Semiotic/Cultural Revolution Analysis – AxePeace

Axe, the company for men’s grooming products, is known for it’s sexually suggestive ads and attempts to appeal to the young male demographic. But as a part of their new AxePeace campaign, the brand decided to go in a different direction. For the debut of the new AxePeace line, which includes body wash, deodorant, shave gel, and other products, Axe premiered this 60 second commercial during Super Bowl XLVIII. The advertisement features places from around the globe in varying states of turmoil and seemingly ill-tempered world leaders and soldiers on the verge of declaring acts of war. The ad then takes a dramatic turn when these acts of war are presented as acts of love in the form of vibrant firework shows and elaborate portraits for the women in the lives of each world leader and soldier. The simple and appropriately placed slogan “Make Love. Not War” appears at the end of the commercial, connecting Axe as a brand to the universally cherished values of peace and love.

This ad for AxePeace is a prime example of the kind of legacy the Creative Revolution has left behind. As counterculture and the movement away from capitalism and conformity began to take shape during the ‘60s, ad agencies were forced to find new ways to connect with the youth audience that went beyond the cut and dry sale of a product. The Creative Revolution ushered in a new era of advertising, one that made high quality and cinematic elements, politically liberal social messages, and out-of-the-box ideas the standard. Like advertising pioneer Bill Bernbach said in the film Art & Copy, advertising became about making a statement. AxePeace does just that with it’s visually stimulating images of the cruel realties of war and how it affects people of all cultures around the world. It takes a stance against the conforming attitudes of war that plagued the youth of the ‘60s and the youth of 2014. The ad suggests that the alternative values of love and peace are not only for the benefit of the world, but can also be considered attractive to the opposite sex. Its reference to real world issues has a greater impact on the jaded consumer. By tapping into these cosmopolitan values, Axe is able to reach the average young, alienated spectator through emotional appeal.

Although the Creative Revolution embraced the idea of using unconventional methods to create a successful advertisement, there are still basic factors that all ad agencies use in order to convey a certain message or set of messages. Through semiotics and the use of signifiers, audiences are able to dissect the messages that advertisers want to send about the product and their overall brand. In the AxePeace ad, the signifiers are men in military uniforms, helicopters and tanks, abandoned buildings, and areas in a state of chaos. These are all meant to signify soldiers, important military personnel, and places in the world that have been associated with heavy military conflict. Although not explicitly stated, they are assumed to be Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia (Vietnam), the Middle East, and North Korea. The message being sent through these signifiers is one that takes away the glamorization of war and highlights its detrimental effect on human society. The signifiers in the second part of the commercial, the fireworks, kissing scenes, and coupled portraits signify messages of love and affection. Axe cleverly associates its brand with the value of love by referencing it’s grooming products to the potential for world peace as seen in the last part of the ad where one of the world leaders is sprayed down with AxePeace body spray. Of course Axe knows that audiences are not going to associate their men’s grooming products as the solution to the world’s major conflicts, but they position themselves as a brand that recognizes how powerful the value of love is and shows that through the small displays of intimacy between world leaders/soldiers and their lovers in the ad.

AxePeace also carries ideology through this commercial. It shows the world as an often dangerous and cruel place due to the decisions and choices made by an elite group of people. However, love and positive emotion are presented as the key elements to overcoming a world of violence. While showing the power of love, it simultaneously suppresses the contradictions and harsh realities that go hand in hand with international conflict. Often times, love is not this simple ingredient that can be sprinkled onto violent struggles and people aren’t guaranteed the happy endings as seen in the advertisement. Although this major contradiction rings true, the ad still promotes an idealistic vision of the world while not straying too far from the reality of the situation.

Thanks to the legacy of the Creative Revolution, ads like this AxePeace commercial use high quality visual technology, innovative ideas, and bold political statements to transform the way consumers view brands.

-BM

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