Through out time, advertisements have touched people’s lives throughout the world.

In the book, How Brands Become Icons by Douglas B. Holt, the author takes a look at numerous ads and dissects why and how they have had such an impact on society. He focuses on various products whose campaigns have been successful, such as Mountain Dew, Harley Davidson, Bud light, and more. As he dissects the campaigns, he focuses on the populist world, national ideology, cultural contradiction, myth markets, and ethos. These circumstances can and often do take the brand into the deeper mindset of the public. We chose to take a look at Axe Body Spray and see why its campaign was successful through Holt’s eyes. A disparity in public opinion by Holt took a look at casual sex and saw the national ideology as a “moral consensus.” A national ideology is an idea that is widely accepted as the truth. National ideologies never need to be explicitly expressed because they are demonstrated by the daily habits of individuals. The national ideology that is articulated through the Axe ad is the acceptance of casual sex with the condition of a male bias. In America today, casual sex is often perceived as acceptable when a man is the hound, but often is viewed as unacceptable when the woman is the chaser. As a result, women are seen as submissive to male sexual desires and that is okay according to today’s standards. While this may not seem like an obvious fundamental truth, through examining the political and cultural context of this ad, it becomes clear that America had in fact accepted that belief. The political context of this advertisement is also important. This ad’s target demographics vividly remember the Clinton sex scandal. While the president is a significant figure to the American public and his behavior is the embodiment of a nation. When the President of the United States was seen engaging in sexual relations with a woman that was not his wife, a message about American morals was sent around the world. Not only did Clinton’s

behavior typify the national ideology that casual sex with a male bias is acceptable, but the response of the government did as well. Although Clinton was impeached, he was found not guilty by the Senate and was not forced to resign. Hence, he served out the remainder of his term and is still a prominent political figure today. On the other hand, Monica Lewinski, an intern at the White House at the time of the scandal, never really rose above that status professionally. Whereas Clinton continued to pursue a successful political career, the same was not true for the woman involved. Some might conclude, the Clinton sex scandal has had a considerable impact on Axe’s populist world. Males versus females are also interwoven into the American mindset through the media. Today’s popular culture repeatedly portrays male sexual promiscuity as understandable and women’s as undesirable. Movies such as Animal House, American Pie, Superbad, Old School and others demonstrate that sexual conquests benefit, rather than harm a man’s reputation. The women seen with the male characters are often viewed as insignificant and often petty. These movies are especially important because of their popularity with the targeted populist world. Popular music also reinforces the previously stated national ideology. Hip hop especially has been notorious for stressing male sexual promiscuity in a positive light, while demeaning sexually active women as “hoes” and “bitches.” In hip-hop music videos, women are usually seen scantily clad around fully clothed men. This exhibits a power difference between the sexes and creates the idea that women should sexually cater to men. Advertisements have also reinforced these beliefs by showing women as submissive and overtly sexual. Beer ads are a classic example of this. Print has not been excluded from this notion either. Popular magazines such as Maxim and Playboy help solidify this national ideology.

The Axe ad displays this national ideology. The woman is seen performing for a man. Her suggestive song and dance caters to his male daydream fantasy. The woman is put in a ridiculous situation but the audience doesn’t question it too much because it is seen as what the man in the ad desires. It is important to note that Axe did not portray the man putting forth effort to get the attention of the girl. Instead the girl is the one suggesting sex to a strange man. The view that the man partaking in sexual relations with this girl is not damaging to his reputation only reinforces the national ideology. A populist world is most commonly defined as a group of people whom set themselves aside from the majority. Populist worlds are typically far removed from the life experiences that of which most brand's customers encounter. Iconic brands, like Axe, rely on populist worlds as source materials for their myths. The myth that Axe is working with in their “Boom Chicka Wah Wah” ad campaign is one that says our current society, specifically that of younger generations, has turned into a group of super sexually charged individuals. Older generations, ones composed of predominantly traditional and conservative individuals had an opposing mindset to the idea of sex, viewing it as more of a personal and private experience. The populist world in which Axe is displaying through this specific advertising campaign can best be described as a sexually charged youth subculture. This group of people views sex as a more trivial topic. The idea of engaging in a sexual activity is viewed more as a commonly practiced past time rather than a uniquely sentimental and rare experience. People in this group have sex with numerous partners and do not create emotional attachments between themselves and these partners. The media in whom this populist world digests reinforces the idea of casual sex by broadcasting shows targeted toward a sexually charged culture. Networks such as MTV broadcast shows like The Real World for example that portrays young, sexually active adults

living together in an environment filled with drama. Movies such as The Wedding Crashers are another example of popular media that perpetuates a sexually accepting mentality. The advertisements that Axe is creating for this specific campaign feed directly into the media surrounding it. When you see the brand name, Axe you can’t help but picture a dream-like fantasy world in which an attractive woman, wearing tight jeans or showing off a lot of skin, is taking on animal-like behaviors, acting as though she has an uncontrollable sexual drive. The women in these ads are triggered by the Axe fragrance and cannot help but pursue their sexual desire. The lack of dialogue, the specific camera angles, the lighting, and the surrounding “porn-style” music all help create a super sexually charged environment in these commercials. Women are attracted by the man’s aroma and use their “Boom Chicka Wah Wah” mating call and sexual body language to get his attention. Through this campaign, Axe is venturing outside of a national ideology where women are expected to be contained, and have control over their sexual desires. In our society, men are usually seen as the hypersexual beings and women as more of the conservative, sexually controlled individuals. This brand turns the tables on this perception and puts women in the hyper-sexually-charged role. The women in these ads are able to express their wild, sexual, rebellious inner emotions giving them a sense of “sexual freedom.” Putting the man in a subservient role and having him portrayed as a sexual object, taps into male fantasies thus connecting a populist world of sexually charged young adults to the Axe brand. Axe has a specific image that they want associated with their name. By targeting a populist world of sexually charged individuals, Axe is able to perpetuate the sexual accepting culture myth and attract a large client base to their products.

