Critics rounded on it as smug and obnoxious "virtue signalling" from a company exploiting the #MeToo movement purely for business purposes. Picture: YouTube.com

London - Women love nothing better than a closely shaven face. That’s been the message for decades in adverts where attractive women kissed and drooled over square-jawed, smooth-faced men.

But now Gillette, the world’s biggest razor brand and creator of the 30-year-old catchline The Best A Man Can Get, has brought out a new commercial that consigns to the grubby bin of history those provocatively sensual adverts.

The new, subtly different slogan is The Best Men Can Be, and the message is that a man can have the grooming habits of a Yeti just so long as he stands up to sexists, confronts bullies and takes a stand against the "toxic masculinity" of his age.

Hailed as the first major advertising campaign to respond to the #MeToo era, the advert - entitled We Believe - is more party political broadcast than commercial. And for that reason it sparked a firestorm of outrage, and not all of it from men.

While the firm - whose products are estimated to be used by 750 million men in 200 countries - boasts that its lubricated razors are "designed to stop irritation", the same cannot be said of its preachy new ad.

Critics rounded on it as smug and obnoxious "virtue signalling" from a company exploiting the #MeToo movement purely for business purposes. Others called it an assault on masculinity that portrays men as inherently bad, without acknowledging that women can also be guilty of bullying and aggression.

So what has caused such a row? In an image-crowded one minute and 48 seconds, the advert starts with a gang of jeering boys smashing through a large paper screen showing an old, presumably sexist, shaving advert as they pursue another youngster. A mother clutches her son to her, trying to protect him from a wave of homophobic online taunting.

There follows a stream of images showing stereotypical male chauvinism, before the voiceover says: "Something finally changed."

A montage of newsreaders announces the birth of the #MeToo anti-harassment movement that was spawned by accusations of sexual misconduct against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and other powerful men.

The commercial was made by UK company Somesuch and directed by an Australian-born Londoner, Kim Gehrig. Known for her feminist approach, she directed a 2015 campaign for Sport England called This Girl Can that encouraged women to exercise.

Her advert for a Swedish feminine hygiene brand using the slogan "Viva La Vulva" was attacked as "dripping in misandry and sexism".

With Gillette, however, the desperation of a huge corporation to appear deeply worthy may have backfired badly.

Many critics said they will boycott Gillette products, including the conservative film star James Woods. "So nice to see Gillette jumping on the 'men are horrible' campaign permeating mainstream media and Hollywood entertainment," he said on Twitter. "I for one  will never use your product again."

The comedian Ricky Gervais sneered: "I used to love beating up kids at barbecues. Now I realise that is wrong."

Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King, defended the ad, which she insisted was not "anti-male" but "pro-humanity", adding: "It demonstrates that character can step up to change conditions."

But on YouTube, where the ad has racked up more than 4.6 million views, there were seven times as many negative responses as positive ones. "In less than two minutes you managed to alienate your biggest sales group for your products. Well done," wrote one viewer.

"Gillette has made it clear they do not want the business of masculine men. I will grant their wish," said another.

Daily Mail