Ad Critique: Axe again…but this one is pretty bad.

Axe is notorious for its sexist advertising campaign. The tropes identified in DreamWorlds III are repeated time and again in tv spots: women caressing themselves, a desiring gaze, little or no clothing, etc. These ads sell a rather rapey ideal to the young men they are marketed towards. One would think the potency of this message would decline in print ads, since the encounter is brief and the content confined to a single-frame image. Yet, this 400 sqft installation advertisement plastered onto the side of a dorm building achieves just that. Framed against an all female dormitory, the ideal the ad sells is quite straightforward– a new girl’s bedroom for every day of the month. What makes this ad particularly disturbing is that it’s not the same sort of vague objectification of female bodies that we see in axe tv ads. This ad is anchored to reality, on a college campus, where sexual assault occurs on an alarmingly frequent basis. The fact that the ad is life-sized, impossible to ignore and set against the backdrop of actual female student housing is unsettling. The ad also implicitly equates each room on the calendar with a night of sex, and thus perpetuates the assumption ridiculed by Bell Hooks that a visit to a girl’s bedroom automatically signifies her desire for a sexual encounter. Beneath the surface of this ad is a messy foundation of an inappropriate “she wanted it” all-or-nothing approach to consent. The axe girl decals pasted to the window beckon to every passerby all the while imposing the industry’s manufactured beauty standard to the girls whose windows they occupy. All in all, it makes for a particularly heinous entry in the Axe advertising canon.

Hooks, Bell. Outlaw Culture. New York: Routledge, 1994.

“Axe Calendar,” 2010


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