no B.O in boys

Old Spice

Just like Ivory soap ads of over half a century ago, today we are told that we cannot, under any circumstance, stink. Smelling, however natural it may be, should be avoided at all costs, but men specifically shall not stink. If they stink they are somehow less of a man, because of this they will not get ‘the girl’ and because they will be lonely will automatically become losers. No man should ever want to be a loser. This is amusing to me; men are usually represented as ‘mooks’. Mooks are, according to Frontline’s 2001 documentary “Merchants of Cool” are young men who identify with the stinky, messy, sloppy men of their generation they see on the reality television shows whose ratings they beef up. With two completely different points of view of what a man should be interpelating men daily it’s a wonder they aren’t confused. The three ads I will be discussing all portray what men should smell like, and to an extent how they should look. The ads also conveniently give a solution to men that don’t smell the way they ‘should’, buy their product and smell like the man you’re supposed to smell like so you can get the girl. Aside from getting the girl the ads clearly depict the way life should be, so somehow these ads will not only have you smelling good, they’ll have the power of making you a man in the process.


Authors Goldman and Papson give us an overview of major ideologies of ads in their piece “Advertising in the Age of Accelerated Meaning”. The first ideology states that ads socially and culturally construct a world, these ads, specifically the Dove Men ad, shows a socially and culturally acceptable view of how a life should progress; in doing however it discounts every other lifestyle lived by millions of people in the world. This also addresses the second ideology, which states that inequalities and injustices are suppressed, inequalities like the inability for many same sex couples to live the life depicted in the ad. All of the ads promote a normative vision of manhood, of how a man should look (in the Old Spice commercial the actor asks “does your man look like me?” and the Axe commercial is based on the way male genitals ‘actually’ look and how they are ‘supposed’ to look), who a man should want to attract (assuming he is heterosexual), and of course how he ought to smell which is the third ideology. Lastly all ads are active representations of the fourth ideology, which states that adverts in general reflect the logic of capital, notably by trying to sell you something in the end.


By actively showing men, and women, what men ought to be and look like these products are automatically associated with ‘real’ manhood thus sealing the product by association. If we were to use semiotic analysis the way it is shown in Roland Barthe’s “Rhetoric of the Image” we would see that the careful selection of comparisons and the images used create instant connections between the product and what one should be. By doing this the ad also makes obvious who its target audience is, using a signifiers like sports balls, or a man walking on a log in order to signify that men ought to be sporty and fearless and the like.


Creating ads that are comical is one way in which companies portray “Hip Consumerism”, this is a means by which companies try to promote that they can identify with you. They want to make you feel like they “get it”, and understand that you are bored of average commercial ads, so they create ads that have cultural meaning embedded in them in order to from deeper attachments with you. They portray the loser that authors Messner and Montez de Oca talk about in their piece “Male Consumer as Loser”. They say that ads work with consumers to construct a consumption based identity, and identity which means that one is not simply masculine by virtue of their gender or sex, they need to also consume in an effort to aid their masculinity.


If I were to create a spoof ad I would make it a point to show the two sides of the way in which men are targeted. I would show a man utterly confused and oscillating between being a mook and being the uber clean men that these ads make them feel they are supposed to be. I would also have special effects to try and show the way men stink, it would be a lime green mist that comes up from their arm pits and from their feet, on the other hand I would have sparkles to show when men were being extra clean. This would be a very overt way to show the two distinct and opposite ways in men are interpellated not only by ads but in most all forms of media.


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