I like this spunky new hair gel ‘Now can be amazing’ ad from Lynx, currently airing in Australia. Especially since it’s the perfect antidote to the ball-shrivelling dreary paranoia of ads like this.
In fact, it’s probably my favourite ad since Philips/Norelco ‘I’d F*ck Me’ where a young man playfully chats himself up in front of the bathroom mirror. Like the Philips ad this one isn’t afraid of its own shadow, and instead of making apologies just embraces and celebrates male beauty and vanity — and the spirit making the most of it while you have it.
More than this, it’s an ad which encourages young men to be anything that they want to be — to be ‘amazing’. In much the same way that young women have been encouraged for some time.
Hence the ‘Kiss the hottest girl — or the hottest boy’ moment. This is not, as has been proclaimed by gay blogs, a ‘gay kiss’ so much as a bi-curious one, since it’s the same guy kissing the girl and then the boy. Which is in keeping with what we might term the James Dean ethic of the ad — don’t go through life with ‘one hand tied behind your back’. Especially if it’s your best hand.
This is particularly impressive coming from Lynx (known as Axe in the US), a brand which is not usually associated with progressive advertising and in fact often associated instead with a hysterical heterosexuality: ‘I only smell nice coz it attracts women and that proves I’m not gay, OK?’. (Though there have been sort-of exceptions, such as this Axe ad starring Ben Affleck back in 2007.)
But then, I told Lynx all about their hysterical heterosexuality and how dated it was in a world in which young men take male vanity and self care for granted — and aspire to be everything - when they contacted me last summer asking for my input into their re-branding. I’d completely forgotten about this consultation when I saw the ad, and just thought it was cool. I don’t know for sure whether my critique made it into the brief for this ad, but it seems quite possible I may have been admiring my own reflection.
Though being honest, I’m not entirely sure he’s really made the most of his hair with that bird’s nest look.…
Disability charity Scope have been airing a cheeky ad this summer designed to encourage people to donate clothes. It’s a funny tribute to the iconic Levis ‘Laundrette’ ad of 1985 and features a very studly 24-year-old model and personal fitness trainer Jack Eyers in the Nick Kamen role. And boy, does he fill it.
Instead of stripping off to wash his clothes, Eyers denudes himself to donate to the cause. As he gets down to his white boxers we suddenly get a close-up on his hi-tech prosthetic leg, which has remained hidden until now. In terms of the way the ad is shot and structured his prosthesis is basically his penis. It becomes another way of ‘stripping down’ and ‘revealing’ the male body. Of signalling both toughness and vulnerability, passivity and activity, loss and possession at the same time.
And Eyers isn’t shy about it. His prosthesis is, as he says in an interesting interview with the Telegraph’s Theo Merz here, something he likes to show off rather than hide because it looks ‘pretty cool’. It also doesn’t necessarily harm his employment prospects in an industry waking up to both the eye-catching potential and, paradoxically, the ‘normalness’ of disability. (You might also want to check out Theo Merz’s expedition to Newcastle in search of the spornosexual here - in which he discovers the man some Telegraph readers would like to pretend doesn’t exist is terrifyingly, ab-tauteningly real.)
Even less shy is US Marine vet turned underwear model Alex Minsky, who has been garnering a lot of well-deserved attention for his saucy shoots — and most particularly for the way, with his body art, sculpted muscles, styled facial and head hair, he has totally aestheticised himself, prosthesis and all. He’s also a model who clearly isn’t afraid to become a form of performance art. Splendidly kinky performance art. (Some naked selfies were leaked earlier this year — which only served to, err, enhance his reputation.)
Perhaps part of the appeal of the buff, sexualised chap with prosthetic limb(s) is not just the ‘inspirational story’, but also the fantasy of total control over the body — even after something as traumatising as amputation. And of course the hi-tech, fascinating prosthesis that seems to bring ‘bionic’ powers blends with the cyborg nature of spornosexuality itself — a bodily merging with technology, in which the body is ‘machine tooled’ into something more exciting by nutritional and medical science, Technogym decline presses and Nair for Men. (Though for most this merging is done by uploading smartphone selfies to Facebook.)
I analysed the ‘Laundrette’ ad in Male Impersonators as a ‘seminal’ moment in the objectification of the male body — its ‘looked-at-ness’. Kamen’s strip in the living rooms of the UK in the mid-1980s (along with several other ads in that campaign, which increasingly sought to substitute the product for the model’s unshowable penis) really did mark a moment at which we woke up to the male body as a fully-fledged object of desire. Everyone in the laundrette, male and female, is having a really good look. And it’s worth mentioning he’s doing his own washing — no ‘little woman’ in his life to do it for him.
