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Category: advertising (page 1 of 4)

Heavy-Handed Muller Light

As you will know all too well if you’re a regular visitor to this blog, I don’t have a problem with male ‘objectification‘. More please.

But there’s objectification and there’s objectification. Despite not being altogether innocent of sadistic tendencies, I’m not sure I’m also cool with treating hot ‘objects’ that gladden the eye as idiots who deserve a good slapping for making us perve over them.

OK, I might think it sometimes, but I probably wouldn’t say it out loud.

But food giant Muller have no such inhibitions. They’re acting out this sadistic ambivalence loud and proud in front of millions. In their latest TV ad a young, attractive, nearly naked pole vaulter with a smooth, edible body is scoped by the camera in extreme close-up while a young, pretty, also fit – but less naked and less ‘objectified’ – blond woman scoffs the smooth, rather less edible-looking product.

She is so excited by the ‘fat free’ claim for the product that she yells it out loud – ‘FAT FREE!’ – distracting the vaulter, who hits his buff chums in the head – and in the butt – with his BIG POLE.

It’s slightly reminiscent of the recent Bonmarche TV ad campaign, in which random men were ‘accidentally’ beaten up by sassy ‘ladies’ – to communicate ‘female empowerment’ and sell clothes.

Though in the Pole Vaulter ad, apart perhaps from the fact he glances at the yoghurt scoffer and raises a wolfish eyebrow, there doesn’t appear to be much of a pretense at some kind of dubious feminist statement. And of course, the smacked about men are objectified as well.

We could, if we were inclined to give a giant multinational the benefit of the doubt, perhaps treat this as a one-off by Muller (annual turnover 5BN Euros). But this is not the first time Muller have beaten up on (fit) men.

In fact, there’s a whole series of ads from the last few years flogging their (apparently female-targeted) food product, all using the same formula: gawp at men’s bodies to get the viewer’s attention, and then punish the male trollops for being so damn hot and making us drool over them.

HUR-HUR the dishy lifeguard I was drooling over fell on his arse!

 

LOL! the hot volleyballer I was eating up got hit in the head!

 

HAR! The tasty swimmer I was drinking in fell off the diving board!

 

OMG! The delish Greek god lost his big ball!

Now, I don’t think these ads are something to report Muller to the ASA over – though they would be in a flash if it was a bloke eating yoghurt and sexy women were getting get hit in the head. And I’m certainly not ‘offended’ by them – but I am intrigued how Muller and their ad agency clearly think this is such a cool and successful format that they keep repeating it.

Perhaps the fact that Muller is a Bavarian company needs to be factored in here. Bavaria has a strong tradition of ‘physical comedy‘. In other words, men falling over is fucking funny in the land of lederhosen and slapsticked thighs. And at least in this regard, Bavarian humour is globalised humour – it doesn’t need dialogue/dubbing.

But it’s the way that slapstick sexualisation is used here that is key. In most of these ads the (idealised) female consumer appears oblivious to these (even more idealised) males – she only has eyes for Muller Light. But the camera lingers over the ripped, lean, nearly-naked male at least as much as over the product – because the viewer is likely not quite so interested in gazing at fat free yoghurt as they are in feasting on mouthwatering man-flesh.

(Full disclosure: this is probably the only reason I noticed the ad.)

Of course, the close-ups on the woman eating the yoghurt are ‘sexualised’ too, in that orgasmic, Cadburys Flake fellatio advertising cliche. But this is mostly to portray the plastic pot of aerated dairy products as even ‘yummier’ than the ‘hunks’.

That’s, like, totally objectifying. But pretty much a standard trope in mainstream advertising these days, and rather more common on TV than the ‘real’ or traditional form of objectification, i.e. of women. Apart from anything else, it doesn’t provoke protests – and anyway, most TV viewers are female and most TV ads target female viewers.

Where the Muller ads go further is in debasing the male love-object. The hunks need to be punished for being so damn tempting. They obviously ‘love themselves’ – who wouldn’t, with those ‘fat free’ muscular bodies? So they need to be taken down a peg or two. Or just hit in the head.

After we’ve eaten them alive.

Just For Men & Hipsters

Remember Just For Men? Or ‘JFM’ as it likes to call itself now. Well, it never went away – and it’s all over social media. Though perhaps it’s just my social media – because those pesky algorithms know how old and grey I am now.

Launched in the late 1980s by Combe Incorporated of White Plains NY (who also market Grecian 2000), Just For Men was a pioneering mainstream male vanity brand. If incredibly cheesy. They became a byword for camp in the sense of failed seriousness. And that quasi religious American style of a life transformed by a slightly shonky product.

Middle-aged men popped up on our TV screens concerned about their grey hair – but also concerned about dyeing it. About being inauthentic and feminine and fussy. What a dilemma!

Just For Men to the rescue! As the name suggested – nay, insisted – it wasn’t at all feminine. And it ‘naturally’ ‘shaded’ away grey hair. So you wouldn’t look Too Gay. Even better, your wife – and let’s be sure to emphasise here that every single man who used JFM had at least one – gave you permission!

‘I REALLY didn’t want my husband to colour his grey hair!’ exclaims the over-excited wife in the ad below from 1993. (Why? Because people might guess he’s an actor?)

Husband: ‘But then I discovered this, the hair colouring called Just for Men!’

And lo, with no fuss or faffing – in just five minutes! – the grey is ‘blended away’ in the privacy of your own family home for a ‘totally natural look’.

Cue hysterically happy heterosexual couple.

As a final heterosexual reassurance, we’re told ‘Eight out of ten women prefer the Just For Men look to the grey look.’

Things have changed in the Just For Men universe in the intervening decades, just as cultural attitudes to male beauty and ageing have changed. They’re now also targeting men in their late 20s and 30s concerned about the appearance of a few grey hairs. That I can’t even see.

Though of course they are still emphasising that JFM isn’t ‘hair dye’ – and isn’t ‘fussy’. Hence manly names like ‘Autostop’, and applicators designed to look like garage tools.

A big ‘growth’ area recently has been beards, of course. Though again, euphemisms are still in fashion: ‘fuller’ is manvertising for ‘dyed’.