Feminism   progressively   questions   the   traditional   national   ideology   of   manliness   and  sexual relationships.  A new myth was created responding to the changing increased tolerance of  promiscuity among youth.  Axe used this myth to create its “Sexually Charged College Student”  myth market, around which the entire brand is centered.  In the “Boom Chicka Wah Wah” ad, the  girl is sexually forward. She does not say anything during the entire commercial, instead, she lets  her swinging hips and background music (with alludes to porn) express herself. Other Axe ads  feature a girl on a pole and a couple making out and do not care that they are jumping off a cliff.  Axe has no other myths with the brands entire position relying on the “Sexually Charged College  Student” myth market. The product itself is centered on this myth and is successful because of its  strong scent (made to attract female) not because it protects the user from sweating. This is  because its target is not physically active; he is an average guy who becomes attractive when  wearing the strong scent. It’s packaging, which features a manly black bottle, slick text, phallic  shape, and risqué scent titles such as “Vice” and has never changed but is clearly centered around  the myth.  Its slogan “How Dirty Boys Get Clean” was written around the myth. It lets the target  audience buy into a myth that when one uses Axe, they are a “dirty boy,” and wearing the spray  will result in them living the dream of a sexually charged lifestyle. This herein lies Axe’s success:  it is able to create a myth market where its audience believes that wearing the product will make  them live the myth of constant sexual attraction and fulfillment.  Axe’s myth market is what separates itself as a product from its competitors.  Old Spice  on the other hand, centers on the “No Nonsense Seasoned Man” myth market. This man is older, 

more experienced, and ultimately derives from a more traditional national ideology of manhood.  Many men buy Old Spice because it reminds them of older men in their life who they admire, so  the myth is centered on tradition. Never would one see overt sexual imagery in an Old Spice ad  because it goes against traditional values of how men are supposed to relate to women. In the Old  Spice myth market, women respond to traditional means of courtship and are not as promiscuous.  Thus, the man that uses Old Spice does not necessarily agree with the new sex driven myth  market. Still, Tag Body Spray was launched due to the success of Axe’s “Sexually Charged  College Student” myth market.  There is also Speed Stick who uses the “Jock” myth market. It  addresses a different view of masculinity, which focuses on physical fitness. Its fast paced  commercials always feature men playing a sport. The packaging looks less slick and sportier. The  product itself focuses on the power of the antiperspirant, not the scent it produces. This is  because it appeals to men who need to be protected from sweat, unlike the college boys looking  for sexual relationships According to Douglas B. Holt, cultural contradictions occur when people (American citizens/consumers) have trouble lining up their lives with the different national ideologies they are presented with. These cultural contradictions are experienced in the form of anxieties as well as desires. The gap that is formed between these ideologies and the actual experience of individuals in society creates tensions. Tensions that occur with cultural contradictions must be resolved with identity myths that help to fill the gaps. To some extent many advertisers have played off of these contradictions to develop humorous advertisements that go against some old ideologies. Axe for example has followed pace with adapting to cultural contradictions. If the

ideology is that men can attract women, but a man is not successful in that aspect (dating, or sex life) then myths of a spray that will help women become sexually attracted to you helps bridge the gap of that cultural contradiction. Today we see women taking control of and embracing their sexuality in the media. They are less conservative and secretive about their sexuality. In the past, men were sexually more open as expected. More recently, women are also taking on that role. We now see these women in shows like Sex in the City through characters like Samantha. Christina Aguilera came out with a single (Can’t Hold Us Down) that empowers and encourages women to talk aloud and contest the double standards of sexuality in society between men and women. The song serves as a cultural contradiction itself, more so than a myth. Films like Whipped (2000) which took three men that sexualized and objectified women regularly, and flipped their worlds upside down with what they thought was the perfect woman in Amanda Peet. It turns out that she is the one playing and objectifying all of them, and the film end with her at dinner talking about the exploitation of all three men to a table full of her female friends. These examples in media, as well as the AXE advertisements to a certain extent, serve as cultural contradictions to current ideologies of society According to Holt, every brand has an Ethos. The Ethos of a Brand tells a story and in many cases Axe is looked at as a brand that shows and tells a story of achievement. This sense of achievement can be looked at in different ways. You could look it as the male in this commercial feeling triumphant once the female is attracted to him because he looks and smells so good. She is driven to him by his physical persona and she can’t help but be drawn towards him. Another way that Axe is viewed to have an Ethos that occurs through sexual conquests. So, the guy who uses AXE always gets the girl and his appearance makes the women draw even closer to him.

In Conclusion AXE has a successful campaign because it has a strong myth market that goes with the times and it relates to the populist world. Holt’s book teaches us that when ads have a strong relationship with what is going on in society at that time, it will usually intrigue many people in the public. Thus, we live in a more relaxed society when comes to sex and AXE alludes to this when advertising their product.

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