The ad I posted pertained to axe body wash. This is a product intended for males and is clearly being sold in a way to get their product off the shelves, but I will return to the ad later.

Barthes notes in his essay “Soap-powders and Detergents” how companies will use phrase’s like ” ‘Kills’ the dirt” and “forced out” to enrich their products. These are aggressive terms that I think help push the consumer in the direction to buy their product, leaving the buyer feeling secure in their purchase because they have a “tough acting” product.

In the Axe body wash ad , as Barthes mentioned, there are many similar features used to sell the product. The phrase “the worlds dirtiest film” is used by the company in the ad to describe the commercial. Right from the beginning, when you hear that phrase you are already being told that the “soap” has a dangerous or forbidden quality shown through the use of innuendo.  The ad begins with the image of beautiful women eating excessively messy baby back ribs. I believe the intent behind this was to show sexual themes along with no matter how dirty you get, the axe will get you clean. This idea is clearly central throughout the ad. In the next scene, women seem to be shooting food like cupid with an arrow at a man’s stomach. As this plays you hear the narrating voice say “a film so dirty, you’ll beg for a shower after it’s done.” I cannot speak for anyone but myself but I can never recall a time where I watched a commercial or movie and needed to shower after due to the intensity of the film. This is another clear case where the marketing executives at Axe are using the implication of “buy our soap and you will get the beautiful women” to sell their product to the male consumer.

Barthes also goes on to state that “As for foam, it is well known that it signifies luxury”(37). Near the end of the ad, everyone involved in the commercial is lathered in axe body wash and foam and bubbles are present everywhere on the screen. Not only is there just foam, the setting of the commercial is in a bathroom the size of my house. I believe that showing the single male along with a dozen or so beautiful women in a enormous  bathroom suggests that the user(s) of Axe body wash are incredibly successful and if you have Axe body wash you too can live with at least SOME luxury.

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One response »

  1. Michael K. Johnson says:

    You do a good job of describing the ad here. I think you are on the right track when discussing the ads use of sex as a selling point. “Dirty” in this case has a double meaning. This is one of those ads where the Barthes essay makes a good jumping off point, but you need to be flexible in your application of Barthes. Some of the points he makes about the products he discusses don’t seem to work in context of the Axe ad. The foam in this ad seems in keeping with the ad’s construction of sexual fantasy more so than with the concept of luxury. This may be a case where you have to turn the Barthes quotation: “Although Barthes connects foam with ‘luxury,’ in the Axe ad, the excess of foam echoes the excessiveness (a dozen women) of the sexual fantasy the ad constructs.”

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