But the wife has gone. She, along with the endearing naffness of the original ads, has been replaced by a spotless hipster kitchen – with really cool chemistry lab style coffee filters! ‘The Husband’ is as attractive and cool and singular as his fittings. If Patrick Bateman had a beard – and you just know that he would today, and that it would be the best beard ever – I guess it would be getting a bit grey now.

I also initially read PREP with a lowercase ‘r’. I guess Just For Men are no longer so anxious about appearing like they’re just for men, after all.

On the subject of beard fetishism, the quest for a ‘fuller’ beard seems to be something of a widely-shared obsession. You can even buy supplements like the one below ‘Man Up’ from ‘Beard Daddy’ that promise to make your pride and joy thicker. Buying it may or may not make your beard ‘fuller’ but it will definitely make you look like a bit of a prick: ‘Fear the daddy beard’.

Oh, I do. I really do.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo The Electronic Sex Doll

This ad starring Cristiano Ronaldo flogging body exercise electrodes called SIXPAD – or SEXPAD? – has been airing UK television for some months now, but every time it comes on it still makes me gape – pardon my French.

It’s both funny and disturbing, and in truth I had avoided writing about it until now because I hoped it was just a bad dream (I usually glimpse it on late-night TV). But it isn’t going away.

The ad itself is incredibly camp. Or kitsch. Or cheesey. Or all of the above. Likewise the voiceover intoning ‘Bwody Rewolution!’ It’s almost as if the ad seems to know that its premise – you can get a body like Ronaldo’s and grow yourself a six-pack by spending £350 on a souped up vibrator and not moving a muscle – is hilarious and just decides to go with that.

But all this is eclipsed by the crazy campery of Ronaldo apparently playing the part of a Japanese sex robot – wearing only his own brand designer underwear. Or a male Seven of Nine from Star Trek Voyager. Though this is perhaps the uncanny valley where spornosexuality is taking us.

Unlike Seven of Nine however, Ronaldo is entirely passive. Animated only by the pulses of electricity from the black leathery things that seem to have attached themselves like a kinky Sci-Fi leech to his abs and bis. The pulsing of his muscles in time to the music is kinda creepy – but also kinda sexy. There is something sex toy cam-show about it all.

The (post) money-shot is the bit where he wipes his abs down and grins at the camera. Or maybe he’s just advertising his easy-maintenance qualities.

Some might describe Ronaldo’s performance as ‘wooden’ – or possibly ‘silicone’. But his acting is still better than David Beckham’s in ‘King Arthur’.

And some might cite this ad as more proof of Ronaldo’s egotism. But I would rather take it as evidence that he’s a good sport.

For the right fee.

UPDATE 28/05/2017

It seems SIXPAD read this blogpost and decided to actually go ahead and make a Ronaldo sex doll. Albeit one that looks like Pietro Boselli:

 

Artisan Abstinence Pants

‘Are you tired of manhandling your manhood?’

No siree bob. But thanks all the same for offering to help out.

Of course these anti-fap pants, ‘made of Beechwood’ and dreamt up when ‘motorcycling through Colombia’, had to be from Brooklyn.

And cost $28.

The official point of these environmentally-friendly contraptions seems to be delicately saving you from the horror of actually having to touch your own penis or ball sack when adjusting your undercarriage. Or save others from the indecorous sight of you rummaging about.

But judging by the design, the name ‘Eletrunks’ – and the long-shot ‘footage’ of the very uncircumcised inventor demonstrating them while apparently doing some kind of arousing yoga in the park – the (semi) hard-sell is that using this new-fangled pee-wee winching system means you have a huge hose.

Despite this, and an entire page on Men’s Health treating them entirely seriously and declaring ‘No guy wants to adjust his junk in public’ these pants may struggle to sell in the UK. Here, wandering around with your hands down the front of your trackies having a really good grope and fondle – and just basically checking that it’s still all there and still lovely – is a favourite pastime for many young men who don’t possibly have quite the same concern for their environment as chaps from Brooklyn.

by Billy975

Irritating Male Skincare

Men’s skincare commercials can be the pits. What’s the point of ‘all natural’ ingredients if the ad brings you out in a rash?

This one from the butchly-named Bulldog currently airing on UK television, is one of the most irritating I’ve seen – in a very competitive field.

In it two bearded elves beavering away in Santa’s workshop talk about how much they ‘love Christmas’. Then the one on the left announces: ‘We spend all year making gifts for people all over the world but we don’t get anything for each other. I mean who says guys can’t give other guys gifts, right?’.

His chum doesn’t answer. He just looks terrified.

‘So… I got you something,’ continues the chirpy one, bringing out a tube of Bulldog. ‘It’s moisturiser! For men!’

But they’re elves, not men. American elves. No wonder his chum doesn’t know what to do with the moisturiser for men.

Of course, that’s not the real reason for his strange behaviour. It’s because his buddy has failed to recognise the ‘man rules’ that dictate that men don’t give other men presents. Let alone moisturiser! Even moisturiser for men! Ho, ho, ho!

Bulldog is a UK brand that has had a lot of success in the US, probably in part because of that butch name – America likes its metrosexuality with manly strap-ons.

Though quite why anyone would spend their hard-earned cash on a moisturiser named after a dog with a wrinkly face I have no idea. No matter how reassuringly ‘fierce’, ‘alpha male’ and ‘big penised’ the brand connotation is.

This ad though is airing on UK television and seems to have been made by a British advertising agency. So I’m not sure why the elves are American, or why the ad is based on ‘man rules’ that I suspect are a bigger deal in the US than the UK.

Exploiting the ‘comedy awkwardness’ of men giving presents to other men is retrograde enough in an ad for male cosmetics, but this ad milks the ‘awkwardness’ to the point where there is almost a sense of homo panic about it.

The giftee appears unable to actually accept the gift, or even acknowledge or process its existence. It’s like his buddy just slapped a giant tube of anal lube on the desk.

Though that would actually be funny. Unlike this ad.

Then again, maybe I’ve been played. Maybe there’s a follow-up ad in which the awkward elf gets over himself and gives his chum a big manly hug and some ball antiperspirant gel.

Balls on the Box: Male Grooming’s Groping For New Markets

by Mark Simpson

All these nicely-presented years on from the birth of the metrosexual – he turned 22 this month – and my prediction that he represented the future of masculinity, out and proud male vanity shows no sign of getting bored with itself, or running out of cash to splash. ‘Male grooming’ is still booming: it’s a fine-smelling, thoroughly-moisturised market estimated to top £14.8bn globally this year.

