The Dirty Truth on Keeping Axe Clean

Axe Original Ad

This is an advertisement for Axe body wash. On one side, a man is taking a shower and using the product, while on the other side, a woman is spraying whipped cream over her body. Like most of Axe’s ads, this poster shows that Axe is trying to sell their product through sex – with the advertising philosophy that sex sells. Most of Axe’s advertisements centers on how to get the attention of women and how to look or smell good to attract women.

The tagline, “The Cleaner you are, The Dirtier you get”, objectifies both men and women. The juxtaposition of clean and dirty is made to highlight the cause and effect actions of man and woman. The ad directly shows that IF a man cleans up, using Axe, THEN the woman would willingly spray whipped cream on herself – which is one of the sexual fantasies media has made attractive for men. The problem is that the ad gives the message that women would do whatever men want. The ad is showing that in some way, man can control the actions of women.

There is a question here about the freewill of women and the power of men in the society. Although there is much progress in gender equality, there are still numerous patriarchal societies where women are expected to follow or even serve men. Even in the workplace, women face a disadvantage in promotions and leadership titles. The position of women in society has its limits and still needs more improvement. The Axe advertisement surfaces this problem, as it shows man’s expectation that he can make a woman do something dirty by just using the Axe scent.

After analyzing the advertisement, we need to ask, why is the person putting on the whipped cream on the other side a WOMAN? With the slogan “The Cleaner you are, The Dirtier you get”, WHOM is the second YOU referring to? Why does the person ‘getting dirty’ in the picture the woman, and not the same man who is using the product?

Axe Jammed Version

The jammed version of the Axe advertisement aspires to invoke the inappropriateness and the gender dominance that is present in the original advertisement. When I was creating this culture jam, I wanted the audience to think carefully about the images and words, and feel confused. My goal was to inspire thought and debate on this ad through the following changes:

  1. Switched Faces – I placed the man’s face on the woman’s body, and the woman’s face on the man’s body. I had two intentions for this change. First, I wanted to help the audience think about role reversal and gender equality. Put yourself in either man’s or woman’s shoes. After switching the faces, the change makes it more obvious that the original ad was offensive and absurd, especially to women. If the roles were reversed and the men were putting the whipped cream on themselves, would this be acceptable to society? No. Thus, it should not be acceptable the other way around. My second intention was to show men’s effect on women. Male dominance in the society can be attributed to the fact that many women would do things with men’s approval or benefit in mind. The jammed version shows the head of a man on the woman’s body. This is literally showing that women’s actions may be based on man’s thoughts. With this, we also see that the man’s body has the woman’s head, showing that women also have an impact on man’s actions.
  1. New slogan “Make Women Do What Men Want” – I changed the slogan to one that points out how the original advertisement conveys male dominance and power over women’s actions. Women in the ad were seen as a slave, as an object, and as a result of man’s actions.
  1. Same Old Axe – Instead of the “New and Improved Shower Gel” below the product, I wanted to point out that Axe does not show any changes in their promotions and advertising strategies. Axe consistently sells their products through sex and through the ideal that if you use Axe, you will get the girl.
  2. Unilever logo – Instead of the “U” logo, I changed it to “C” to stand for Consumerism and I changed Unilever’s name to Unileverage. This is to point out that Unilever would market anything just to attract consumers. The company cares more about sales rather than the dissonance between the messages their brands portray. For example, Dove promotes woman’s confidence and strength, while Axe promotes women as a sexual fantasy. Both brands are under Unilever. This shows that the corporation cares more for Consumers over Customers.

Let me know what you think about this culture jam! Click the images to see an enlarged view.


Szascha <3


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