Getting in a Manly Lather

Well hello ladies, it’s time to say goodbye to the man your man could smell like.

If you have no idea what I’m on about, then you’ll need to watch this video RIGHT NOW… but if you do have an inkling then you’ll be sad to learn that the Old Spice Man announced on Twitter on Thursday that he will no longer be posting witty video responses to his online fans.

The award winning Old Spice Man-Your-Man-Could-Smell-Like advert, a creation of Wieden & Kennedy Portland, quickly spread like viral wildfire across the internet earlier this year (it first aired in the USA in February’s coveted Superbowl Sunday slot) and has been followed up with the (possibly even more brilliant?) recent ‘Questions‘ instalment. The entire campaign has been a hit with meme geeks, who have appreciated Old Spice Man’s foray into the boundless possibilities of social media; he’s been creating a series of bespoke videos addressing followers on Twitter, facebook et al and posting them on YouTube (Old Spice Man even did a marriage proposal for one fan!).

Interestingly, though, Old Spice Man has found a rather enamoured feminist following too; Writers at Bust Magazine attempted to dissect the gender stereotypes at play in both the first and second adverts, before succumbing to the fact that – satire or stereotype – these ads are just damn funny.

Still, I think these ads are indeed worthy of a bit of feminist attention since they do seem to play with that uber-manly way men have their soapy stuff marketed to them. Take this ‘bespoke’ Old Spice vid, for example…

…which pokes fun at the way most men’s cosmetics ads feel the need to beef-up the ‘feminine’ notion of washing. Hmm, being clean and smelling nice… how awfully girly!

This very weird ‘I’m washing myself, but I’m still a manly man, grrr! ‘ marketing message has been tackled beautifully by Allie at Hyperbole And A Half via the medium of MS Paint. Allie has created her vision of a hyped up ‘Lynx Effect’ future… and it is full of lethal exfoliators, testosterone-laden scents and razors within razors (now with more razors!) – See her hilarious blog post here.

However, whilst Allie has done an amazing job at satirising the screaming world of hyper-masculine men’s cosmetics marketing, it seems the whole thing has come full circle and the old Old Spice Man – a smooth talking, cake baking, diamond proffering kinda guy, is being over-taken by a new Old Spice Man – who is, quite frankly, an uncouth, building-kicking hulk.

For me, this new addition to the Old Spice family is a hopeful sign that men are now so aware (and fed up) of the ludicrous ways they’ve been marketed to in the past that, when the testosterone dial is turned up to 11, they can see the funny side… Either that, or explosions and building kicking are just plain awesome. Whatever – welcome, if you please, the new Old Spice Man!

By: Sarah Barnes, 17.07.2010 | Comments (0)
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When is an Abortion Ad not an Abortion Ad?

If you were at all distracted, it would have passed you by, so low-key was Marie Stopes’ televised advertisement this evening. And yet you can bet that even this overtly discreet approach will still cause much outrage from anti-abortion campaigners, simply because they don’t agree that abortion (a legal service that is available on the NHS in England, Scotland and Wales) should be advertised.

But was this really the ‘abortion advert’ that everyone was expecting? There were certainly no jigging supermodels spouting the joys of abortion-as-contraception… but, on the flip side, there was absolutely no mention of abortion at all. Not a whisper. When it boiled down to it, all we were told was a wishy-washy “If your period is late, you could be pregnant. If you’re pregnant and not sure what to do, Marie Stopes International can help”, along with a number to call.

Which is actually pretty fantastic since, according to research, 42% of adults do not know where to get specialist advice about unplanned pregnancy. It’s great that these people can now be better informed and take action towards learning more. It’s also worth noting that abortion isn’t the only service Marie Stopes offer, and they state that they ‘always support a woman’s choice to continue with her pregnancy or have an abortion’ and that ‘No one else should pressure her into either continuing with the pregnancy or having an abortion’.

Still, it’s interesting to note that even Marie Stopes themselves refer to the advertisment as an ‘abortion ad’ and, with this in mind, it seems even stranger that there was no mention of the A word in the 32 second slot. Whilst I’m sure that this choice was made so as to be as un-alarming as possible to anti-abortionists (and, perhaps, to adhere to strict advertising regulations), actually, I think this coy approach could work against them just as much as if they’d mentioned abortion as just one of the solutions available for women with unwanted/crisis pregnancies. Already I can envisage anti-abortion campaigners complaining that Marie Stopes are dishonestly reeling in confused and vulnerable women, only to pounce with the suggestion of abortion once these poor souls are in their grasp.