But now that almost every post-pubescent male shares his bathroom with a buff puff there is a danger that the market could become as saturated as men’s skin. In order to continue growing, and create demands for new products, male grooming increasingly has to boldly go where no ad has gone before. Groping male consumers intimately in the quest for new frontiers of needs.

And this TV commercial currently airing in the UK is very bold, as Julian and Sandy would say. It features a man playing with his balls on prime time.

‘Only a few decades ago if you wore underarm spray you were not considered to be a REAL MAN,’ says the strangely robotic (butch?) voiceover, as we watch a young, worked out, fashion-bearded male performing his most personal ablutions in his mirrored privy. ‘A few decades’ looks like a millenia.

The Scottish-American text-to-speech app goes on to tell us that talcum powder ‘around your damp bits’ was acceptable back then, but ‘black suave underpants put paid to that messy solution’.

Yes, those black suave underpants that I’m probably to blame for.

He continues (I had to replay this bit several times to understand what was being said): ‘Lots has evolved since then, but men are still just as badly-designed downstairs.’

Are we? Speak for yourself, dear!

But before we can ponder that statement, or assess whether sweaty knackers are really such a major social problem, we’re slapped in the face with a irresistible question:

‘Surely modern man deserves the choice of being comfortable all day?’

Well, who can argue with choice, comfort and deservingness? And besides, the model is nodding in agreement at this point. Or maybe ecstasy – he’s clearly handling himself now. While admiring his reflection in the mirror.

‘Welcome to Below the Belt grooming and fresh and dry balls!’

Thanks! I think.

Then the corny kiss-off line which is, it has to be said, the dogs bollocks:

‘Your balls are safe in our hands!’

The effect is to make the ad – sorry, testimonial – a WTF? moment. Is this is a spoof? Is this product real? Or is there some double entendre here that I’ve somehow missed? Surely they can’t be being this direct on the tellybox?

And then you find yourself wondering well, why shouldn’t balls be mentioned in telly ads, without coyness or evasion? Even if yours aren’t ‘badly-designed’? Men’s balls exist! They have needs! They have feelings! (Which can, as any man will tell you, be hurt very, very easily.) And they need to breath! It’s about time they stopped having to hide and came out.

The sweaty nads ad is perhaps not quite as clever or funny – or even as ‘ballsy’ – as this ‘I’d f*ck me’ US Phillips manscaping ad from a few years back which took male vanity to its logical, self-loving conclusion, but it’s up there. Or down there. Certainly we’ve come a long way since this anxious 1968 UK commercial that sought to tell us that spray-on deodorant wasn’t girly or gay at all because manly, pub-going, bird-chasing, working class England footie heroes used it (and it was kept in the locker-room first aid cabinet because it was purely medicinal and not at all cosmetic).

Post-Beckham, all professional footballers have monogrammed Luis Vuitton washbags filled with the latest, most expensive male cosmetics issued along with their football strip.

Some of course will worry that the Below the Belt ad is just more horrifying evidence that metrosexuality has gone Too Far. That men are being emasculated by their ‘girly’ vanity. That along with ‘extreme’ manscaping trends such as increasing numbers of men apparently shaving their legs, and the arrival of ‘scrotal lifts‘ consumerism now has men by the balls.

And perhaps it’s true that consumerism is trying to create new male neuroses merely to sell more products, in much the same way that it has done with women for decades. That’s a kind of equality, I suppose.

Others might argue that it merely comes down to more freedom, that as the ad says, ‘surely modern man deserves the choice’. You don’t have to Immac your legs or baste your bollocks if you don’t want to. Pants may have got tighter but masculinity is much less restrictive than it used to be, and as a result men are less inhibited than they used to be – and more likely to do things that might seem a bit silly.

Besides, isn’t it a good thing that men are being encouraged to ‘examine’ their testicles daily – especially during Movember? Not all bollocks are created equal – some balls really are sweatier than others. And maybe testicle antiperspirant gel is a potential solution to that terrible modern scourge of ‘manspreading’.

As for me, my main concern is simply this: does Below the Belt come in different flavours?

h/t: Peter Watkins

Sassy Misandry: Abusing Men isn’t ‘Bloomin’ Awesome!’

Mark Simpson on how beating up on men has become a painful corporate cliche

(Originally appeared in The Daily Telegraph, 01/11/2016)

Does the empowerment of women need to take the form beating up on men? And isn’t it anyway something of self-defeating strategy?

These are the questions often lurking in the back of my mind when I read one of those sassy columns that seem to be a list of insults hurled at men – or MEN! – as a sex. But I usually think twice about voicing them.

Apart from anything else, even though it’s almost never stated, it’s straight men as a sex that are in the crosshairs. Since I’m not terribly straight, and thus not exactly a fully paid up member of the patriarchy, it’s generally wise for me to keep my head, er, down in the (hetero)sex war.

But then I saw this ‘Own the Day’ TV ad for women’s clothing chain Bonmarché, currently airing on UK prime time, which seems to go one sassy step further – suggesting that casual assault on men by women is “bloomin’ awesome!”. And funny.

That couldn’t be the case, could it? I re-watched it a couple of times, hoping to have my humourless, censorious first impressions dashed.

I really don’t want to be an advertising traffic warden.

But the more times you watch the ad, the clearer the implication is. Female ’empowerment’ is about giving men a good, slapstick pasting. In addition, of course, to buying clothes from Bonmarché.

Although the pasting is presented as ‘accidental’ – it’s obviously not meant to be taken that way. It all happens to men. As a result of women’s ‘empowered’ behaviour.

In the space of just 30 seconds, three ‘ladies’ (the form of address the ad itself adopts) trip a male jogger, slam a café door into a man holding a smoothie, knock a phone out of a man’s hand into his coffee, cause a male waiter carrying a tray to slip and fall, thump a male diner in the head with a large handbag, and slap the hand of another (apparently) male diner trying to attract the attention of the already downed male waiter.

Without breaking a sweat. Or even noticing.

Of course, the ostensible message is that women should pay no heed to men or anxieties about body image when they buy clothes, and in effect just dress for themselves – ‘this is me and I feel bloomin’ awesome’. Or as the blurb on the Bonmarché website puts it: “’Own the Day’ is all about empowering women and inspiring confidence.”

