This paper takes a rhetorical perspective on how ads address the current debate of toxic masculinity and attempt to change its hegemonic ideals. We compare rhetorical strategies in two purpose branding campaigns, Lynx's Is it ok for guys (2017) and Gillette's The Best a Man Can Be (2019), to demonstrate how respective uses of formal and narrative tropes create vastly different narratives about masculinity and therefore also very different audience agency. We argue that Gillette repeats older versions of hegemonic masculinity ideals and call for men to take responsibility and act as protector of the weak, whereas Lynx invites the audience to embrace and identify with less stereotypical identities. We suggest that Gillette's polemical rhetorical approach may generate more public debate on the issue of toxic masculinity, while Lynx's approach builds on a more embracing strategy that encourages the audience to empathise with non-stereotypical forms of masculinity.
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We thank Marketing Lecturer Toms Kreicberg for making us aware of the Lynx campaign.