling disenfranchised and it was important for us to listen to them and bring them in," he said. "Look at [the change in portrayal in] media, the rise of the Disney Princesses, from Snow White to the Frozen Princess badass. Look at the decline of sitcom dads, from Robert Young in ‘Father Knows Best’ to Peter Griffin."
Baldoni noted that a lot of the men who reacted negatively to the Gillette spot were white.
"They saw an ad where all of the men displaying this toxic behavior looked like them," he said. "’I work a 9-5 job; I support my family; my wife is a stay-at-home mom; I go to all my son’s baseball games. Why am I a bad man?’ Those are the people we have to go and talk to."
However, Couric suggested it would be much harder to have these conversations in practice without further work in the area.
"I don’t want to be a buzzkill but a lot of those men would not be receptive to conversations and even entertain them," she said. "How do you lay the groundwork to chip away at some of these defenses that have been formed since the time they were born?"
She added that marketers need to show more images of men who have the vulnerabilities that have been absent from the marketplace, just as they are now showing images of strong women who are not being objectified in commercials.
Pritchard noted that he and Couric are big proponents of the #SeeHer movement, which is about the accurate and realistic portrayal of women and girls in advertising and media.
"There needs to be the same equivalent for men," he said. "We need a #SeeHim, there’s no question. There are good men out there; there are men that cry, who disagree in a very constructive way. That’s not the images that are portrayed."
He revealed that P&G is going to forge a creative partnership with Baldoni to help make that happen.
Baldoni said: "We must show a broad range of men and women and lift up men who don’t fit in with that old standard, while not alienating those who fit into an old definition of masculinity, like firefighters or Marines. We have to open it up and expand our definitions."