Which is great. Or it would be if it weren’t for the way that men have to pay for this sentiment.

The feel-good message of confidence is completely undermined by the hypocritical execution – in effect, the ad is all about men. About beating them up.

One of the men in the ad, with the possible exception of the male jogger gawping at lady #1 declaiming to camera, did anything to warrant being slapped, tripped or thumped on the head. Except perhaps the crime of possessing a penis. They were all happily minding their own business. Or waiting tables.

In fact, it begins to look like the men are being punished for not paying attention to the women. So maybe I would have got a handbag in the back of the head, too.

Yes, it’s ‘just a silly ad’, frantically trying to draw attention to itself. And yes, the ad also seems to be making fun slightly of its own language of empowerment – perhaps because in the end it’s a commercial, not a political statement.

But the bottom line appears to be that a spot of misandry – contempt for men as a sex – is good for business.

I’m not suggesting the ad should be protested or banned – though there would be with enormous kerfuffle if the genders were reversed. But I would suggest that the ad is an indication that sassy misandry, once justified as a ‘necessary corrective’ to the patriarchy and women’s subjugation, is so common these days it has become a corporate cliché.

Which in turn would suggest that it’s no longer quite so necessary – that instead it’s shaded into abuse. And that’s not very empowering. Or ‘bloomin’ awesome’. Whatever that is.

Dreamy Scaffies

Premier Inn appear to have launched a builder-themed gay night. Or a Top Gun-themed builder night. Either way, I’m checking in.

This hilarious, very smart new TV ad ‘Scaffolders’ for the budget UK hotel chain is currently airing nationally – not just in Manchester’s gay village. It masterfully deploys the famous Kenny Loggins ‘Highway To the Danger Zone’ MOR track from the classic 1986 Tom Cruise fighter ace movie, along with some of the iconic/camp styles, shots and heavy filters to synthesise an entirely convincing Top Gun-ness. In a provincial Premier Inn. With scaffolders standing in for the flyboys, and JCB’s standing in for the F-15s.

Though the opening scene, in which a naked ‘Maverick’ rubs his pumped chest and possibly erect nipples in ecstasy while enjoying a ‘power shower’, would probably have been too slutty even for Top Gun, the movie that gave a catapult launch to the process of shameless sexualisation of the male body, climaxing in today’s spornosexuality.

The famous homoeroticism of that flyboy movie (our changing attitude to which I analysed on its 30th birthday earlier this year) is also referenced. For a moment you – or was it just me? – think the hairy ‘daddy’ builder waking up in the ‘kingsize Hypnos bed’ has spent the night with the young sporno scaffie taking that sensual shower.

Top Gun‘s ‘gayness’ is now an officially cherished part of our culture. ‘Whatever your story’. Or sexuality.

It’s a nice touch as well that the other builders are of various, more realistic shapes and sizes – but the sporno scaffie is definitely the star of this ‘movie’. Which is probably about right. After all, scaffolders are often the most agile, gymnastic even, of builders and are very much at the showbiz end of the ‘trade’. The scaffold they’re ‘erecting’ is also something of a stage, and whether to get some rays or to get looks – or both – scaffies often seem keen to strip down to their shorts, boots and hard-hats the moment the weather gets above freezing. Though I’m sure there must be some scaffolders who dislike the way the public perves on them….

‘Gay’ builders seem to be all the rage on UK TV at the moment. The price comparison website Moneysupermarket recently launched ‘Epic Squads’, featuring bearish male builders and half-cross-dressed businessmen with big booties in a ‘gender flip’ twerktastic dance-off.

Moneysupermarket’s previous ad, ‘Dave’s Epic Strut‘ featuring a lone male middle-aged twerker in a jacket and tie and denim skirt and heels shaking his money maker at baffled passers-by was the most complained about ad of 2015. The Advertising Standards Authority failed to uphold these complaints – the cleverness of the ad is that it is quite ‘shocking’ and very memorable in an age of instant amnesia and e-distraction. But is funny rather than actually offensive. As well as, perhaps accidentally, managing to say something about changing gender roles, male versatility and the rise of the sexualised male body/booty.

Either way they seem to have aimed to up the stakes here. As Bob the Builder might have said: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – just shake it harder, honey.

 

Man Down – Defining Deflated & Liberated Masculinity

by Mark Simpson

‘What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel! in apprehension how like a god!… And yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust?’ – Hamlet

There has been a lot of soul-searching about what it means to ‘be a man’ nowadays. Because no one really knows the answer. Defining ‘man’ and ‘masculine’ in a world in which phallic certainties have dramatically deflated like a dirigible disaster is an endless and probably pointless task. It is the philosopher’s stone of marketing. The quintessence of dust.

Coach, a weekly free UK men’s fitness/lifestyle magazine produced by Dennis publishing (also behind the stalwart spornosexual monthly Men’s Fitness), recently produced some research on the elusive nature of the modern male that defined him by un-defining him. It claimed to show that the ‘alpha male’ stereotype is largely a thing of the past, replaced by an ‘alta male’ who is less interested in money and career than in a healthy work/life balance, self-improvement and personal relationships – ‘higher’ things.

Most of all, he prefers to follow his own lights, rather than compare himself to traditional models of masculinity which are now seen as largely obsolete. Modern man is defined, in other words, by his lack of definition.

Last month I was invited by Coach to appear on a panel in Soho, London discussing the findings. As I said at the time, what most interested me about the research was that, in addition to proving me, in my humble opinion, completely and absolutely right about everything – which is always gratifying – it seemed to finally dispel the over-hyped, almost hysterical, notion that men are undergoing a ‘crisis of masculinity’. Though I’m sure many of the people in crisis about this ‘crisis’ will continue to have a cow about it.

Masculinity has always been in crisis. This has been its ‘natural’, anxious, paranoid, Hamletian state. It’s why it always had something to prove. But probably less so now than ever before.

As I’ve argued for some time, instead of a crisis, what we’re really going through is a revolution. A revolution against mostly restrictive, repressive ideas of what being a man is. A metrosexual revolution – or ‘male lib’. In fact, this revolution has been going on for the last few decades and for most of the younger generation its achievements are largely taken for granted.

Hence the Coach found that: ‘Friendliness, intelligence, being funny, caring are all attributes man wants to be seen possessing – in contrast with toughness and strength of the man of yesteryear.’

