Sunday, February 21, 2010

"Real Men" Drive a Dodge

As a follow up to my post on "Culture Jammin' with Dove", I wanted to call out two recent articles from The Globe and Mail and The National Post that comment on Dove's take on masculinity and touch upon the different versions of masculinity that were portrayed in other ads from this year's Superbowl.

In "Blowing the whistle on men's marketing", Simon Houpt comments on the varying male stereotypes evident in this year's Superbowl ads:
"...if [American poet Walt Whitman] were to pop up in 2010 to grasp the full character of contemporary man as depicted in advertising, he would find not multitudes but thin stereotypes – cartoons rather than complexity. He would see doofussy dads, leering ladies men and overgrown boys blessed with brawn if little brains."
These enduring stereotypes, Houpt writes, have caused confusion among men growing up in the modern world, where real men no longer mirror the depictions of themselves in advertising. In conducting research on men for the Dove Men+Care brand, Dove uncovered some interesting insights:
  • 80% of Canadian men feel that they are falsely portrayed and stereotyped
  • 71% of Canadian men find it hard to relate to men their age in advertising
The disparity between the way men are portrayed in advertising and the way men actually are is fuelling a debate about what defines modern masculinity - in other words, what does it mean to be a "real man"? Does a real man pump iron, bed women, and bring home the bacon, or does a real man have feelings, care for his family, and strive to look his best? Is it a little bit of both?
“It's because of this that you really get this sense of pressure that men are feeling in society today. Who could really live up to the images that are portrayed?” - Sharon MacLeod, Unilever Canada
Several Superbowl advertisers have chimed in with their take on the issue. According to Dockers, real men wear the pants:

A minute-long spot from Dodge portrays the behaviour of modern men (like cleaning up after himself and watching romantic movies with his girlfriend/wife) as sacrifices that men constantly have to make in order to keep their partner happy. Tired of making these sacrifices, men are ready to band together and take a stand: they will not make a sacrifice when it comes to their car:

In another spot for the Dodge Charger, traditional gender roles are reversed when a man goes nuts on his girlfriend's stuff when she breaks up with him. Dodge seems to be making fun of the modern, more feminine man, even portraying the girlfriend as the real man in the relationship. As a result, she's the one who gets to drive away in the Charger:

In "It's a guy thing", Dianne Rinehart comments on Dove's take on masculinity. In the new Dove Men+Care campaign, a real man is depicted as a man who is comfortable with himself and with what the modern man has become - a caring, insecure, child-rearing man who is okay with the idea of taking better care of his skin.
"What our campaign does is look to celebrate men who have different responsibilities in life and are comfortable in their own skin. These are not guys who are ladies men or heroes or power-hungry. These are real men with real lives." - Sharon MacLeod, Unilever Canada
Judging from the comments from a couple of Globe and Mail readers, however, it seems like the debate on modern masculinity and its portrayal in advertising will continue:
"The constant theme for most advertisers over the last decade is to portray men as stupid, sometimes comical buffoons and the women and children in the same ad as the smart, level headed ones that save the day. This type of advertising is getting really old. If it were flipped around, you can be sure there would be some sort of protest or outcry form certain groups."
"I think men's marketing is better than ever these days. "Man's last stand" is great! I love all these type of testosterone filled, comedic ads. In a world that is desperately trying to make men these effeminate creatures it's refreshing to see this revolution of sorts."- Toronto Boy

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