It wasn't so long ago that pipe-smoking men in dark suits could sell their products to women with a patronizing pat on the head and a wink. Those days went the way of the cocktail lunch, but sexism still rages in the advertising world. It's just that now, everybody gets in on it. And just as ads in the 1950s assumed that all women were housewives desperate for new ways to starch their husbands' shirts, advertisers today demonstrate an extremely low opinion of their male customers.
That's why there are so many ad campaigns that ...
#5. Assume Men Are Stupid (And Proud of It)
Most of us aren't old enough to remember back when women were seen as nothing more than baby-making servants with childlike brains, but if vintage advertisements are to be believed, we're lucky humanity didn't just devolve into a species of red-lipped cretins.
Finally, a Plan B for men too drunk on lunch martinis to open their own ketchup.
Thanks to braless hippies and better packaging technology, we're past the point where one sex is perceived as brighter than the other, right? Not if you watch truck commercials. Take this Ford F-150 ad, for example. Denis Leary's voice-over comes right out and says that the truck was engineered by the people "we all cheated off of in science class." As if science nerds would never actually be the ones interested in the F-150. They're too busy driving, what? Mathmobiles?
But you see, trucks are manly, and doing science and math are unmanly. You're not unmanly, are you? "What is that you're reading, a book? Oh, sorry, we thought you had a penis."
"Arrowdie-whatics? That's a big word! Bet I can still carry it in my pickup, though!"
It's not just stupidity that is supposed to make all of the males in the audience nod and say, "That's me!" -- it's childlike laziness, too. Here's an Eggo waffles ad that boasts that it's so easy to make breakfast, even a lazy, stupid male can do it! Even though he quickly gets distracted by a game of kitchen golf:
"Look at this goddamn idiot. Eggo."
That kind of plays into another assumption -- that men resent their lives as normal citizens and want to revert to childhood to live in lazy, stupid bliss. Here's a Dodge Charger ad where the narrator gives a bitter narration of all the routine human things he's expected to do that day that somehow insult his manhood:
"I will shave. I will clean the sink after I shave ... I will listen to your opinion of my friends ... I will be civil to your mother ... I will put the seat down ... I will put my underwear in the basket ... and because I do this, I will drive the car I want to drive."
Smash cut to a muscle car roaring down the track:
The tag line is seriously "Man's. Last. Stand." Written by a person who's never met one.
That's right, males! Basic acts of adult communication and cleanliness mastered by most 15-year-olds are such an insult to your natural state of filth and social retardation that you need an expensive sports car to make up for it!
This frozen pizza ad shows us what happens if you don't give males some kind of vehicular incentive to clean up after themselves. They're basically dogs, obliviously tracking mud all through the house, until the female comes home to scold them:
"Gary, we just had the carpets cleaned yest- is that a turd?!"
#4. Question Your Masculinity
It's one thing to assume you're so shit-for-brains-stupid that car science is out of your realm of comprehension -- at least there, the consumer isn't the butt of the joke. After all, the announcer of the truck ad lumps himself in with the dumb kids, and in the other ads, the dumbass husband fumbling his way through modern life is supposed to be the lovable hero of the story.
But beer companies know better. They've employed some needle-sharp psychology to insist that only confident, manly men have the balls to drink their drink. Anyone else is literally and unintentionally dressed in women's clothes.
How ballsy is that? "When you're done taking off your feather boa, I'll have a cold one waiting for you" (smirk). Miller Lite is starting out with the false assumptions that a) men don't know what ladies' clothes look like and b) if they did, they'd already be drinking the elixir of testosterone, Miller Lite. If not, well, then you're this guy.
He wore the same thing as the woman, see. And that makes him less than human.
But of course, we can always rely on truck commercials to be even less subtle. Another Ford ad warns you against buying a truck that "doesn't have the stones" to get the job done.
"Ford. Because Chevys are for eunuchs."
The "stones." As in slang for "testicles." That's right, men of the world. We know you're constantly worried about your inadequate scrotum. And that's OK, because this truck will make up for it. It has balls for both of you. If you go with a lesser truck, one with smaller male genitals, you will fail, and all of your fellow males will know that you were sexually inadequate.
For probably the saddest attempt at this, Vespa tried the same psychology on their little tiny scooters:
"Look, we're trying everything we can here. We're not above just blowing you for cash."
Look at that cute little baby motorcycle calling itself "manly!" If that Vespa were a movie, it would be Look Who's Talking, all the way. Or maybe The Little Rascals. Any movie where little babies do grown-up stuff is what Vespa would be. But shhhh ... don't tell them that. Let them have their fun questioning your manhood.
#3. Dress Ordinary Products Up as Manly Industrial Power Tools
For as long as men have had beards, they've used razors of some sort or another. So you've got to pity the person tasked with putting a new spin on such an ancient product. One technique that might work (if your audience is composed of cavemen) is to attach a cutting edge technical name to a rock-simple product. Which is why we get razor blades with names like Quattro Titanium and Fusion Proglide Power Razor.
The Jackhammer Beastfuck Beard-Assassin. It doesn't even have blades -- just fists.
It's almost like they put a whole bunch of made-up words in a hat and then picked them out at random, kind of like Secret Santa. Take Gillette's Mach 5, for example. What makes a razor deserve the name Mach 5? Do they know how pants-shittingly fast that is? What exactly was Gillette going for by naming a razor blade after a speed that will literally remove your colon?
Hey men, do you like to be clean? Are you embarrassed about washing your body with neutral-colored loofahs? Of course not. That's a crazy way to think. But the same people who made Axe Body Spray are convinced that by transforming a basic cleaning apparatus from just, you know, basic to a "detailer shower tool," men will be more likely to buy them. Maybe they're right. After all, men like cars, and this definitely looks like something for cleaning a car.
Take away the loofah and just admire that fully erect penis of a bottle.
Hardcore, yeah? Look again:
It's a loofah encased in rough-looking plastic that could "detail" the first layer of your dick skin off. Because that's what men want, right?
Hey, are you emasculated by the fact that you have to iron your own clothes? Because that's ladies' work? You need this badass iron for men marketed by Philips. THIS IS THE GODDAMNED CORVETTE OF IRONS!
"If you don't make engine sounds while using this iron, TURN IN YOUR BALLS, YOU PUSSY!"
And forget about that prissy "deodorant" that merely "makes your dried sweat not stink so bad." You need Silver Protect for Men, the ad campaign for which demonstrates with a CGI animation how it unleashes a barrage of "silver ions" that launch themselves at your armpit like cannonballs, exploding odor in a horrific bombardment campaign that leaves no one alive:
They then form a protective garrison of metal bars and balls across your armpit:
It's the Iron Curtain of BO.
Holy shit, the warning label on this stuff must be a foot long! Aim this deodorant at the family dog and all that will remain is a smoking hole in the carpet.