This is underlined by how ‘masculine’ is the No.2 quality today’s men attribute to ‘man of yesteryear’ (48%) – but doesn’t make it into the top 12 attributes he likes others to see in him (23%).

This sentiment is loudly echoed in a recent YouGov survey (cited in the Coach research) that found only 2% of 18-24 year olds see themselves as ‘completely masculine’ – compared with 56% of 65+ men.

genderAge

A whopping 47% (the largest segment) see themselves as 2s on a scale of 0-6, where 0 = completely masculine 6 = completely feminine, while a sizeable 17% see themselves as 3s, i.e. somewhere in the middle. (This is similar to a previous YouGov survey on sexuality which found that most young people in the UK now consider themselves something other than ‘100% heterosexual’.)

For comparison, 14% of 18-24 women see themselves as ‘completely feminine’, which is seven times as many men of the same age who see themselves as completely masculine. While 12% see themselves as 3s.

The remarkably low figures for young men seeing themselves as ‘masculine’ may be influenced by the way that masculinity has had a bad press lately – and indeed the majority of 18-24 men have a negative impression of masculinity, with 42% perceiving it negatively compared to 39% positively. Interestingly, 18-24 women mostly don’t share young men’s critical view of masculinity and are as positive about it as young men are negative (42% positive to 27% negative). In this regard, young men seem to be more ‘feminist’ than young women.

By the way, YouGov’s figures for the US show that American men are much more likely than UK ones to think of themselves as ‘completely masculine’, 42% overall compared to 28%. As I’ve pointed out before, despite being very much involved in its creation, the US has been resistant to metrosexuality and the revolution it represents – or at least terribly conflicted about it. The US is of course the home of ‘manning up’, bearism, ‘bro-nuts‘, and IT professionals who think they’re lumberjacks.

Back in the effete UK, while discussing its findings on men’s attitudes towards masculinity, the Coach report concludes: ‘But even though man is more comfortable with who he is on the inside, there’s a struggle to define ‘masculinity’. (61% find it ‘hard to define exactly what masculinity means’.)

I think this statement is phrased wrongly. There’s no ‘but’ about it. And not much of a ‘struggle’. I don’t think many if not most young men can be bothered. Which is a good thing. It’s precisely because masculinity can’t be easily defined nowadays that men have much more freedom than their forefathers – and can thus be ‘more comfortable with who he is on the inside’. In the past, really only a couple of decades ago, everyone knew what being a man was – and what a ‘regular bloke’ looked like. And who wasn’t.

Although trad masculinity had many admirable qualities, such as self-sacrifice, stoicism and DIY – they were largely based on repudiation. Most of trad masculinity was defined by what men were not – not soft, not tender, not nurturing, not passive, not feminine, not good with colours, not gay. As a result, most young men today don’t ‘struggle’ to define masculinity – rather, they get on with living their lives how they want to live them.

Finally, a slightly tedious word about demographics. The Coach research was based on a focus group of 21 men aged between 22-59 in London, and a survey of 1000 men and women across Britain. Although the focus group apparently included many men originally from around the UK (and some who still lived outside London), it’s probably true that the research – like the magazine itself – had a metropolitan bias.

It also seems to have had, unsurprisingly, a middle class one – 79% of the respondents were ABC1 (compared to c.54% nationally according to 2015 figures). However, I don’t think this invalidates their findings, especially since the aspects of their research which most interested me seem to be backed up by the more demographically representative YouGov research – which when you drill down into their C2DE/ABC1 breakdown, mostly shows no great differences between them in regard to attitudes towards masculinity.

It’s one of the hallmarks of the metrosexual revolution that it cuts across all classes, with working class men often on the coalface of change.

‘A Fresh Clean Smell That Could ONLY Be Masculine!’

Mark Simpson has a sniff around a classic men’s deodorant ad that reveals how far we’ve come – and also how some things never change

Back in the 1960s the mass-market ‘grooming’ of men by advertisers wanting to sell them vanity products was only just beginning its warm-up.

This rare and pristine copy of a 1968 UK cinema ad for men’s deodorant with the reassuringly martial name ‘Target’ (a brand that seems to have gone missing in the intervening half century) recently posted on the BFI website is a little gem of a gender time-capsule.

Starring working class hero and footballing legend Geoff Hurst, the ad points up how much has changed – post Beckham and Ronaldo. But also how some things haven’t very much. It contains some of the now tiresome tropes that can still be found in (bad) advertising aimed at men today, however the passage of time has rendered them so absurd here as to be rather endearing.

A couple of years earlier Hurst had scored a hat-trick for England in the 1966 World Cup Final – defeating West Germany. It was VE Day all over again, but without the rationing. Hurst became a national (war)hero overnight, passionately admired by millions of men.

Hence Hurst was the perfect patriotic package for pitching a hitherto sissy product like deodorant as heroic and masculine. (1960s heavyweight boxing champion and Cockney folk hero Henry Cooper would later be deployed in a similar fashion for Brut aftershave in the blokey bruiser’s famous “splash it on all ovah!” 1970s TV ads.)

Watch Target Geoff Hurst 1968 FIRST AID

Note how the “GOOD and STRONG” – the opposite of sissy – deodorant bottle is the same no-nonsense colours as the bandages in the locker-room first aid cabinet its kept in. Today, players’ changing rooms have had to be rebuilt to make their lockers big enough to accommodate their cosmetic-filled manbags.

Target is not sold as a cosmetic, heaven forfend, but as ‘protection’ – it’s the off-pitch version of the martial shin-pads Geoff wears before he heads onto the pitch and pretending, endearingly badly, to be hard-tackled on what seems to be a pitch made mostly of honest, manly mud.

In fact, the ‘protection’ angle is emphasised so much you wonder whether Target made prophylactics as well.

Note also the modesty-saving towel velcroed to Hurst’s chest – today the camera would be zooming in on his oiled, shaved, pumped pecs, and following him into the shower. And note the visit to the local boring boozer instead of a poncey bar selling them there dodgy foreign lagers.

And it would be impossible to miss the hysterical insistence by the fruity voiceover on the MANLINESS of this deodorant and the “MAN-SIZED protection” it offers: “With a fresh clean smell that could ONLY BE MASCULINE! … For men and MEN ONLY!”