Of course, most people credit women with the intelligence to make their own decisions, so I’m not too worried about this angle. I am, however, still a bit disappointed that Marie Stopes didn’t list their services for a couple of reasons; One – Because I hoped to learn more about them… that’s what adverts are for, after all! And Two – Because it would be so open, honest and refreshing to begin a real conversation about abortion as an option that is just as legitimate as carrying on a pregnancy or looking towards adoption (remember how brilliant those NHS contraception ads were?).

Marie Stopes International chief executive Dana Hovig has said:

Last year alone we received 350,000 calls to our 24-hour helpline. Clearly there are hundreds of thousands of women who want and need sexual health information and advice and access to services. We hope the new Are you late? campaign will encourage people to talk about their choices, including abortion, more openly and honestly, and empower women to reach confident, informed decisions about their sexual health.

But how can you confront the taboo if you never actually confront it?

More to read:

Kate Smurthwaite (from Abortion Rights) at Cruella Blog

James at Cubik’s Rube

Sarah Wild at Health Care Republic

Abortion Ad and The Irish Debate at Nerin Online

Laurie Penny at Comment Is Free

Reports at The Daily Mail and at The Guardian

(Image screen-grabbed from the Marie Stopes advert)

By: Sarah Barnes, 24.05.2010 | Comments (0)
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Selling Security

I came across this image of a provocative fly-poster on Yvan ‘The Face Hunter‘ Rodic’s personal blog (which has so much more inspiration and personality than reams of street style straight-ups, in my opinion!). He snapped the statement in Berlin and I can only wonder what that Berliner meant by their pasted-up protest. Perhaps they’re alluding to the idea that security is a man-made concept… but a male fantasy? Hmmm…

Whatever the graffer’s intentions, the phrase immediately brought my mind back to the wonderful Sarah Haskins and her Target Women piece on Broadview Security adverts. The US company market their alarm systems rather, umm, alarmingly; blatantly proclaiming that women are vulnerable creatures that would be right to live every waking moment in fear of male violence. If you haven’t seen Haskins’ brilliant take-down of the advert then you’ve been missing out. Take a look, it’s horrifically frightening and terrifically funny!

By: Sarah Barnes, 02.04.2010 | Comments (3)
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Vagina Backlash?

And so it begins… I came across this Post-It note in Kings Cross underground adorning one of the Moon Cup ‘love your vagina’ adverts. What to make of it?…

Of course, at first I assumed this was the knee jerk scribbling of one of the ‘Oh noez, what about teh menz!?’ crowd; someone appalled that women were being encouraged (in public, would you believe!?) to love their vaginas.

But let’s be generous and assume this is a genuine question, rather than a reactionary scrawl. So, what would a ‘Male’ version of the Lady Garden et-al ads be? It would need to be an equivalent campaign, (and since there isn’t really a male equivalent of sanitary products, I reckon this would have to be for) some sort of thing raising awareness of genital health (testicular cancer/STDs/erectile dysfunction). I, personally, think such a campaign would go down pretty well if it was for a good cause such as these examples… I can even mentally visualise posters with different couplings of balls (football, tennis, golf) and a ‘love your balls’ tag-line. In fact, how can it not have been done already? Oh, hang on… it kinda has.

Now, what if the campaign were advertising a certain brand of condom? Well, it would be pretty interesting to see a condom campaign aimed solely at guys – since such marketing is usually unisex, right? Of course it’s everyone’s responsibility to make sure they protect themselves during sex, but a self respect campaign aimed at men could go down a treat with the condom-phobic few who prize pleasure and pride over sexual health and family planning. As long as it wasn’t all douchey and macho-ly screaming at everyone else to ‘respect the cock!’, and more about men honouring and cherishing their own pork-swords (and each others, it could work well as a sexual health campaign for gay men) then I’d be totally down with it.

There’s a point about language to be made here. Many slang terms for ‘penis’ would be too vulgar to display in a public place but, then again, so are many slang words for vagina. In fact, the creative team behind the Moon Cup ads must have had a very hard time coming up with their short list of ’safe’ terms (Wouldn’t you have loved to sit in on that meeting? – “How about beef curtains?” “NO!” “Okay okay…Hairy clam?”). So yeah, a male equivalent would have to stick with such harmless nick-names as ‘Hot Rod’ and ‘Trouser Snake’…

So, in summation; The male equivalent ad would be for a cool campaign, be about self respect and contain no naughty words. I also think that, really, to be a true equivalent it would actually be non-sexual (periods aren’t very sexy, after all) and the emphasis would be on yourself, rather than a partner.

