Creative Choice: Brands challenge traditional norms in men's advertising

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 22 June 2016

It's all about the work and Creative Choice is where we send in the pros to critique the latest offerings from adland.

This week, Leo Burnett Melbourne senior writer Alex Metson and Vamp MD Amy Luca take a look at how brands, such as NRL and Dove, are challenging men's stereotypes in advertising.

creative choice

First up - a few little words from the creatives themselves:

Amy Luca: As the old adage goes, good ads mirror society, great ads lead society. In this week’s creative choice we have six brands attempting to re-define societal norms surrounding what it means to be a man. In what can be seen as a hyper-masculine society, they break down conventions and challenge men to explore a more dynamic definition of masculinity. Some of the ads succeed, some fall short.

Alex Metson: It seems the world of advertising is giving us men plenty to think about - mental health, domestic violence, attitudes towards women and sport, as well as our hairstyles. The standout piece for me came from the government. Go figure.

1. NRL – State Of Mind by Archibald/Williams

AL: The NRL should be applauded for their ongoing campaign addressing one of the most pressing heath issues in Australia. They communicate the critical element in any ad that attempts behaviour change from its audience. In this case, for men to ‘Listen’ for the signs of mental health problems in their mates. Of the six videos it was the least memorable for me and I question if this ad has a hook that is memorable enough to have lasting impact.

AM: A simple insight, simply executed. As a guy you have no trouble putting yourself into this situation, and maybe even feeling a pang of guilt for a mate whose mental health struggles you may have missed. For an audience of footy loving blokes, if you’re going to talk feelings, things are probably best kept simple and relatable. This does that.

2. Dove Men – David Pocock’s Journey To Strength by Octagon

AL: My initial thoughts are that this is brave, emotive and the topic is a natural fit for the brand's platform. By focusing the video on Pocock’s personal experience of taking a stand against homophobia it cleverly aligns his views with the Dove Men+Care brand platform. It helps break down the societal constraint of men defined solely by their physical strength and encourages, rather, a strength of character in speaking up against homophobia. It’s well produced and all round a well-done ad.

AM: David Pocock is a guy who’s known at least in the rugby world as a hard man, so it’s refreshing to hear his determination to stand up for the gay community. His story is a brave one and it’s handled nicely. It’s great that Dove is willing to encourage men to speak up and change attitudes. However, there are so many brands telling other people’s stories through long format content; it’s beginning to get easy to gloss over them.

3. Lynx – Not Just A Pretty Hairstyle by Ponce

AL: This is just fun. An entertaining and lighthearted ad that does attempt, in a few cases, to challenge gender stereotypes and traditional male “skills". The brand plays a nice supporting role in helping these men focus on their “skills”. It’s light-hearted tone is right for the Lynx brand.

AM: Lynx seems to have moved away from funny and entertaining stuff. The sorts of ads that got guys to buy their products and then use way too much of them. A weird song with guys folding washing and cutting onions doesn’t do it for me.

4. Australian Government – Domestic Violence by BMF

AL: This is a good contrast to the NRL, State of Mind ad. This ad delivers where the NRL ad falls short. It’s dramatic, memorable and identifies key events or behaviours in childhood where the seeds of domestic violence are planted. It clearly shows which behaviours need to change to achieve the desired societal impact.

AM: This spot is powerful. A simple idea executed with confronting and real moments. The performances are great. The issue of domestic violence is a behavioural one, sadly it’s learned. Men have grown up seeing how their fathers or other men treat women. So, if we’re going to change that behaviour, it has to start with educating people at a young age. This spot sparks a much-needed conversation with fathers and men, encouraging them to set the right example for young boys. Hopefully, that’s what will make a real difference.

5. Heineken - The Cliche by Publicis:

AL: This ad does try to break down stereotypes in sports fandom and uses a pretty common mechanic but it's clearly an ad and could probably have been more authentic if the brand was brave enough to do it with real couples.

AM: As the title states, this idea was a nice flip on the age-old cliché that women don’t love watching sport. It’s great to see a beer brand as big as Heineken giving guys and their stereotypes a bit of a reality check, in a light-hearted way. By tricking the dudes who tried to trick their girls, Heineken has created a simple and funny reminder that sport and beer isn’t just for the boys. 

6. Nissan and beyondblue - Chat Laps

AL: It's an important issue for men but the execution falls short for me because I don't think it will capture the audience's attention to see the ad through. It feels like a brand searching for a cause not true brand/cause alignment although they were able to find a role for the product in the message.

AM: This is a nice insight and gives us guys an actual solution to the awkward “How are you really doing?” conversation with a mate. When you think about it, the car is quite a disarming and natural place to have a chat. Nissan is talking directly to their ute range’s target market, so kudos to them for getting behind an initiative like this and encouraging blokes to talk feelings.

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