Because of course most men in the UK in the 1960s didn’t use deodorant and were slightly suspicious of men who did.

Hurst is a man’s man from a man’s world of manly, smelly locker rooms, pitches, barracks, terraces and factories. But in case we still thought that there might be any ambiguity about his use of deodorant, despite the voiceover’s insistence, as the BFI website blurb points out, the ad is careful to show us that Hurst’s MANLY deodorant is definitely not for the benefit of MEN. Target is to be used ONLY after the match and locker-room towel-flicking is over – because it has a heterosexual aim.

Watch Target Geoff Hurst 1968 LADIES

Scrubbed-up, suited and booted and sprayed with the fresh clean MANLY smell of Target, Geoff has three ‘dolly-birds’ throwing themselves at him down the boozer (and maybe a fourth at the bar getting another round in). I hope he kept the shin-pads on.

Then again, for a previous generation of men such as some of the older ones we glimpse cheering on the MEN ONLY terraces in their cloth caps – who definitely aren’t the target market – young Geoff’s hanging out with all these women, with his hair all nice and his armpits ‘protected’ would likely have been seen as the height of effeminacy rather than a reassuring proof of heterosexuality.

He’ll be drinking from a stemmed glass next!

(Even worse, in just a couple of generations, he ended up swinging it around like this.)

Watch Target Geoff Hurst 1968 CAPS

h/t Brian Robinson

Habitual Voyeur

Is it just me?

‘We all look but only some of us see’ is the slightly pretentious tagline for this new ‘Home Alone’ TV ad for the UK household furnishing store Habitat, part of their #HabitatVoyeur campaign.

Perhaps I’ve been doing too much ‘voyeuring’ online, but what I see when I look at the beginning of this ad, before the camera pulls back, is an aroused young man enjoying a hard furnishing – the head thrown back, the open mouth, the ecstatic bouncing, the Habitat pillows in the background.

Mind you, given the pervey conceit of the campaign – gawping through people’s windows, and the fact the previous ad had us spying on a couple snogging on an expensive sofa – maybe I’m not seeing too much. Maybe I’m seeing exactly what I was supposed to see.

Perhaps that’s why, when the camera dollies out and reveals the chap is, in fact dancing around his retro-hipster studio flat in his red socks and pants rather than doing a reverse cowboy, he appears to knowingly tease us by doing a spot of twerking in the full-length mirror before bopping into the bathroom, backwards.

Either way, I don’t think I’ll be dreaming of that coffee table.

Lucozade Ad Warns How Beards Make Everyone Look The Same

Even if they are wearing numbered, different-coloured shirts.

Well, can you come up with a better explanation what the rugger-buggery is going on in this slightly creepy latex-laden ad for Lucozade Sport ‘Strictly for the Home Nations Only’?

Pegged to the 2015 Rugby World Cup in Twickenham and starring big buff bearded England captain Chris Robshaw and chums, I’ve watched it several times and it still makes no sense to me. Maybe it’s because I don’t follow rugby. Or maybe it’s because I’m not an advertising creative who pretends to follow rugby.

The alternative explanations seem kinda kinky-gimpy. Are we meant to wonder what really went down in the back of that minivan when those norty Wallaby wannabes were cornered in the underground car park? By those strapping England lads wearing muscle-tees and expressionless faces? All that bad acting should definitely carry a Triga warning.

Yes, of course, the ‘straight’ subliminal commercial message here, hedged around with misfiring humour, is that if you drink Lucozade Sport, a sugary ‘recovery drink’, you will look like Robshaw. This is generally the way the supplements industry works – some ads more explicitly than others. But I’m not sure that ‘acceptable’ message isn’t drowned out here by more disturbing/confusing ones. Masculinity as male impersonation – a Mission Impossible. (This, after all, is what team sports fans are doing when they wear a replica shirt.)

I admit I’m biased: the recent fashion for styled-beard-with-styled-hair looks to me like a hairy onesie, a mullet mask. One that I imagine wearers peeling off at the end of the day, breathing a sigh of relief, applying lots of wet wipes to their face and neck – and leaving it to soak in a bucket by the bed.

Mind you, I still totally would ‘wear’ Robshaw.

PS This web ad below from the same campaign is also v confusing – but who cares?

Pot Noodle’s Billy Elliot Flavoured Ad

 

Pot Noodle is an instant ramen-based snack popular with UK kids, students and others with limited cooking facilities or skills – or, arguably, taste – that has a long tradition of jokey, slightly silly ads.

The latest one to air on UK TV (‘You can make it’) is probably their funniest – and certainly their sharpest. It begins with a teenage working class northern lad lying on his unmade bed in his untidy room (complete with used tissues on the floor next to the bed) gazing up at his boxing posters, telling us that ever since he was a little kid he has has ‘always wanted to make it’ and is ‘chasing his dream’.

Cue a montage of Rocky-esque shots of hard workouts in gritty gyms and early morning jogs through rusty clichés of post-industrial landscapes – and then the build-up to the Big Fight in Vegas: ‘They said I’d never make it. But ‘ere I am!’.

When our kid steps into the ring, his family back home, including his apparently not-long-for-this-world Nan, go berserk: ‘THERE ‘E IS!!’

But the twist here isn’t in the shape of the noodles. It’s in the revelation that he’s not dreaming the ‘gender appropriate’ dream for someone of his background – to become a prize-fighter. Instead he’s more of a lover: he’s become a ring card boy – mincing around in a shiny lime and lemon two-piece for the visual pleasure of the audience between rounds. All of that hard training was to get fit for that two-piece. And those boxing posters in his bedroom were about the ring card girls not about the boxers.

But the ad doesn’t appear to be mocking him. He’s still the product’s hero. His family are clearly right behind him, while he’s deliriously happy. And so is the gentleman in the audience, who licks his lips appreciatively.

And the lad does have great pins.

The ad has gone viral – which of course was the aim. It’s virality lies in the unexpected, ‘outrageous’ twist, of course – but also in the twist to the ‘uplift’, which turns out to be more Billy Elliot than Rocky.

After all, the ending of the ad isn’t really so outrageous or even so strange nowadays. We’re living in a world where masculinity has lost its traditional certainties, opening up all kinds of possibilities. A world where millions of young men dream of being pretty and ‘objectified’.

