Act Like A Man, Man!: An Examination of Old Spice Ads

Old Spice New

“Our print ad rejects the idea that the Old Spice product is desirable because of the heteronormative assumption that ‘blondes prefer gentlemen.’ Rather, we decided to advertise the true purpose of the deodorant to consumers—the elimination of body odor.”

“Recently, Old Spice has advertised creatively by taking advantage of YouTube, the video-sharing giant of the Internet. Their first of many satirical and quirky short videos on their official YouTube channel has almost 50 million views. The most recent ad campaign uses jokes about masculinity to attract male buyers to feel more comfortable buying body wash. It has obviously been successful, as in the three days after these videos were released, Old Spice’s twitter following increased from 3,000 to 48,000 followers. Since then, sales of body wash have increased 51%. Old Spice is no longer simply an increasingly popular brand, but it has also become a cultural icon and source of entertainment.”
—Georgia Griffis, Ivy Wappler, Charlie Bailey, Angela Kong, and Cailley Biagini

The Original Old Spice Print Advertisement

Old Spice Original“This Old Spice print advertisement makes use of the male gaze to target heterosexual men who may consider the blonde model to be a valuable commodity. Additionally, the advertisement celebrates blondeness as beautiful and enforces a specific beauty ideal. By valorizing white models, less space becomes available for minorities, enabling narrower and more stereotypical representations of those minorities. Similarly, ‘gentleman’ connotes that the goal for consumers is to reach an upper socioeconomic class. This formula strengthens capitalism because no matter how many products consumers buy, they will continually be dissatisfied with themselves and seek remedy from media and consumption.”

The Original Old Spice Audiovisual Advertisement

“This commercial reinforces heteronormativity in that, although the commercial is intended to be satirical, it does so in a manner that is understated rather than overt, which does not challenge the current discourse and rhetoric surrounding sexist tropes. This commercial utilizes a heteronormative script and appeals to both men and women—men by its featuring of a men’s product, women by marketing towards those whom buy products for their man. Companies aim to gender products in order to reinforce the rigid gender norms and expectations to entice customers to be more ‘manly’ and less ‘ladylike.'”

The Revised Old Spice Audiovisual Advertisement

“For our own audiovisual component of the project, we decided to remake the Old Spice commercial with variation of words and plot to emphasize inequalities the commercial encourages. Because the advertisement draws on gender inequalities to appeal their product to ‘manly men,’ we decided to challenge conventional ideas of gender roles in order to advocate equity in a way that the majority of Old Spice commercials don’t.”

Leave the “Blank Space” Blank: Taylor Swift, Dating Violence, & Gender Role Performance

"Our goal in creating our own version of Taylor Swift’s Polaroids and music video is to demonstrate a healthy process of breaking up with your significant other."

“Our goal in creating our own version of Taylor Swift’s Polaroids and music video is to demonstrate a healthy process of breaking up with your significant other.”

“When her princess love stories go astray, Swift’s lyrics and videos not only reinforce the stereotype of women as dependent and over-emotional but also enter the dark realms of domestic violence. With such a young fan following, Taylor Swift and her ‘Blank Space’ phenomenon are teaching the dangerous tale of revenge, domestic violence, and weakness to teenage girls one YouTube view at a time.”
—Trina Reynolds-Tyler, Spencer Spotts, Amairani Alamillo, Susie Simmons, and Hannah Seabright

The Original Taylor Swift Polaroid Pictures

Taylor Swift“In the second picture, Swift is lying on a couch with her arms covering her face. Sut Jhally contends that women photographed lying down give off the impression that they are weak, defenseless, and utterly vulnerable. In this pose, she represents the antithesis of power. Her arms are rested on her face in a delicate manner, suggesting femininity is defined by being “soft, delicate, innocent, demure, shy, and simple.”

The Original Taylor Swift “Blank Space” Video

“Although her intentions may have been light-hearted and aimed for comedic laughs, the actual implications of this video on young viewers contribute to unhealthy perceptions of relationships and breakups.”

