Manvertisements: The Unpredictable Evolution of Ads for Bros
Let's start this discussion on the right foot. Roll up your flannel sleeves, put down that torque wrench and punch me in the stomach as hard as you possibly can. See. I didn't even flinch. Not man enough for you? Let's find out who can grow the thickest beard in an hour. Go.
While we arm-wrestle, let's talk shop about ads for dudes. There's always been an advertising niche that's been angled in the masculine direction. The Marlboro man goes all the way back to 1954 and certain products have always tended to have a masculine feel to the way they are advertised. Marketers have long realized that some products and services are purchased more by men than women, and so they capitalize on that. The ultimate showcase of these types of ads happens every year during the Big Game in which it seems every other commercial is tailor-made for men, mostly beer ads. These ads are often filled with absurdist humor and over-the-top male stereotypes with messages more about comedy than reality or even the product itself. These ads fit more into the entertainment category than anything else.
Here's one recent example:
And one from down under:
I've wondered for a while if these ads are successful because men personally relate to them or because the humor element makes the product seem cooler or more trustworthy. I've also wondered if women are equally persuaded by these ads for similar reasons. These commercials act more like product placement in a TV show than traditional advertising that shows the benefits of using a product or why it's better than another.
In the last few years there have been more examples of marketers who are using the same technique to sell things that are not traditionally male-centric. Low-calorie beverages have traditionally been a consumer product geared more toward woman. Instead of assuming this as an immutable reality, creative marketers have interpreted this this as a profit opportunity. Check out this spot for a low-calorie drink called Dr. Pepper Ten:
I actually think this ad is pretty clever. (I'm sure others will disagree!) And talk about a ludicrous message: "It's Not For Women." After watching it I assumed most viewers would understand the jokey, lighthearted nature of this and not take it too literally. It's the beverage equivalent of nailing a "No girls allowed!" sign on a kid's tree house.
What's particularly interesting about this to me is that Dr. Pepper clearly identified the area of low-calorie beverages as a place for more male consumer growth. They also recognized the type of advertising that men typically respond to. Then they mashed the two ideas together creating an ad for something that most men may not naturally be attracted to. They basically took the beer commercial recipe and just swapped out the beer for a diet drink. In a way, it enhances the comedic aspect of it because it's so ridiculous to state that it's a man-only drink with "...only ten manly calories."
If you are willing to just accept the ad as a comedy sketch without any serious sexist statements or message, it works as entertainment alone. If there is a message, it seems like it's, "Hey, we have a decent diet soda you should try. And we made this funny video too."
Well, apparently a lot of folks aren't fans since the opinions are split right down the middle on YouTube.
Whether or not this type of gender-based marketing is right or wrong, it seems to be working on some level. It's fascinating to observe the way marketers adapt to meet new challenges in reaching new audiences. It's also interesting to watch as advertising evolves more and more toward entertainment. Maybe it won't matter if audiences are unreachable. If you make something cool enough, the audience may come looking for you.
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