Though usually their ring card dreams are aimed at the cover of Mens Health.

h/t DAKrolak

 

Oeufs Masculin à La Francaise

Apparently, French briefs will turn your ‘oeufs’ into a tasty and nicely-presented h’omelette. Should you be attacked by a smiling, impeccably retro-styled woman with a hammer.

This viral ad for men’s underwear by Le Slip Francais is certainly attention – or rather, nut – grabbing. Particularly in when you compare it to the sexed-up advertising of, say, Armani and CK, appealing as they do to male sensuality and desirability, not to mention open-legged, under-dressed male vulnerability.

But I’m not sure this message will sell many briefs to men who aren’t very heavily into CBT.

Though perhaps the target audience (as my advertising friend Honourable Husband pointed out elsewhere) for this oeuf-hammering is actually women – who are looking for an Xmas present for a male partner.

If so, I would say that the target female buyer is one that feels somewhat ambivalent about their man. 

Whatever this ad for designer castration anxiety’s merits, I think the art direction is delicious. Note how the lamp-shades, the stereo-gram top and the hammer-wielding lady’s nail varnish all match.

It’s the details that matter when you’re making ‘oeufs’ splatter.

h/t Hans Versluys

Nadal’s Locker Room Service

 

Is that a racquet in your pants? Or are you just pleased to see a camera?

Darkly handsome 29 year old tennis ace Rafael Nadal’s new ad for Tommy Hilfiger has more than a hint of a Tom Cruise Top Gun locker room scene about it.

It also goes further than any other recent underwear ads in commodifying celebrity cock. All but shoving it down our all-consuming maws. It’s a big budget version of a web-cam show.

The ad begins with the camera, apparently held by a heavy-breathing voyeur pretending to towel off after a shower  – i.e. the viewing public – slyly staring at Cruise/Nadal’s pert bum filling out his designer jeans as he enters the locker room. Then zooming in as the winner of fourteen ‘Grand Slams’ strips, seemingly unawares.

We clock his athletic back, his cotton-clad buns, his tanned, toned, centre court thighs, his abs, and – WOAH! – his ‘open stance’ packet. Is that just the carefully-angled light? Or a prosthesis? Or is he actually turned on??

And is he going to have our eye out with it if he pulls those pricey pants down?

Just as we are about to find out, Nadal decides to end his little show – shaking his head at us with a naughty grin that says he knew full well what we were up to and enjoyed every minute of it. And then he volleys us his still warm ‘top-seeded’ Hilfiger underwear. So kind.

A few years back, when Nadal was still in his mid-twenties, it was another designer, Mr Armani, who was offering us Nadal bent over a builder’s bench, and chopped into smooth, sexy, slippery pieces in an abjectly objectifying video.

In the latest campaign Nadal’s world-class rear still has a starring role, but now, nearly 30 – and the envelope of what’s acceptable in mainstream advertising having been well-and-truly pushed in our faces – he not only sports chest hair but also, a very prominent penis.

Which reminds me. Perhaps I’ve been paying too much attention, but in the vid Nadal seems to be dressing to his right and ‘resting’ at 0:10. But by 0:11 he’s dressing left and a semi-finalist.

That’s some service.

Manly Strap-Ons Still Selling Like Hot Bronuts

I usually avoid linking to anything on Buzzfeed. On principle. I forget exactly what that principle is but I’m sure it was a very good one.

However this list of ’27 gendered products’ is rather funny. ‘Gendered products’ is of course a polite way of saying manly strap-ons – things that have to be butched up so that men’s penises don’t shrivel and blow away when they use/do them. Scary things like sunscreen and soap.

I say ‘men’s penises’ but really I mean American men’s penises. Most of the manly strap-ons are American – very American – and began to come on thick and strong during the faux backlash the US had against metrosexuality in the late Noughties. Remember the ‘menaissance‘? Thought not.

Strapping a ‘man’ word onto something not very manly (manscara, mandates, manbag) was a kind of phallic pacifier, a lucky charm against any anxiety about sexual ambiguity. In other countries, such as Australia, this might have been done with humour and irony – but not in the US.

It was after all the US which gave us, in all seriousness, the ‘lumbersexual’ – the manly strap-on man (who worked in IT or artisan coffee retail). And before him the ‘ubersexual’, the ‘heteropolitan’ and the ‘machosexual’. All hysterical reaction-formations to the metrosexual.

Four years ago I hoped that manly strap-ons and campy codpieces had peaked – or drooped – with ‘hegans’. You know, men who don’t eat meat but aren’t faggy at all but MANLY. I was so wrong. Apparently there is such a thing in the world as ‘Mangria’ – though probably you shouldn’t drink it with a raised pinky, or even too much fruit.

And ‘bronuts’. Which you eat when you want to ‘snack like a man’. Whatever the bloody Nora that means.

My favourite though is the manly soap with grips – a very practical addition. Ensuring, of course, that it is NEVER DROPPED.

Keyless Entry & Male Versatility

“I call him lollipop”

The sexualisation of the male body probes new, perfectly-rounded depths in this European ad promoting the ‘keyless entry’ feature on Ford cars.

And possibly the use of Ford key fobs as sex toys.

A remarkably well-crafted ad, it makes excellent use of the increasingly blatant modern phenomenon of metaphysical – and increasingly physical – male versatility. How men in our spornosexual age are now active and passive. Tops and bottoms. Subjects and objects. Heroic and tarty.

To the strains of an ‘innocent’ 1960s bubblegum pop track in which a girl compares her boyfriend to something sweet to suck, everyone on the beach, male or female, young or old, gay or straight, is having a really good look at the worked-out, oiled-up grinning hottie in the tight trunks sauntering past.

So far, so normal in a world in which the male body has become bouncy castle for the eyes.

As our beach babe approaches his car however, we realise that everyone is supposedly staring because they are wondering how he’s going to get into his locked, lovely new ride.

The obligatory, ‘objectifying’ close ups of his packet and ass served up to us beforehand have only ‘served’ to make it clear that he hasn’t got anything down his pants, save his meat and two vege – plus two pert buns.

The car greedily unlocks itself when presented with his lunch-packet. Which is entirely understandable.

But we’re staring right at his bubble butt straining against his tight trunks when this happens.

And then the kiss-off strapline spells out the anality of all this:

FORD KEYLESS ENTRY

Where you keep your key is up to you.