Like Top Gun, which was released the following year, ‘Laundrette’ packages this new male narcissism as ‘traditional’ and ‘retro’, when the real 1950s it is notionally located in confined this kind of fare to underground gay mags like AMG — certainly not prime-time TV.
Thirty years on we’re all still having a really good look. So much so that we require much more visual stimulation. Our gaze is more demanding, more penetrating. Back then Kamen’s body was pantingly-described as ‘hunky’, but now his slim, svelte body looks not rather coy in comparison to today’s ripped, pumped, inked and sexed-up spornos, with or without gleaming, well-oiled prosthetic limbs.
Ten unforgettable car ads from the past four decades that transcended both cars and advertising and came to symbolise an age
by Mark Simpson
Fiat Strada – ‘Hand Built by Robots’ (1979)
A factory full of robots assembles cars to the strain of Rossini’s Figaro – with nary a soul to be seen.
Today this legendary ad directed by Hugh Hudson seems like slightly dull documentary, but in 1979 it was thrilling Sci-Fi. The graceful movement of the cars and robots set to classical music seems inspired by the weightless scene in Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey (1968). It was also prophetic – proffering a vision of a world without a working class; a world where fickle people are replaced by much more reliable, much cleverer, much shinier, much more obedient things.
Famously satirised by Not The Nine O’Clock News in a sketch that contrasted the British reality of over-manned car manufacturing in the 1970s: ‘Built By Roberts’.
Renault 25 – ‘One of Your Better Decisions’ (1984)
After dropping Jasper and his violin off at a leafy prep school a couple discuss their plans to take over the world on the drive back to their country pile, while fiddling with plastic buttons on the Renault’s dashboard.
An ad that everyone loved to hate (that woman’s voice; that man’s arrogance) but it summed up the go-getting Thatcherite entrepreneurialism of the early 80s – ‘I’m starting my own business’. It also plays, briefly, with the idea of divorce, which by the 1980s was becoming a major theme in people’s lives.
Despite (Margaret) Thatcherism, it’s a risibly sexist ad. Rather than discuss life-decisions that ‘concern the house, the kids’ – and his car – ‘David’ presents ‘Joanne’ with a fait accompli, which she just gushes over: ‘David, that’s fantastic.’ Essentially she’s the posh version of the woman in this 1974 Ford Cortina ad:
VW Golf Mk2 – ‘Changes’ (1987)
A Princess Di lookalike (Paula Hamilton) storms out of a mews house, shoves her wedding ring through the letterbox, hurls her pearls and fur coat – but stops before dropping her car keys down the drain. She keeps the car – which turns out to be a Golf. ‘If only everything in life was as reliable as a Volkswagen’
Directed by David Bailey this is perhaps the definitive 1980s ad, capturing the unabashed materialism and shoulder-padded glamour of the age – but also the ‘changes’ that Alan Price is singing about (the song was written for a friend of his going through a divorce). Allied to that, car advertising is now recognising women’s increasing independence – one of the main reasons for the rising divorce rates – and appealing to them as drivers rather than passengers.
Like many iconic ads it also proved prophetic: it wasn’t until some years later that news of Princess Di’s troubled marriage reached the public.
Peugeot 405 – ‘Take My Breath Away’ (1988)
A car drives through a field of burning and – unaccountably – exploding sugar cane, while a Rolexed hand coolly changes gears, all to the power ballad strains of Berlin’s ‘Take My Breath Away’.
Today this ‘high concept’ ad looks like a guilt-tripping public information film about the evils of global warming, but in the 80s it symbolised perfectly the afterburner ambition of that fabulously psychotic ‘Top Gun’ decade – particularly that of the British advertising industry itself, which was a kind of Soho Hollywood, manufacturing glossy, glamorous 45 second dreams that set Brits aflame with consumer lust.
Renault Clio – ‘Papa? Nicole?’ (1991–8)
A haute bourgeois father and his young, svelte daughter sneak and nip around the South of France in their respective Clios, both conducting ‘secret’, very French, very stylish affairs.
Probably the most popular UK car advertisement ever made, running in various instalments for most of the 90s, saw ‘Nicole’ recognised by more Britons than the then Prime Minister John Major. It caught the growing yen of the British middle classes for a piece of the Dordogne (or Tuscan) dream. The 1990s were the decade when we learned to ‘stop being so English’ (as the IKEA ad had it) – and become much more continental in our aspirations and mores.
