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Axe ‘Showerpooling’ Ads: Shameless and Sexist or Provocative with a Purpose?

Every member of the ad team responsible for promoting Axe grooming products clearly attended class on the day their marketing professors told them that “sex sells.”

Take, for instance, their ad featuring a stampede of half-naked women converging on one lone man (who apparently smells awesome) as the words “spray more, get more” appear on the screen. Not blunt enough for you? How about the shampoo bottle tagline that promises, “the cleaner to you are, the dirtier you get”? All this professional copywriting work sends one very clear message — use Axe, get laid.

Axe’s latest ad campaign, however, ventures into uncharted territory. In this case, the product’s ultimate benefit (sex) lies hidden beneath a very thinly veiled pseudo-PSA about water conservation. “Showerpooling”, as the company calls it, encourages young men to save water by showering with “a like-minded acquaintance or an attractive stranger”. While it’s pretty clear what might appeal to guys about this idea (and we don’t mean the eco-friendly part), Rob Candelino, vice president of marketing for U.S. skin care at Unilever (Axe’s parent company), swears the campaign really is about water conservation. Sort of.

Candelino told USA Today that “This is a cute irreverent way to communicate what is really a significant message: water conservation” and went on to say that two-thirds of the brand’s target demographic (men ages 18 to 24) say they’re concerned about water conservation despite the fact that their day-to-day actions don’t always reflect that concern. For instance, the typical college student takes 18 minute showers. Axe advocates five-minute showers with water-efficient shower heads, and the company plans to dispense 7,000 Delta shower heads on 10 college campuses to prove it. All we have to say is, Mmm-hmm.

Approximately a month after its release, the video has over 52,000 YouTube views. That number’s not too shabby, but it remains to be seen whether the spot will go as viral as its makers intended (it has been posted on the Axe Facebook page, YouTube, ComedyCentral.com and Spike.com).

We’re left with a few questions. First, if the campaign is successful, does that mean even more college guys will douse themselves in Axe’s noxious body sprays? If so, then all students should probably procure gas masks before entering frat houses. Second, is it just us, or does “showerpooling” tend to take longer than showering alone? Group showers require a lot of jockeying for access to shower heads and waiting your turn to use the shampoo, not to mention other…um…distractions.

What do you think, readers? Just more of the same shamelessly transparent, mildly amusing, totally sexist Axe advertising, or is it provocative with a purpose? Take a look and let us know.

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