So the ad is less about the lollipop and more about the buttered buns. ‘Keyless entry’ is all about male versatility, if not voraciousness.

Likewise the popping sound-effect on the ‘Lollipop’ track at the end of the ad is now less suggestive of fellatio than the removal of a car fob from a toned, er, trunk.

UPDATE 28/11/15 – The Italian campaign for this car seems to involve making a male model strip via tweets.

Well-Oiled, Precision-Engineered German Spornosexuality

This recent German ad caught my eye. Or rather, some silky smooth, highly-grabable German glutes leapt out of my monitor and rammed themselves in my face.

My German is rather poor, but the ad would appear to be for lady’s body-cream called Aldo Vandini. Expensive body-cream, judging by the size of that obscenely luxurious bath-living room the shameless young man is oiling himself and his precision-engineered buttocks up in. I don’t know about you, but I found myself rather distracted by it. Perhaps I’m deeply shallow, but I couldn’t decide which I wanted more. His bum or the bath-fittings.

‘Butt’ I think it’s pretty clear what the real product and object of desire is here – as it so often is in advertising these days: The tarty male body.

The ad is shot voyeuristically. We, the viewer, appear to be loitering in the doorway, breathing heavily, our eyes lingering on his nicely-lit back and buttocks – but we’re listening to opera, so we’re not being sleazy – while he bends over to sniff the aromatic body-rub, which we’ll assume isn’t actually poppers-infused. He’s not afraid of the feminine product, just likes the way it smells and how it feels.

Likewise, he’s not afraid of the ‘feminine’, ‘passive’ position of being looked at – from behind. Towards the end, the finely-featured scamp looks over his shoulder, clocks us perving over him, smiles and just carries on rubbing himself up. Deliberately or not, this German ad, aimed apparently at women, has spoken in the lingua franca of the delightful, playful, sensual ambiguity of modern, spornosexual masculinity – and the assertive sexual appetite of modern femininity.

And also, as I’ve shown with my drooling, the ambiguity of just who is watching.

Man-Knockers on the London Underground

A funny thing happened to Mark Simpson on the way to the ‘Being a Man’ forum

I almost fell off the platform when I saw this bodybuilding supplements poster busting out all over the London Underground recently – around the same time as all that indignant hullabaloo surrounding The Sun‘s infamous now-you-don’t-see-them-any-more-now-you-do-again lady busts.

There they were, depilated man-knockers (and pixelated knackers) nakedly objectified in the rush hour for all to see: men and women, children and adults, wide-eyed tourists and jaded locals. No need to buy a copy of a declining tabloid newspaper, open it and turn to page three to ‘exploit’ this model’s tits and abs. Just look up from your smartphone. Shameless male topless and bottomless-ness plastered all over the walls for everyone to ‘gaze’ at while waiting for the next obscenely overcrowded Elephant & Castle train, perhaps carrying Laura Mulvey.

Even worse, the poster encouraged other young men to objectify themselves (‘reveal yourself’), and spend their hard-earned cash buying supplements that they hope will help to make them more desirable, more saleable, more shaggable – bustier. Men are the new glamour models.

The website for the supplement company includes ‘cover model’ as one of the potential ‘goals’ that their spornosexual customers might be interested in:

‘…lean muscle has become an industry recognised term that is now synonymous with a cover model look. To achieve a cover model body, the key consideration is to increase muscle whilst keeping body fat to an absolute minimum’.

And liberal use of Photoshop.

Funnily enough, I was on my way to appear on a panel at the Southbank Centre talking about ‘Being a Man’ when I was confronted with these man-knockers. On the panel I was responding to a presentation by the artist and TV presenter Grayson Perry. Who is a bit of man knocker himself – in a more ‘critical’ sense.

Perry’s presentation (along the lines of this piece for the New Statesman) was acerbic, entertaining and not without insight, but sometimes seemed at least thirty years out of date. And I know this because I myself am only twenty years out of date.

My main issue with it was not that it problematised and pathologised masculinity and ‘toxic’ testosterone and the Sauronic ‘male gaze’ – which it did in spades – but that it reified, possibly fetishised masculinity as something unchanging, something monolithic. Sometimes the biggest critics of masculinity are its biggest believers – including cross-dressing feminist men.

Of course, I tend to notice far too much what some don’t care to see at all – and I began my comments by warning the audience that I like men. A LOT. But I was surprised how little Mr Perry seemed to understand me when talking about the eager self-objectification young men today go in for and the breakdown of what I call the heterosexual division of labour, of looking and of loving.

I wonder if he uses the tube? Or even his eyes?

***

The recently-released movie version of Fifty Shades of Grey has been attacked by some feminists for setting back ‘the cause of womanhood’ (because it features female submissiveness and male masterfulness) and for glorifying ‘abuse’ (despite being very consensual). Notwithstanding it is written by a woman, directed by a woman (Sam Taylor-Johnson), green-lighted by a woman – and of course enormously popular with women. Likewise, the rehabilitation of female masochism in the last decade or so seems to have been forgotten and replaced by suspicion of women who like their sex submissive and spanky.

I haven’t seen the movie, I’m still recovering from going to see the last ‘event’ ‘chick flick’, so can’t comment on whether or not the women involved in making it and the millions going to see are suffering from ‘false consciousness’. And obviously I don’t know much about womanhood anyway.

But I have watched the official trailer. Repeatedly. The masterful Mr Grey (Jamie Dornan) is a standard-issue spornosexual who probably has a Bulk Powders Gold Card. In the 2.23 min trailer there are 7 topless shots of his sculpted torso, including a mirror shot which gives you a simultaneous, spitroasting front and rear view of it, vs 1.5 of Ms Steele (Dakota Johnson), sans nipples in her case. Oh, and one side shot of her panties – with Dornan’s pretty face in front of them.

My favourite shot though shows him playing his grand piano shirtless, in a scene that looks a bit Behind the Candelabras – but with Liberace as the toy-boy. I suppose that the grand piano represents Ms Steele submitting to the skillful fingers of Mr Grey. But it looks like a very camp – sorry, I mean masterful – form of masturbation.

 

‘Swing it Around Like You’re in a TV Commercial’

Mark Simpson on how Lynx grew up. And kissed a boy.

 “Swing it around like you’re in a TV commercial.”

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….

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