The traditional chauvinism of car ads is now receding into the distance: Nicole is a single young woman shown driving rather fast down narrow winding streets – to sow her wild oats.
Audi A4 – ‘Not My Style’ (1994)
A vulgar squash-playing, loudmouth yuppie stereotype test-drives a cleverly photographed car the viewer assumes is a BMW – before he gets out, revealing it’s actually an Audi, and announces: ‘It’s not my style, know what I mean?’.
This ad exploits the early 90s backlash against/guilt over the vulgar excesses of 80s materialism, but cleverly, and somewhat hypocritically, manages to associate the Audi brand with the excitement of BMW – while making it clear that Audi drivers are a much better class of customer than the people who drive BMWs. Even the disdainful Audi dealer looks like he’s dealing art rather than cars.
The final off-screen mobile phone call, ‘Gabby, tell Charles I’m on me way’, has become a timeless classic end-line.
Peugeot – ‘Search For the Hero’ (1995)
A long montage of heroic, occasionally arty thoughts, apparently those of a square-jawed exec driving the Peugeot, all to the uplifting strains of M-People’s ‘Search For the Hero’.
By the mid 1990s the backlash against the previous decade’s selfishness had produced a yen for vaguely ethical, uplifting and ‘progressive’ car advertising – before environmental issues had become the defining middle-class concern. This search for a vaguely ethical hero was answered just a couple of years later with the election of the square-jawed exec Tony Blair. And we know how that turned out.
Honda Accord – ‘The Cog’ (2003)
A Heath-Robinson style concatenation installation made entirely of Honda Accord parts, filmed in two continuous 60 second takes.
Perhaps the most famous and memorable UK car ad of the 21st Century, ‘The Cog’ got around the problem of increasing fragmentation of media and audiences by becoming an ‘how did they do that?’ event – and also by employing ‘virality’. In the UK the 120 second version was first aired during a commercial break in ITV’s coverage of 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix and garnered acres of editorial. In most other markets the cost of such a lengthy TV segment proved prohibitively expensive and instead the ad was viewed online – quickly going viral.
‘The Cog’, which appears to have ‘borrowed’ heavily from the 1987 art film The Way Things Go, captured the growing interest in modern art installations in the UK: the Tate Modern, Bankside had opened just three years before, proving a ‘runaway’ success.
Skoda Fabia – ‘Cake’ (2007)
An army of workers in white hats and overalls assemble a Hansel and Gretel car entirely out of marzipan, sponge and jelly, lubricated with Golden Syrup.
Another kind of TV art installation, but a much tastier one, this ad for Fabia cars was snapped up by the British public, bringing as it did together two of their greatest loves: cars and cake. Targeting couples over 35 in general – and perhaps Jo Brand in particular – it no doubt benefited from the rise and rise of cooking and baking TV shows/food porn in the Noughties.
The ad suggests a kind of ‘artisan’ car, lovingly assembled by swarms of happy, highly-skilled workers – the opposite promise of ‘hand made by robots’, two decades earlier.
Toyota GT86 – ‘The Real Deal’ (2012)
“Can you feel it? Can you feel the thrill of being alive?’ asks a pixel man driving around a driver-assist, virtual world. ‘Neither can I. There is no ‘real’ in this town.” He then discovers a Toyota GT86, escapes unreality at high speed, pursued by helicopters, crashing through the CGI barrier into ‘the real’.
The digital, sterile, possibly sexless future prophesised by ‘Hand built by Robots’ has come true. Much too true for some. This ad for a sports car exploits that Top Gear–ish frustration, but like many iconic ads it wants it both ways. On the one hand the irresistible red-blooded reality of this car will save you from the anaemic Uncanny Valley of modern, online life – on the other, it’s suggesting that it might be almost as exciting and fast as the cars that you drive on your Xbox.
Appropriately enough, the ad was banned by the ASA.
This bombastic ad for Paco Rabanne’s new fragrance for men ‘Invictus’, released this Summer, stars Aussie rugger bugger Nick Youngquest, his muscles, his tatts, his beard, and most of all his obliques. (They’re the diagonal lines above those track pants with the really worn waist elastic — pointing to his, ahem, priceless package.)
The world’s paparazzi bathe him in money-shot white flashes as he strolls through a stadium showing off his oiled, winning body with a rather self-satisfied grin. Not that we hold it against Nick, of course. We wish we could hold it against him.
The whole ad with its Olympian motifs seems to be referencing the ‘Gods of the Stadium’, ‘Gods of Football’ sporno vibe — which Nick also appeared in a few years back.