The Revised Taylor Swift “Blank Space” Video

“Our portrayal of Taylor allows her to move on in a healthy manner because she is respecting Ben, there is no destruction of property, and she is taking care of her mental/physical/emotional health. We acknowledge that breakups will be painful and difficult to deal with; however, we reinforce a healthy breakup by allowing Taylor to express her feelings in a journal, engage in hobbies, and spend time with her friends.”

A Body for Every Body

By Lauren Robinson (’18)

VSRecently, Victoria’s Secret changed one of their advertisement taglines from “The Perfect Body” to “A Body for Every Body.” It took over 16,000 signatures on a petition in the U.K. and string of impassioned responses by citizens across the globe to drive this popular lingerie company to oust their intensely body-shaming ad campaign. However, the campaign is not over. The “perfect body” posters still hang in the Victoria Secret stores. Even more, they did not actually change much about the ad. The simply changed the white text on top of the pictures of the stick-thin, glossy models—who remained in the background.

Additionally, Victoria’s Secret entirely disregarded the influence of the citizen’s vigorous campaign on their decision to change the text. They proudly claimed that they were the ones to realize the advertisement was overtly body-shaming many women and that they made the executive decision to change it to something more inclusive. While “A Body for Every body” seems inclusive, it does not match what is behind it: the same perfectly airbrushed women presenting society’s homogenous definition of beauty.

What is Victoria’s Secret trying to convey to its costumers with an advertisement about “The Perfect Body” with ten flawless, playful women in the background? They are presenting a narrow-minded definition of beauty and constituting exactly who is allowed to wear their lingerie. All of these models have similar body types, hair styles, excessively made-up faces, sexy smirks and shiny skin tones. This advertisement  lacks diversity, even though the costumers who shop at Victoria’s Secret have an extensive array of body types and appearances. According to Chris Jordan in “Marketing ‘Reality’ to the World: Survivor, Post-Fordism and Reality Television,” media “must be able to attract large numbers of people” (519), and it must “attract the ‘right’ kinds of people” (519). Hence, the average customer would be expected to main this image of “perfection” to be able to shop there.

Victoria’s Secret is limiting their range of costumers by plastering perfect, unattainable bodies onto their ads and claiming that with the “perfect body,” there would be a “perfect fit” with “perfect comfort” that is “perfectly soft.” Having the “perfect body,” of course, is the prerequisite for these luxuries.  Instead of attracting costumers—as their intention must be as a large-scale business—Victoria’s Secret is driving the women who do not flaunt this certain type “perfect” body away and perpetuating the idea that women need a “perfect body” to shop for nice lingerie and feel sexy.

Not only will Victoria Secret’s new and old ad campaign drive costumers away, it may influence individuals, such as young women and girls, to conform to their perception of what is beautiful and “perfect.” Projecting this image of unattainable, sexy beauty onto a society of natural-looking women is lethal. It implies that beauty is something that is reserved for a select few individuals, who must work absurdly hard to maintain their physique and appearance. Furthermore, customers should not be working to fit into a “perfect” mold to be able to shop at one store. In “Television and the Domestication of Cosmetic Surgery,” Sue Tait notes that “the implication is that the physical appearance of candidates does not reflect who they “truly” are” (557). Victoria Secret’s ad focuses solely on the aspects of an individual that do not emphasize character, personality, intelligence or any other valuable internal qualities. Although Tait is referring to altering ones body surgically, the same motivation and negative emotions towards oneself can be found in trying to attain a perfect “Victoria’s Secret-esque body.”

In “The Whites of Their Eyes: Racist Ideologies and the Media,” Stuart Hall claims that “In modern societies, the different media are especially important sites for the production, reproduction and transformation of ideologies” (105). It is within the realm of advertisements—both the outrageous first body-shaming one and the “more inclusive” second one—in which Victoria’s Secret allows negative ideologies regarding our appearances as females to concretely form.