The Axe Effect
The Axe body spray ad entitled “Women-Billions” is a very clever advertisement. It is very well made with well timed music and excellent cinematography. As is the case with most Axe commercials, it pushes the limits of what is accepted in advertising and is at least mildly insulting to both men and women. But, love it or hate it, this commercial will grab the attention and hold onto it for the entire sixty seconds.
The ad starts with bare feet running down a jungle trail. There are sounds of footfalls and the background noise of jungle birds. Then the camera angle switches to further away. A very attractive woman with dark hair and skin and wearing a red two piece bikini is running through the jungle. Just as the camera angle switches she comes to a halt and the angle switches again, to her face. She has a very aggressive and almost bestial look on her face. She visibly sniffs the air like a wolf scenting its prey. After a brief pause, she starts to run again and the camera is not shy about showing her mostly exposed feminine features as she runs. The slow motion filming unashamedly allows her body movement to accentuate these features.
Although only a few seconds of time actually elapse, the commercial gives the sense that the woman is traveling a great distance at a full sprint. This is achieved by showing several very short clips of her running with varied scenery in the background and foreground from several different angles. She is running through heavily wooded areas with many dead limbs lying about. The camera angle gives the impression that she is hurtling debris in the pathway by showing her jumping as it films her through trees and underbrush. This alludes to her facing as many obstacles as the viewer’s eyes are facing from this angle. As she runs, the music, which was previously very subtle, becomes louder and more intense, giving the impression of growing urgency.
All these elements give the impression of an extreme motivation. This woman is running at break-neck speed over treacherous terrain. The camera cuts to her face again and, as the music continues to intensify, she shows the look of extreme determination. Her head is forward and her eyes are up, looking ahead, paying no attention to where her feet are landing as most people would naturally do when they run. This gives the impression of a lioness in hot pursuit of her prey. Her eyes never wavering from the chosen target she pursues with all her might.
As she continues to run there are suddenly many more dark skinned, dark haired women in similar attire running alongside of her. At this moment the music seems to intensify even more and becomes recognizable as the Latin hymn Dies Irae (literally “Day of Wrath”). The music gives a very intense feeling of urgency and competition, possibly even battle. The entire scene so far is very primal and gives the sense that all of these women have a “win at all cost” attitude.
Now the commercial cuts to a new scene and we see what appears to be thousands of blond women in two piece bikinis climbing a hill. Almost as soon as it cuts to this scene the camera cuts again to an ocean full of women in two piece bikinis swimming very purposely towards shore. This scene is speedily followed by several very quick scenes each depicting the different groups of women running towards, what is implied to be, the same goal. The concept of competition is conveyed by images of the women pushing each other or hurtling over fallen competitors.
The scene cuts again and we see the face of a man. He has a look of amazement in his eyes and a smile on his face. He is turning and looking in all directions while this same look remains imprinted on his face. It is uncertain at this point if the man is just watching or if he is the goal that all these women are striving to reach.
The camera cuts to several different scenes of what now appears to be hundreds of thousands of women storming a beach from all sides. Some are swimming in and then running out of the ocean while others are scrambling down a cliff face to reach the sand and yet another group is racing onto the beach from the jungle that borders it. All of these countless women are fiercely racing to be the first to reach a single point.
Now the focus is back on the man, this time showing more than his face. He is standing on the beach with his shirt off and spraying body spray from a can in each hand. At this point it becomes clear that he is the goal that all these women are rushing towards. He continues to spray the body spray all over his upper body with the same goofy smile on his face as the women are now rapidly approaching.
As the women reach him, the man throws his arms open as if to welcome them all even though he is still spraying the body spray. The camera begins to zoom out to an aerial view and shows the women reaching out for the man as the finally achieve their goal. The shot cuts to his face for an instant and he has his head thrown back with a look of ecstasy on his face. Then the camera changes again and we can see the entire beach from far above. The entire beach seems to be completely covered with women. Now for
the first time in this commercial we see a graphic. It says, “The Axe effect. Spray more, get more.” As this appears a very sexy female voice reads the “Spray more, get more” part of the graphic and then the commercial is over.
The images, music and even the story in this ad grab one’s attention and hold it. Even if it is only viewed once it will be remembered and so will the product it advertises. The story is absurd, but the commercial does its job very well. It gets a person’s attention and makes them remember the product.
This ad uses a Non Sequitur fallacy to make the association of their product and sex appeal. The argument, basically stated, is: this product smells good, if a man wears this product he will smell good, if he smells good then women will find him sexy. Obviously the first two parts to this argument are debatable but most likely they would be generally accepted to be true. The third point of the argument is where the trouble starts. What is considered sexy cannot be put into a can and sprayed on to attract someone. Sexy is not a scent, it is a memory of what each person thinks is sexy and when that memory is triggered we perceive someone to be sexy.
The tag line of the commercial is both absurd and incredibly risqué. “Spray more, get more.” It is obvious that the inference is that if a man sprays this product on he will get more sex. That concept alone is asinine but the way it is worded indicates the more this product is sprayed on the more sex the user will get. There isn’t a sane woman on this planet who would agree with that statement. What woman would be attracted to a man wearing so much cologne that breathing in his vicinity was impossible?
From a liability standpoint the makers of Axe cannot be accused of false advertising because they make no clear claim as to what the user will get more of. Get more attention? Get more sex? The answer to the question of what the user gets more of is left unanswered. Even the visual images do not state that the body spray is the reason all these women were racing to get to the man. The ad makes strong inferences and we are left to draw our own conclusions.
It is obvious that this ad is relying on a very strong visual argument. There are only seven written words and four spoken words in the entire commercial. Even though there are no words the story is very clear. The sight of thousands of women throwing themselves at one man because of his body spray makes a clear statement that this product has sex appeal without ever actually saying so.
It is very clear that the target audience for this ad is not women since women are
well aware that nobody spray is going to make them hurl themselves at a man in a fit of passion. As a male, and a part of the obvious target audience, I was originally insulted by this advertisement. It is ridiculous to think that I can get a woman to pay attention to me just because I smell good, but after I started writing this review I started to realize the genius of the commercial.
The writer of the commercial is not trying to convince men that a simple body spray will attract women but is instead using a preposterous scenario to get a much more subtle idea into the minds of his audience. That subtle message is simply an association of the product with sex appeal.
Later, when a man sees the product on the shelf he will remember the commercial
and all the beautiful images. He will be attracted to the product because he already has a pleasant memory of it even if it is one generated by the ad itself. Very few men will purchase the product thinking, “If I spray this on women will want to sleep with me.” Instead most men will simply associate the product with sex appeal and a pleasant memory. If someone has a good memory about a product, then it must be a good product.
This commercial is annoying and deceptive. It insults the intelligence and makes a wild preposterous statement. It objectifies women and makes both genders look preoccupied with sex. But, it is also captivating, and it is very memorable. Whether or not it is offensive, the commercial does its job. It associates the product with sex appeal and makes you remember it for a long time.