A well-executed, very funny Brazilian ad from Ogilvy & Mather for Dove Men + Care shampoo that is bound to go viral (translated here). And ads that send up the absurdity of other ads often are very funny. But when an ad does, the absurdity that it’s usually frantically trying to distract you from its own.
And ‘man’, there’s a lot to distract you from. What’s really going on here, underneath the mockery of shampoo ads aimed at women, is a ruthless attempt to exploit male paranoia in order to sell their household the same ‘sensitive’ cosmetic item twice. God forbid that a chap might use his girlfriend or wife’s shampoo — or drink Diet Coke instead of Coke Zero. His shaved balls might drop off.
Dove’s profits certainly would. Why sell one product when you can sell two? The wonderful hypocrisy — or, if you work in advertising, cleverness — of this ad is that it is encouraging men to be ‘more like women’ by actively consuming cosmetics. Cosmetics named after cooing white pigeons and symbols of peace (and larded with moisturisers that makes it impossible to get clean, in my experience). Cosmetics which often cost more than the ‘female’ or unisex variety. But presenting this as a way of saving their imperilled masculinity. The manly strap-on.
Yes! Be more like women! Be susceptible to cosmetics advertising! Use beauty products! Be kind to your skin and hair! But be anxious about this! Worry that it might be the wrong kind of beauty! That you might be emasculated! And buy even more of our straight acting gay product!
This kind of cynical paradox is at the heart of most successful advertising, of course. The product or the brand is presented as both the embodiment of and the answer to the paradox it perpetuates. Men being interested in beautifying themselves isn’t profitable enough – even though their spending on beautification is rapidly approaching parity with women. They must be interested in beautifying and paranoid about their interest in beautifying. This makes them better consumer subjects.
Hence once his ‘feminine’ beauty is pointed out by an ugly male colleague, our Beyonce-styled male protagonist rushes out of the office in a panic, runs to the shop to buy the butchly-packaged male cosmetic product – which in a sign of the times, fills an entire aisle — and then sprints home to wash his hair in what looks suspiciously like spunk. (In fact, Dove + Care is packaged in much the same way anal lube aimed at gay men is.)
Am I the only one who thinks the bearded office drone should have saved his money and his breath? Not to mention his dignity? He looks much better — and considerably less ‘pussy’ — with the flowing locks. I’m sure that the wonderful Russian performance artist Pavel Petel (below), who hilariously, gloriously dramatises the confusing artifice of both masculine and feminine beauty, would agree.
Go on, Dove, grow a pair and sign Pavel up for your next campaign. He’s even got his shopping trolley ready to fill with your manly products.
Tip: Luke Stephens