Barbasol, Axe Get Mighty Manly

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Both Barbasol and Axe are out to dial up America’s measure of manliness, breaking comical campaigns that leave little room for whining (not to mention wimpy professions like lifeguard or firefighter.)

In the biggest ad endeavor ever for Barbasol, launched in 1919, a new campaign tells modern sissy-boys to “Shave like a man.” Ads compare the endeavors of sturdy ancestors to what today’s men are up to: “We’re on the Oregon Trail. And you’re on a … juice cleanse? If you’re not going to eat like a man, could you at least shave like a man? And stop talking about kale.”

Agency GSD&M in Austin developed the campaign based on research from Perio, the Dublin, Ohio-based company that owns Barbasol, which revealed that while 91% of its target users (primarily those in the 18 to 59 age group) say they respect “real men,” 84% also agreed that “it is hard to be a real man today.”

“Everything men have today, things like juice cleanses and remote controls, are great. But deep down, we think all guys want to feel like real men,” Ken Waldron, Perio’s VP/advertising, tells Marketing Daily. “You do think back on your forefathers for what that means. And between the funny stuff being done by brands like Dollar Shave Club and Old Spice, we felt like there was room to do something comedic in shave creams.”

While advertising on the Super Bowl was beyond its budget, he says the company will air radio versions of the campaign on Super Bowl broadcasts, and “because there is so much focus on ads online leading up to the big game, we thought this was a perfect time to launch,” he says. TV spots are planned throughout the year on TNT, Comedy Central, ESPN, NFL Network, and Spike.

The campaign also includes a Twitter component, with chiding tweets from the past aimed at today’s wimpier version of men: “I hope your list of conquests is at least half as long as your coffee order,” says one. “In my day, verbs were actually verbs: Chopping. Harvesting. Pillaging. You can keep texting and loling for yourself,” sniffs another. Or, “Unless it's actually carved out of a mountain, your 'man cave' is just a living room.” 

In debuting its new Apollo line, Axe is also cranking up the he-man angle by taking its message into orbit. A 30-second commercial, called “Lifeguard,” is set to air on the Super Bowl and conveys the simple truth: Lifeguards may punch out sharks and rescue drowning babes in bikinis. But guys in spacesuits? Now, that’s hot:  “Nothing beats an astronaut,” ads are tagged. The campaign, which Unilever says is the biggest effort in Axe’s 30-year-history, also includes a contest to send one lucky winner into space. A version featuring a firefighter began airing earlier this month, and has already driven more than 150,000 contest entries. 

The spot is scheduled to air during the third quarter, and will encourage viewers to go to its microsite and register for the “Leave a man, come back a hero” contest. The brand will also send Axe Astronauts to tour New Orleans leading up to the game.

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