With all this in mind, let’s get back to the question posed via Post It by our concerned friend. What would happen if we had a male equivalent of this advert? The answer? Nothing much. Maybe a bit of healthy consciousness raising.  The sky wouldn’t fall, that’s for certain. Just as it hasn’t done for these Moon Cup ads.

Which raises another question; why are you so concerned, Post It person?

By: Sarah Barnes, 22.03.2010 | Comments (0)
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Love Your Vagina!

I caught sight of this advert in the underground this morning and had two thoughts in quick succession. First; Hurrah! A poster acknowledging the existence of vaginas! That’s not something you see everyday! And second; This better not be for a tampon company! Well… having looked up I now know what it’s all about. I almost don’t want to tell you what the campaign is advertising, because it was quite a pleasant surprise!

Okay, so it wasn’t as fabulously mind blowing as a ‘know yourself’  health campaign (free mini mirrors from the NHS to encourage examining down there!) or the government advocating self-love as a stress buster (the recession has been especially hard on us ladies!). Ah well, a girl can dream!

No, these are adverts for the humble Moon Cup! The re-usable sanitary product – that has previously only been marketed through feminist word of mouth and stickers on the toilet doors of vegan cafes – now seems to have a bunch of money behind it, and they are using it wisely on these delightful, Vagina Monologues inspired, teaser posters.

Even though they are a bit cutesy (who actually uses the term Lady Garden, anyway?) and, for some odd reason, the shape of each swirly-fonted Vagina nick name is in the shape of a neatly trimmed triangular pubic…erm, Lady Garden (okay, okay, so it has its uses) I really like what I’ve seen of this campaign so far. It’s for a good product, it’s fun and un-apologetic AND it gets people talking about vaginas. What’s not to love?!

Tell Moon Cup what you call your vagina here, if you’re that way inclined. Or just look what others call theirs! Here’s one nick-name to wet your appetite; ‘Lady Gaga’. I think she’d be pretty flattered, actually.

By: Sarah Barnes, 16.03.2010 | Comments (3)
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I. Am. Terrified!

“My eyes! It buuuuurns!”

Such were the screams that could be heard ringing around the staff room as I idly flipped through Grazia magazine on my lunch hour and chanced upon this advert. With this double page spread of grinning Barbies, all dead behind the eyes, I had been plunged unwittingly into the valley of the dolls. But why did it freak me out so much? (more…)

By: Sarah Barnes, 03.03.2010 | Comments (3)
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Fashion and The Female Personality

I read with interest (and not just because she’s a friend, honest!) Esme Benjamin’s take on the new French Connection adverts. Writing over at the Fashion Editor At Large blog, where she and Grazia’s Melanie Rickey pour out their fashionable thoughts, Esme loved the brand’s post modern approach to winning over the public.

What I love about this ad campaign is that it cheekily mocks (and yet, still obviously loves) the pretension of editorials and the fashion image whilst simultaneously making us as viewers aware of the way the fashion ‘dream’ is delivered to us. And the most interesting thing, I think, is how that ‘dream’ is all tied up in defining a particular gender in a romanticised and precise manner. So, from the video campaign (that deliciously sends up French art-house cinema), we understand the Man is ’strong, virile, a brute’ and the Woman is highly desirable, yet independent.

What I find especially exciting about this campaign is that it gives a personality to the ‘dream’ woman in the campaign, and acknowledges that French Connection customers also possess personality… and a sense of humour! With this in mind, I was interested to read BitchBuzz’s latest fashion report that, when presenting their AW10 collection this London Fashion Week, Antoni & Alison chose to go over-the-top in their openness about the kind of woman they designed the pieces for.

As the lovely editor of BitchBuzz Cate Sevilla writes, the presentation (which had clothes for the writer, the country girl, and those ‘very good at maths’)was essentially about how Antoni & Alison have created a collection that tells women that they can do anything that they might deign to turn their hand to… or dress appropriately for. It’s an interesting idea. Is this fashion coming round to the idea that women actually have lives and do stuff when they are wearing clothes, rather than being passive clothes horses? Or is this yet more pressure for women to ‘look the part’ and play at dress-up (if she dresses like a martial artist, does it follow that she can perform the perfect judo-chop? Did she earn her black belt, or simply buy it?) I think the aim was for the former, and it was great to see Antoni & Alison picking up on the interests of women, and not simply labelling them ‘the sex-kitten’ or some other tired cliche.

