It's 2016, and that stuff you spray under your stinky armpits to make them less stinky is getting a rebrand.
In this ad - which Marketing Week writes repositions AXE in a "forth wave feminist world" - opens with a bold and counter-intuitive statement...
C'mon... a six pack... who needs a six pack?
We're then shown short and punchy vignettes, espousing the virtues of men who aren't living their lives according to traditional models of hyper-masculinity. Rather than dwelling on any one character or situation, we're hit with a barrage of them before we have any chance to digest, dwell or think. It's modern advertising for the ADHD generation.
There's the kid in the prohibition gangster suit, the annoying gym tosser, the preening narcisist (a ginger metrosexual De Niro from Taxi Driver about to take a selfie and put it on Instagram), the black dude dancing in heels and technicolor dream coat, prom king spinning in a wheelchair... it goes on.
But here's the thing - we're being presented with a dichotomy here, and a conflict of interest. The ad says “Hey guys, guess what - you don’t need to care about (conventional) looks!” but all of the executions show us what precisely? Looks. Not personality, or any real quality that matters. We're shown a series of attractive, young, in-shape men who represent yet more figures for the modern man to aspire to be like. But now it's not good enough to just have a six-pack. No, this time around, you've got to be effortlessly cool, like a character from Skins.
There's no self-assurance here either. If you want to tell a story, then tell a story about one of these people, not a clip show. We don't do that, because of the superficial nature of these clips, they tell us nothing, and make vacuous de jour statement of progressiveness, like hollow echoes in a empty cave.
The only really good part of this ad is that it features a gay couple, which for some strange reason no other critic has even noticed. Watch 0:26-0:30 - Two guys making shy sexy eyes over "The Power of the Banana" vinyl; the banana being a well known penis metaphor. What's their story? I want to know. But we'll never find out, because apparently in 2016 we're still getting clip shows that give lip service to showing us something new while treading roads we passed decades ago.
An interracial couple. A disabled guy. A gay couple. So what? I could see all that and more in Camden Town on a Thursday afternoon. Say something meaningful.
Men don't need to be told to 'Find their magic', and they certainly don't need this kind of patronizing waffle.
The real question is will millennials take to this type of superficial self-empowerment advertising, targeted at men? Maybe 10 years ago they might. But young people trust brands less than ever now.
Case in point from Cameron Jonsson, CEO of Reach + Acquire:
Research is a primary driver of Millennial sales - 93% report reading product reviews before purchasing. Faith in community input is strong, and brands are shrinking in importance: 62% of 18-34 year olds trust brands less than people.
In a time when the special snowflake generation just got 21 new genders overnight on Facebook, is celebrating uniqueness in a grooming product not the most obvious inclusive strategy they can do? No doubt. But let's celebrate real quirks in real people, and not pander to our audience. Millennials are too smart for this, and they deserve better.