Progression of Axe Advertisements: Have They Learned?
AXE’S SERIES OF CONTROVERSIAL SHOWER GEL ADVERTISEMENTS
A few years ago, the popular brand Axe releases a series of print advertisements, as well as a commercial promoting their shower gel. The advertisement immediately grabs the consumers attention with large white words reading “The cleaner you are, the dirtier you get” along with “New and improved axe shower gel”. There are many reasons as to why this product was very controversial as well as sexist. The term sexism refers to a common way of stereotyping a certain sex or making one sex superior to the other. These series of ads perfectly describe what sexism is, with every aspect of it proving to be an issue.
First off, the top picture is showing a man cleaning himself with the new shower gel with the words “the cleaner you are “below him. To the right, a beautiful, skinny female is shown holding a bottle of whipped cream over her head in the same position as the man with the shower gel. She is spraying her chest with whipped cream followed by the words “the dirtier you get” below her. Her mouth is also slightly opened, in almost a sexual way, hinting at the fact that this shower gel will make him smell great and will lead to sexual activities with a female.
The second and third images follow a similar setup and communicate a similar message. In the second image, we now have a view of both the male and females back, but while the man is simply cleaning is back, the female is seen putting on a corset. Corsets are known for making females look slimmer and curvy, but also to help females conform to societies expectations. A common stereotype targeting women is how men want them to be, which is skinny with curves. The second picture is doing just that, by insinuating that if a man uses this product, he will get the girl with the skinny body and curvy figure.
The third image could possibly have been the most controversial and disturbing image out of all the others. Once again, there is a view of both the male and females’ backs, this time the man is scrubbing his back with a brush, while the women is seen with the same arm positioning as the man with the brush, but she is seen holding a whip. Throughout time, a whip has had multiple meanings. For example, early on it was used as punishment for slavery if something wasn’t don’t right. But in more recent years, it has been known for its use as a sex toy, typically with the male figure using it on the female. Once again, the words below the picture read “the cleaner you are the dirtier you get”, this final image shows obvious gender roles, which can be described as social and stereotypical roles assigned to men and women with the belief that they should act and behave a certain way. The third image is representing that the male will assert dominance over a women, and get “dirty” with her if he uses this shower gel.
SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF GENDER IN THE MEDIA
For as long as time, men and women have been presented in the media in very distinct ways. Women are typically seen as less powerful than men, and often over sexualized. Whereas men in the media are usually seen as strong and over-masculine. Women are also often seen having the typical female job, either taking care of kids, cleaning, or cooking. Because of these depictions, gender can be seen as socially construction, meaning that what we see in everyday life determines what we perceive to be right and wrong. Axe’s shower gel advertisement is aiming to send the message that a “manly” scented product will give them power and attract women, instantly leading to some sort of sexual behavior in the end. Take the third image for example. This relates to the Fifty Shades of Grey films released in the past few years, which attracted a large female audience and somewhat normalized violence on the bedroom. Although it is known for its love story, it also represents violence against women, where the female lead is the submissive and the male lead is the dominant.
Along with the print ads shown above that Axe released, they also released a commercial, showing a man showering at the beach with the axe shower gel. Woman were then seen mimicking him as he was washing himself, and as the video ends, the man is surrounded by girls with their bikini tops halfway off. This commercial represents the male gaze which refers to how women are seen through a man’s eyes, typically as sexual objects. Although the male gaze is still a common feature in advertising and on television, there is still a drastic change in the media today, and our ideas of how a woman should look and act compared to how a man should is constantly changing. Representation on television specifically has begun to change, including the casting of LGBTQ community members, people of color, and overall a large diversity of different ethnic groups.
TAKING A STEP INTHE RIGHT DIRECTION
Today, when consumers visit Axe’s website, they can expect to see men as the focus. Perhaps the most interesting and influential part of their website is one of the options at the top to click which says, “Is it okay for guys…”. When you click this tab, there is a search option where you can search if it is okay for guys to cry, wear pink, experiment with other guys, and anything else a customer is curious about. There is also a video feature on the website representing these different thinks that guys CAN be. Below the video, there is text that reads, “guys are searching online what it means to be a man”, which is so important to understand today. From a young age, the media has put ideas in our head that are known to be normal, but if more companies continued to progress in the way Axe did, maybe our norms and expectations will continue to change, and we can view the world as a whole.