Time was when Old Spice only needed a man on a surfboard and a chorus from Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana to let the world know that this was a smell for seriously rugged men. I’m not sure there was ever any truth in that, but I had no objection to the way it was being pitched. Things have taken a crass turn.
The latest ad, aimed jointly at women who have complete control over the grooming of their men and at men who quiver at the sight of a superior musculature, demands that women make frequent comparisons to the men in their lives and the loosely towelled jock on the screen. Assuring women that they may justifiably give up hope that reality will ever compare favourably to his robust frame, the actor suggests that at least a real man does not have to smell like a woman, or worse. I have previously stated my opinions about the importance of the olfactory sense (Firing up the Ol’ Factory), but I don’t much care for it being sold in this way.
For starters, the appeal to women relies on an extension of the derisory stereotype put forward by the good people at Dodge (Ad Nauseum: Dodge Charger). Women will be wowed by such simple fripperies as tickets to a show (exactly what show is irrelevant because men don’t care about such things, as long as you’re happy and prepared to have sex afterward), diamonds, strutting about on the deck of a yacht, and the sexual connotations of horses. There is no substance in any of this, to the point that women are supposed not to notice that the man here is portrayed as arrogant, narcissistic and conceited. A pleasant aroma will take care of any and all the defects of character, it seems.
Second, are men thought so utterly hopeless that a direct appeal to them is futile? Surely a call to their self-respect and dignity would be better. As I mentioned previously, a man’s smell should be based on the reflection, ‘what does my smell say about me?’ If the answer to that question is simply ‘I do not make choices for myself’ then that is a shame.