Tag mimicking Axe?

Last Monday, adage.com reported that Gillette was launching their advertising for Tag body spray, which will be competing against Unilever's Axe and Old Spice's Read Zone (owned by P&G). The campaign, created by Arnold Worldwide, Boston, takes the seems to use the exact same strategy as Unilever's Axe (and Lynx in the UK/Europe). Tag's new spot wasn't bad creatively. The copy at the end which includes a warning list is rather amusing.

Tag Body Spray - Mrs. Drake (SuperAdgrunts click the image to watch the ad)

"In advertising not to be different is virtually suicidal."
- William Bernbach

The problem lies in the fact that the strategy is a ripped off of what BBH created for the Axe/Lynx brand. Heck, even the packaging looks similar. Seems their AEs must have slept through their Advertising 101 classes. How an agency like Arnold that has a rather decent record for producing good work, creatively and strategically, ends up creating something like this is beyond me. Of course, it is completely possible that the client was behind this move, seeing the success Axe has with their advertising. But it is the job of the ad agency to stand up and say "Wait a minute. Your competitor's using this strategy. We want to stand apart from them and make your product be something different." To agree to follow in the footsteps of an already used strategy is just an inane way to advertise.

Bernbach also said, "To succeed an ad (or a person or product for that matter) must establish its own unique personality, or it will never be noticed. So if a consumer doesn't watch through to the end when the board comes up with the tag line and brand name, there's every reason to assume that people will be thinking that Tag's advertising is for Axe (or even Old Spice Red Zone). Causing confusion for consumers isn't really what I'm sure Arnold was intending to do. But by letting this ad get out to the airwaves, that's most likely what is going to happen.

One also has to wonder if, internally at Arnold there was at least one person who said that this was a bad route to take. That it was just ripping off another strategy. And that it would be a bad idea to not give the consumer some point of differentation between the products. Even if you want to go as far to say that these are parity products and that there really isn't much different between them, then at least the advertising should be different. Especially with parity products, creating a unique advertising message or branding image, or as Arnold calls it, "brand essence", is essential.

"Imitation can be commercial suicide."
- Bill Bernbach

I'm curious what BBH's response to this will be. Could be that they are just laughing because obviously Arnold thought that this was either the only way to go, or that because Axe/Lynx's strategy was working so well, they might as well jump on the bandwagon themselves. As David Ogilvy said in Confessions of an Advertising Man, "If you ever have the good fortune to create a great advertising campaign, you will soon see another agency steal it. This is irritating, but don't let it worry you; nobody has ever built a brand by imitating somebody else's advertising." So maybe BBH is laughing.

Perhaps there really isn't another way to approach the advertising for a body spray for men. Maybe it does all have to be about getting women to throw themselves at you and rip off your clothing. Even Old Spice's Red Zone ads follow that path as well, but in their execution they are at least a bit more "tame" compared to the typical Axe and Lynx ads.

Tag's Competitor Ads:
Axe & Whipped Cream - Axe print ads 2005

Axe - Recycling / Residue (2004) 0:30 (USA)

Axe - Touch - cable version (2004) 0:30 (USA)

Axe - Handyman - (2003) 0:15 (USA)

Axe - Metamorphose (2003) 0:30 (USA)

Axe - Elevator - Dog (2003) - 0:30 (USA)

Lynx – Touch (:30) (2004) (UK)

Old Spice Red Zone - Game (2004) 0:30 (USA)

Old Spice Holiday Print Ad 2004 (top image)

So what do you think? Is this a case of copying? Or is it just that there is no other way to sell body spray to men?

Anonymous Adgrunt's picture
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AnonymousCoward's picture

If this isn't a copycat, then I'm a wild buffalo. I saw this last night - in passing, no less - and thought exactly the same thing. Aren't there enough original ideas out there, sheesh?

Dabitch's picture

I could confuse the Tag bottle with Axe, a well as their ads with Axe... that's not a good thing.

caffeinegoddess's picture

I predict that the Tag campaign will get killed at the end of the year.

AnonymousCoward's picture

Arnold has been in a downward sprial lately and this latest campaign has not helped. Whenever an agency has a car client, the usually dedicated 80% of their time to them, and in Arnold's case, its Volkswagon. This leaves other clients on the back burner. So it makes perfect sense that Arnold would pratically copy a perfectly sucessful competitor campaign. They see that Axe is sucessful and decide to use a similar sex appeal (sex has always sold anyway). It saves the creatives time and they know it will work because its working for Axe.

Besides, customers probably don't really know the difference between Axe and Tag. Same aisle, same ads, same price, and practically the same bottle.

aiiobo's picture

Funny, I've been chatting to someone recently about the decline of good stuff from Arnold.... So I guess we aren't the only ones to notice it huh? Your car-account theory might be right on. Shame.

Toste's picture

Thing that doesn't make sense about the car theory is that they've had VW for a long time now...and it's just recently that the amount of good stuff vs "eh" or bad stuff ratio has changed. For the car theory to make sense I'd think that they would have had to have had issues for a while.

The other thing is that they could be operating on a short staff. As far as I've heard they haven't done much hiring after all the laying off of people during the last 4 years (like many other agencies especially in Boston...) so it could be due to that.

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