Whilst the marketing idea of having a ‘Woman’ that a brand designs for has been around for donkey’s years, I think this new mini-trend for turning the notion on its head is a rather fascinating one… and I wonder whether we’ll be seeing more examples of it in the future.

By: Sarah Barnes, 24.02.2010 | Comments (0)
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Inspiring Confidence with Feminist Graffiti

I absolutely love feminist graffiti, and rejoice whenever I see it… so imagine how ecstatic I was when I saw this particular plastic surgery advert which had been covered with all manner of feminist sloganed stickers. Of course, it would be much nicer to get on the tube and not have to come face to face with these adverts on a daily basis, but until that day at least we have this form of activism to brighten our day.

By: Sarah Barnes, 17.02.2010 | Comments (2)
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Worth Talking About…

An admission; I’m completely enamoured with the new ‘Worth Talking About…‘ adverts from the NHS! And it’s not just because of the fantastic typography… If you haven’t seen them yet, the first in the series depicts several conversations around contraception (watch the advert here). The second advert takes the same approach whilst tackling Chlamydia testing (see it here).

This conversational approach is original and confident, using expressive words in cartoonish speech bubbles to covey how people should be talking about sex, STIs and contraception. I say ‘should be talking’, because I don’t think everyone is too comfortable with talking so frankly about these subjects – and, of course, that’s part of the problem.

I love the scene in the first, contraception themed, advert – where it seems a mother and daughter are watching a soap opera together. ‘Looks like they’re finally getting it together,’ says the daughter, to which the mother replies; ‘Let’s hope they’ve talked about contraception then.’ I mean, how cool is that?! In this perfect, speech-bubbly world, contraception is something so taboo-less that any young girl can chat about it with her mum in front of the telly. Where is this world, and can I go live there?

It’s also great news that this campaign is opening up dialogue around different contraceptive methods. In October 2008 Company Magazine reported that; ‘more than a third of you (their readers, as surveyed in their ‘Your Voice Your Choice’ survey) are unhappy with your contraception and one in five of you haven’t even had different forms of contraception discussed with you’. Company’s readers complained that GPs tended only to talk about contraception in terms of the Pill or Condoms. The magazine also concluded that it was unfair that 20% of primary care trusts refuse younger women Long Acting Reversible Contraception (the coil, implant and injections).

Two years on from Company’s survey, and this advert gives the impression (at least on the surface) that NHS GPs will be much more open to offering different contraceptives to their patients. Also, my feeling is that (after watching the ad) women will be much more confident in bringing up the subject of contraceptive choices (beyond the pill) with their doctors, and will strive to find the right method for them.

What I love most about these ads is that they are really effectively making the dialogue around sex, and sexual health, much less intimidating.  With every viewing, I can visualise these adverts turning our up-tight and tight-lipped world into a lovely speech-bubbly land where girls gather on park benches to moan about the pill, and couples discuss contraceptive implants over egg and chips at the local caf. I’m completely convinced that, thanks to this campaign, a whole heap of parents are waiting impatiently for a saucy storyline on Corrie just so they can FINALLY bring up the subject of sex with their adolescent offspring!

It’s not often that advertisements are praised for making the world a better place, but I think this one is doing a damn fine job of it.

By: Sarah Barnes, 23.01.2010 | Comments (0)
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‘Beautiful’ is not a Personality

Funny People Poster

Just had to stop and take a picture of this awful poster (above) for the film Funny People, and the wonderful graffiti that some admirable soul took the time to scribble on it (below).

Women Have Personalities Too!

I don’t think anyone would seriously  stop and think “Hmm that particular character obviously  has a beautiful personality, with a warm heart and a kind soul!” The message is clear; If you’re a woman,  it’s all about ‘appearing’ rather than ‘doing’ or ‘being’.

Interesting how different it is from this poster for the same film (aimed at an American audience, maybe?). Why was the other female actress omitted from our version? Couldn’t they think of a suitable ‘personality’ to give her?!

By: Sarah Barnes, 16.11.2009 | Comments (3)
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