Also with his arms in the air, inviting our attentions:
‘Metrosexual goes mainstream as men outspend women on footwear’ announced a headline in the Daily Telegraphlast week, dealing a death blow to yet another stand-up comedian gendered generalisation stand-by.
I have to admit that even metrodaddy was somewhat taken aback that men have overhauled women in the shoe fetishism department, and so quickly. But this may just be because I’m over 45 — apparently the one age group where men still spend less than women on footwear.
New research from the consumer analysis outfit Mintel shows 25–34 year-old males spent an average of £178 on everything from shoes to trainers and sandals in the past year, while women in the same age bracket spent £171. Among 16–24 year-olds the gender ‘reversal’ is even more noticeable, with younger men spending 15 per cent more than women of the same age. Men aged 35–44 also spent more: £157, against £138 for women.
The man from Mintel didn’t mince his words about what this all means:
Richard Cope, the market research specialist Mintel’s principle [sic] trends analyst, added the shock figures confirmed that metrosexuality was now “in the mainstream.” He insisted that younger men than are more worried than ever before about their appearance, are taking more time to “groom” and staring at the mirror.
He said: “Taking pride in and taking greater confidence from maintaining a well groomed appearance now defines what it is to be ‘a man’ in today’s society.
“Rather than being in a minority, men who buy grooming products to boost self-esteem or feel more attractive are now in the majority.”
He added: “Metrosexuality has successfully moved into the mainstream.
“We’re seeing men occupy previously ‘feminine’ space in the home — spending more time on housework and parenting — but also as consumers, embracing yoga, beauty goods, and the act of shopping itself.”
Quite so. Metrosexuality is about men doing and using and being things previously seen as ‘feminine’. About breaking free of rigid gender stereotypes and becoming everything — and buying everything and anything that makes you look/feel better. Why do young men love shoes? For the same reason women do.
But there’s a paradox here: Now that young men spend more than women on shoes, hair dryers, holiday clothes, gym membership and supplements — and almost as much as on clothes and cosmetics - they are also earning less than women of the same age.
You may remember I recently blogged about the Brazilian Dove Men+Care shampoo ad in Brazil. The one with the male office drone transformed, to his horror, into a beautiful Beyonce Drag Queen. Because he used the wrong kind of cosmetic. The kind that doesn’t double Dove’s money.
It had a rather laughable message, but at least it was funny and well made.
These British ads for Dove Men+Care shower gel and deodorant currently running on UKTV are different. They have a laughable message but aren’t funny or well-made. In fact, they are so dull, so grey, so patronising and so painfully straight acting faux-blokey (all the men who use our male beauty products have lots of kids and go to the footie) it’s positively menbarrassing. It’s like an ad scripted by Loaded in 1994.
The ‘joke’ is that men aren’t really human. They’re machinery or breeding pets that need a ‘man manual’ — geddit? — to maintain them. They’re objects — in the real, unsexy, inanimate meaning of the word. And if men don’t use Dove’s MAN deodorant their arms will fall off. Or their balls might be infertile.
Can you imagine the outcry if Dove took this kind of ‘objectifying’ approach with a beauty product aimed at women? But of course, that wouldn’t happen. Because Dove/Unilever is the gigantic corporation behind the women-are-all-beautiful-and-whole-human-beings (so long as they’re white and young — and buy our products) ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’.
Whilst we’re cringing, here’s another menbarrassing ad. One that manages to patronise both men and women. It’s for something called Gillette Fusion ProGlide Styler (which hopefully is less cumbersome to use than say), currently airing in the US. Although it is also painfully straight acting, at least there’s more to look at, especially if Kate Upton is your kind of crumpet — and apparently she is plenty of guys’ idea of a hot buttery treat.
But really, could anything be creepier than the way that pimpish guy with the shit-eating grin introduces the female models telling us what they think about men’s body hair before they do, as if they might otherwise forget their lines? Is this really what reassuring heterosexuality looks like?
Compare it to the refreshing cleverness and directness of the Philips ‘I’d f*ck me’ ad. (OK, OK I’ll admit I fancied the male model in the silly sun hat more than Kate Upton.…)
Given the fact that porn is the lingua franca of men’s body shaving, I think we all know what they mean by ‘edge’.
As an avid voyeur of the media’s marketing of the male body I meant to write about this new Diet Coke advert ‘Gardener’ when it first strutted its stuff a a month or so back, but it completely slipped my mind — like a chilled, beading soft drink can in a lubed hand. Apologies. Obviously there’s not enough NutraSweet in my bloodstream.
