Gillette caused a storm at the start of the year with its ad addressing “toxic masculinity”, but the shaving brand never considered pulling back on its new posture, according to Procter & Gamble’s chief brand officer Marc Pritchard.

Proof of its commitment comes in two new pieces of work released recently, one around a transgender man shaving for the first time with his dad, the other around musician John Legend raising his son.

“We’re shining a light on the best men can be,” Pritchard told a gathering at The Wall Street Journal’s Journal House on the sidelines of the 2019 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

“The people we’re serving today expect that brands and businesses need to take a stand – and expect us to be more of a force for good and a force for growth,” he maintained. (For more, read WARC’s report: Procter’s Pritchard keeps brands focused on powerful – even controversial – brand purposes.)

That wasn’t necessarily obvious, given the initial adverse reaction to its “toxic masculinity” ad, but this was something that had been factored in by the agency behind the campaign.

“We anticipated that discussion would be mixed,” said Debby Reiner, CEO of Grey New York. ”We even said it will be about 50/50” between negative and positive reactions.

“The more we do this [kind of work], the more we see this fast and furious hate. But if you have confidence and conviction in the message, and you can wait out [the negativity] and manage the conversation,” the longer-term impact is much more positive.

Even so, Pritchard was still taken aback by the response. “We did not expect that velocity, that quickly, and with that level of intensity,” he said. “It actually didn’t make any sense to us.”

An analysis of the discussions on social media revealed the haters misunderstood the new brand identity to be an attack on masculinity. Not so, said Pritchard: “It’s about role modelling. It’s about positive behaviour.

“There are a lot of good men in the world. And we’re actually doubling down and accelerating our efforts to get stories out there about men doing good things.”

Sourced from WARC