Are you familiar with the Axe effect? The Axe brand of deodorants and male grooming products is from Unilever and is primarily targeted at 15- to 25-year old males. It is also infamous for its super-sexist advertisements. Their website once featured a naughty-to-nice fake news report that showed nice girls becoming nasty and if you wished, you could also report a naughty girl. The company created a mouse pad to launch their website that was a skirt. You have to place your hand under a skirt to use it.
Unilever, the company that makes Axe, has a history of advertising the product line with commercials that depict women in a questionable manner.
One past ad showed a man showering after what appeared to be a one night stand with a woman and instructed men to use the product to "scrub away the skank." In October 2011 another Axe ad showed female angels giving up divinity for a man who smelled good. The ad was banned in South Africa.
The ad campaign is a favorite target for those who fight for equal rights for woman in advertising.
Jezebel dubbed the company "the cheap toiletry equivalent of the He-Man Woman Haters Club."
“15 years of Axe Effect: the world’s most sexist advertising campaign” is the headline of the blog, thisnotadvertising.
Bitchmagazine.com conducted an online poll to determine the worst Axe ad.
Since 2003, Axe advertisements have portrayed various ways the products supposedly helped men attract women. Whether they are print advertisements or TV commercials, they always have the same message, “sex sells, we sell sex, buy Axe, you get women."
Recently Axe launched a woman’s fragrance. Of Axe’s 2.3 million “likes” on Facebook, ¼ are by women, according to Barret Roberts, the senior brand manager at Axe. The new scent, Anarchy, is being marketed in different versions for men and women. As its name portends, a new commercial depicts a scene of mayhem, with a chain of events including a car pileup. During the spot, strangers lock eyes and, oblivious to the commotion, walk hungrily toward one another, then freeze at about an arm’s length, nostrils flaring and chests heaving, not breaking the sexual tension with contact.
Pitching sex appeal has made Axe a major force in young men's body sprays, deodorants, and soaps. Axe dominates the men’s body spray category, with a 74% share of the market.
The latest Axe campaign has drawn a lot of heat. The spot for Axe men's hair product entitled “Office Love” features two main characters: a full (male) head of hair on tiny legs and a headless set of breasts, also with its own pair of legs. The two eyeless creatures "stare" longingly at each other across the office, share an elevator ride, almost sit next to each other at lunch and finally morph into full-fledged human beings at the bus stop after work.
Unilever hired ad agency BBH in a brief attempt to go highbrow and stylish and lend the brand an air of sophistication. The agency got Kiefer Sutherland on board to tell the tale of Susan Glenn, his (fictional) girl who got away, in a stylish, surreal spot that plays like a memory.
But according to AdWeek this new ad from the same agency has “Axe back to being Axe.”
An online petition protesting Unilever Axe ads is available at petitiononline.com.
For more information on women’s negative image in advertising visit the website of Jean Kilbourne.