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Signal Boost: Old Spice and Gender Politics in Advertising

xiphias is a pretty cool guy on the best of days. Today, he makes some observations about the current Old Spice ad campaign that I thought so worthwhile, I wanted to get other people to see them. It’s so short, I hate to excerpt it, but here’s the money quote:

It’s addressed to women, with the impression that WOMEN are people who can make choices. It’s not terribly feminist, yes, but there IS a difference between the commercials for men’s deodorant which treat women as props and these, which at least make a nod to the idea that women are people.

Go forth and read.

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6 Comments

  1. He also mentions Axe, which I guessed from his brief description of *their* ads is the same product that is marketed here as Lynx. I checked and found I was correct.

    My favourite Lynx ad is not actually a Lynx ad -- however, they got the style pretty much spot on, up until the final scene.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x89xAXHd2l8

  2. Excellent. What I love about the Old Spice ads is that the entire campaign is about courting “female gaze”, unlike the ones for those other things (like Axe), where I feel like the female gaze gets twisted by the implied power dynamic of those ads--in the end, the Axe ads are all about the dominate male gaze (the women--sexy and often scantily clad--are the focus).

  3. (I posted this there, I’ll repeat it here.)

    I don’t watch TV — mostly because of the ads — but I saw one of these when I went to the movie theater.

    My reaction was that the real message was for men, and it was the usual — “You aren’t worth anything as yourself. Your only hope to get a mate is to hide yourself in the image of this unattainable sex symbol, and look, we’re selling a product that will do it! Just give us your money and you can paper over your inadequacy!” Yes, they’re superficially addressing women, telling them their men are unattractive but this product can transmogrify them. I suppose it’s a better message to women to tell them they have the power to choose to transmogrify their men rather than to just use the women as props to demonstrate the transmogrifying effect. I suppose it’s better, if some guy walking by kicks me in the nuts, if he doesn’t also spit on the woman standing nearby.

  4. yeah, that was a pretty damn good point he made

  5. I’ve seen those commercials and don’t care for them What does “smelling like a man” really mean? Reeking of B.O.? Or something else?

    • I think the whole message here is that smelling like a particular deodorant is More Manly than reeking of B.O.

      I’m always amused by how personal hygiene products for men go to such great lengths to convey YOU WILL BE MANLY IF YOU USE THIS. Like the Gillette Mach 3 (Mach 3, you guys? Seriously?), which is exactly the same product as the Venus razor, only instead of the soft curves and floral pastels, it’s done in chrome and exciting angles and basically looks like it could break the sound barrier.

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