A New Masculinity in Advertising?

A couple of us at OZA were having a discussion about the popularity of two ultra-masculine ad campaigns:
  • The Old Spice campaign from Wieden & Kennedy, which has been a huge social media hit (see this article for some hilarious viral videos and an analysis of the campaign’s impact), and

We were debating what has made these campaigns so successful.   The brands definitely want to be seen as masculine.  But it’s a different approach than the way Marlboro, for example, did it back in the ‘60s and ‘70s (or even the way Old Spice used to do it).  These Old Spice and Dos Equis ads have an absurd, comical tone, so maybe that gives people more freedom to co-create.  Real men aren’t really as over-the-top as these two characters, but maybe men see a little bit of themselves in these guys, and thus the campaigns resonate.

Furthermore, perhaps these ads (along with the recently-popular Chuck Norris jokes) are part of a broader societal story – a backlash against the “Homer Simpson-ization” of males in popular culture.   It seems that in many ads, TV shows, and movies, men are commonly portrayed as irresponsible, thick-headed, sex-obsessed nitwits -- like overgrown children, basically.  These ads portray a more classic vision of masculinity, although the tone is light-hearted enough so that it doesn’t come off as being sexist or outdated.

Another hypothesis is that maybe these kinds of “man’s man” ads are particularly resonant in times of economic upheaval, when many men in male-dominated fields like manufacturing and construction are losing jobs.  Budweiser’s iconic “This Bud’s for You” campaign had its roots in similar economic times back in the early 1980s.