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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:

 

A Taste of the Forbidden – Coca Cola’s ‘Pool Boy’

Mark Simpson on the sweet fetishism of Coca Cola’s ‘delightfully slutty soda ad’

How much Coca Cola ads have changed since the famous singalong, smiley, folksy, innocence of the famous 1971 commercial! How much the world has changed. If it were remade today you’d be forgiven for thinking that song would have to be retitled: ‘I’d Like to Teach the World to Perve (In Perfect Harmony)’.

‘Pool Boy’, the latest ad in Coca Cola’s current ‘Taste the Feeling’ campaign, has prompted a veritable geyser of complimentary press for its ‘gay-friendliness’. But there’s quite a bit more going on than just ‘gay friendliness’ in this delightfully slutty soda commercial (and Coca Cola have anyway done ‘gay friendly’ before).

So I think it’s worth undressing it. Even more.

Central to understanding what’s going on here is grasping, firmly, yet caressingly, that this is a Diet Coke ad – albeit without Diet Coke (though it does feature, briefly, a Coca Cola Light – a name used for Diet Coke in many markets). All the elements of the classic Diet Coke ads are here. The Hunk toils in the heat, his muscular, ripped body glistening, all drunk in thirstily by women, the camera, and the viewers.

Diet Coke aimed until now at women (apparently only women dieted in the past), effectively identified itself in the Chippendale/Take That 1990s with the emergence of active, assertive, voyeuristic female sexuality and passive, exhibitionistic male sexuality. This was updated and ‘refreshed’ a few years ago with ‘The Gardner’. In it a group of young, slim, attractive women, sitting on a small hill in a park, perve over a young, fit, attractive man cutting the grass below them, offering him a sabotaged can of Diet Coke that ejaculates all over him when opened, ‘forcing’ him to take his shirt off.

Coke are reportedly now taking a ‘one brand’ approach to their products, and ‘Pool Boy’ is in effect a globally-targeted (hence no dialogue) ‘Diet Coke’ ad for Coca Cola products in general – in which the ante is even further ‘upped’. In ‘Pool Boy’ the porno promo aesthetic of ‘The Gardner’ is still very much present and erect, but the ‘Ladies’ voyeuring are a teen girl and her mother. And her teen brother.

The definition of ‘Diet Coke Ladies’ has now been widened to include The Gays. Who of course were always part of the unspoken audience anyway. After all, Diet Coke ads have long been using the tropes of gay porn to sell product to women, and the phenomenon of straight women and gay best friends sharing their appreciation of – and disappointment with – men is widely established now.

‘Pool Boy’ begins with the camera lingering over The Hunk, his shredded, smooth body shiny with sweat and Baby Oil, flashing out of his unbuttoned uniform – as he works his big pole in a suburban American swimming pool under the blazing American sun. He’s being admired out of the window by a pretty, skinny teen girl, who is eagerly distracted from her studies – her head propped up daintily on her fingertips, smiling broadly.

Then the camera pans upwards to show a pretty, skinny, similar-looking young man doing exactly the same thing from an upstairs window (the traditional lofty vantage point of Diet Coke Ladies), with the exact same rapt, pretty smile and the same head dainty head-propping. So we assume it’s her Gay Brother – though of course he could be bi, or trans.

Straight (another assumption) Sister glances at her No Sugar Coke, has a Eureka moment, and rushes off, practically spilling her homework onto the floor. The next shot is from inside the big American fridge in the big American kitchen, as she opens the door. Coke bottles are displayed across a whole shelf (as products are in adland). I make out, with some freeze-framing, two ‘No Sugar’, two ‘Original Taste’, one ‘Light’ and one ‘Life’. The entire Coca Cola range – though ‘Diet’ is here represented by ‘Light’, in this global ad.

Coke’s future is Diet – which is itself reportedly becoming ‘gender agnostic’ after all these years of being marketed as ‘one for the ladies’. Likewise, ‘No Sugar Coke’ which replaces poorly performing Coke Zero – or ‘Bloke Zero’ as it was dubbed after its launch in 2006 – seems now to also to be ‘gender agnostic’ after all that money spent trying to tell us it wasn’t for girls. Straight Sister in ‘Pool Boy’ is drinking No Sugar.

Meanwhile, back inside that big American fridge, straight Sister, a wild gleam in her eye, grabs an Original Taste Coke. But Gay Brother has obviously had the same idea – at that moment he appears behind her grabbing the same bottle. The aroused, intense looks on their faces makes clear that the slippery Coke bottle symbolises objectified, pool/fuck boy. Straight Sister finally wrenches it out of Gay Brother’s hand and rushes off.