For its 30th anniversary Diet Coke, a sticky, fizzy, calorie-free brown drink aimed at women (Coke Zero is the ‘male’ equivalent — the girly word ‘diet’ replaced by a manly statistic), has resurrected its most memorable campaign trope, The Diet Coke Hunk.
Back in the 1990s Diet Coke succeeded in connecting itself with the emergence of female sexual assertiveness — and also of course emerging male submissiveness, objectification and commodification: after all, a ‘hunk’ is a faceless, nameless, if appetising thing. In doing so Diet Coke made itself modern and tasty.
Naturally, everyone in the new ad, now set in the brave new, artificially sweetened, colour-enhanced metrosexy world that Diet Coke helped usher in, is slim, young and attractive. No one here needs to do anything as vulgar as actually diet. Diet Coke is a lifestyle, a sensibility — certainly not a utility or a necessity. The women look like they’re taking a break from shooting on location for the British version of Sex in the City. Or at least, the British version of Daughters of Sex in the City.
The Hunk is a blandly attractive boy with a fashion beard — he could easily be a contestant on Take Me Out, and probably has been. As usual in Diet Coke Land The Hunk is labouring away in some menial, manual capacity while the middle class women, relaxing from a higher vantage point (remember ‘Diet Coke Break’?), enjoy literallylooking down on him. He cuts the grass; they sit on it. He works; they watch.
When one of them rolls a can of the product down the hill towards the sweating proletarian this seems like a hostile act. It could after all have gone into the spinning lawn mower blades and caused damage and injury. Perhaps even scarred that pretty face!
Instead it comes to rest on the side of The Hunk’s mower. When the thirsty, sweaty chap opens the can it sprays him with the contents - in slow, money shot motion. The women from their lofty, grassy vantage point find this hilarious and it seems as if this had been the plan all along. Maybe they even shook the can before rolling it down the hill. The minxes.
So now our man of toil is covered in ejaculated stickiness. And our triumphant, thoroughly modern women have had their fun.
However, when he takes his t-shirt off and wrings it out, flashing his abs and carefully flexing his large pectoral muscles, the women’s jaws drop. The look they give The Hunk’s body is one of total, gob-smacked longing and very unladylike lust.
The Hunk seems entirely aware of his effect on the women and in fact this is both his revenge and his reward. He smiles a knowing smile over his shoulder as he heads off, continuing his mowing with a spring in his step. Objectification is a kind of gratification.
As the short ‘teaser’ below makes pornographically clear, with its close ups on undressing Hunk’s belt buckle and Voyeur Lady’s lips, Diet Coke is quite shamelessly, quite explicitly marketing itself as the calorie free, carbonated phallus.
I don’t have much to say about the much-discussed latest Beckham ad for his H&M pants, directed by fellow LA-loving Brit Guy Ritchie, in which he runs through Beverly Hills in his white slippers as the props and scenery conspire to remove his clothes, Cupid Stunt–like.
Except: Those slippers must be really, really snug to stay on.
And: How sweet that Guy Ritchie has graduated from making homophobic gay porn for straight men, such as Lock Stock and Snatch, to making gay porn for, well, everyone.
OK, while I found the rest of it, like the underwear itself, fairly forgettable (especially the Cheever cliché) - and even when he has no lines Becks evidently still can’t act to save his dressing gown — the final shot is more interesting.
Unlike those eye-poppingly Photoshopped Armani ads the emphasis in this ad commodifying the world’s most famous man’s body seems to be not on his basket but his on his bum.
And what a hungry bum it appears to be.
This shot (reprised twice in the ad) is probably intended to demonstrate the lovely stretchiness of the lycra-cotton mix and rub up against our commodity fetishism. But it looks like something else is quite stretchy too.
Perhaps the real reason I don’t have much more to say about Beck’s latest is because I’m very distracted. By the hilarious parody clip below made by some ‘cheeky’ British Army lads for nowt which has recently been brought to my attention.
Not only does it represent the ultimate in all those ‘soldiers acting gay’ vids (ending up as a semi-simulated gay orgy), it also represents a much funnier, much metrosexier example of ‘self-objectification’ and male exhibitionism and ‘passivity’ than Becks and Ritchie’s big budget bore. (
Plus they seem to have got around the packet problem by shamelessly stuffing their crotches.
Basically, it’s just so much more satisfying.
Besides, the squaddie who opens the video — and whose idea the whole thing probably was - has got a better arse than Becks. He doesn’t need a booty double.