A dejected Gay Brother then grabs the other bottle of Original Taste (going out of his way not to grab a bottle of No Sugar) and chases after his sister.

They race through the large, suburban house, tripping one another up, before finally arriving at the pool. Only to find The Mother already offering The Hunk a plate of sandwiches, while he glugs a bottle of Original Taste Coca Cola (which magically refills when cutting to The Mother shrugging), his Adam’s apple moving suggestively in his muscular, shiny throat above his muscular shiny chest as he poses rather uncomfortably, to show off his body to best effect.

Mother gives a shrug to her kids, who are staring at her in shock and defeat. This isn’t her first time at the rodeo.

It’s a funny, well-made and provocative ad that is memorable in an age where everything is instantly forgettable, that succeeds in making a beleaguered brand – sales in the US are falling, and are stagnant in the UK – seem sexy and now.

But I was left with a burning question. Why is everyone – sister, brother, mother – so sure the pool boy drinks Original Taste Coke? And don’t think to ask him, especially since they have a fridge full of different varieties?

Perhaps it’s because The Hunk is a Real Man  doing Real Work so he must drink Original Full Fat Sugary Coke. Even when the body being admired belongs to a raging spornosexual and is clearly the result of religious gym attendance and meticulously planned diet programs.

Likewise, although the desires of the women and the gay brother are emphasised, the wants and tastes of The Hunk are irrelevant. He’s an object, a fetish. He’ll swallow whatever he’s given, no gag reflex.

The house, its furnishings and the cast’s clothes are set in an imaginary, ironic 1950s-70s – Coke’s heyday. Long before the demonization of sugar as sinful and Satanic. The only modern things allowed are the pool cleaning machine, the fridge and the loose sexual mores (and No Sugar Coke). Even the soundtrack is a sweetly romantic Italian song from the 1950s. Most retro of all: everyone is white. Even the pool boy.

Fizzy, sugary drinks have lost their soda fountain innocence. They have increasingly been blamed for a host of health problems, including most particularly the worsening obesity epidemic. An ugly problem that of course doesn’t exist anywhere in this ad. Everyone here is slim and sugar-free.

In part because of moves to tax sugary drinks to discourage their consumption, Coke Zero has recently been rebranded as No Sugar Coke – to emphasise that it doesn’t have any of the naughty stuff (lots of people didn’t realise the ‘Zero’ stood for calories). With a reformulated taste that is supposedly ‘even more like the original!’

Which is the tagline to the simulacrum of 21st Century life. Along with ‘taste the feeling’.

Given all this, perhaps the real porn in this ad isn’t where it appears to be after all. Perhaps the real reason The Mother and The Straight Sister and The Gay Brother, who are all slim but leisured and middle class, scramble to offer the sweating, pumped proletarian an Original Taste Coke isn’t because they want to play with his pole. It’s much more depraved than that.

They want to watch someone actually drink a proper sugary coke and enjoy its wicked sinfulness vicariously and voyeuristically – and calorie-free. Sugar porn.

Not to mention removing the sweet temptation from their fridge before they glug it down themselves.

 

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.

 

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?

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.

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….

Motorsport Goes Sporno


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The Well-Scrubbed Purity of the Past

‘IVORY SOAP…99.44% PURE’

Well all I can say is that 0.66% is certainly working very hard indeed.

This 1919 ad shows soapy soldiers bathing on the deck of a troopship and being sprayed by a kindly – and generously endowed – sailor: ’25 under the hose at one time.’

The dropped-soap theme of this ad seems, at least to our modern, knowing eye, to have been revisited during the Second World War by this one for Buna bath towels.

Tip: DAKrolak

Invictus – Smells Like Team Sporno

 

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.)

Youngquest

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:

nick-youngquest

Diet Cock: Coca Cola’s Porno Promo

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 literally looking 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.

This moment reminded me of the corny line from Magic Mike: “You have the cock. They don’t.” No wonder the woman who rolled the can down the hill quickly presses her lips to the can in her hand.

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.

 

Becks’ Bum: Satisfaction or Disappointment?

Becks running

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 cliche) – 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.

pants

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.

Oh, and his underwear is much nicer too.

Tip: DAKrolak

Naked Boy Band Held Hostage In Woman’s Toilet

Once again, I’m very grateful that American feminists have scientifically proven (by looking at dusty back issues of Rolling Stone magazine) that men aren’t ‘really’ objectified, only women are.

Because it means that this eye-popping ad for toilet cleaner featuring a tarty boy band suspended beneath the rim of a toilet in cages, imploring ‘baby’ to pull the chain and flush them – slowly washing away their clothes – doesn’t really exist, and none of us need have nightmares about it.

And I don’t need to analyse it.

Tip: David S

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