Much like mad scientist’s fictional brainwash machines in cartoons, advertising is an industry that thrives on manipulating societies to think a certain way. Without forcing people to believe in certain ideologies, the media can still plant their messages in us unknowingly by encoding them in images we see daily on TV, magazines, billboards, and most commonly the internet. One such example of this is a popular commercial for Old Spice that came out back in 2010 featuring an Adonis-like, half naked man giving advice on how men should smell. This viral video spread through the internet like wildfire using the same macho man appeal mentioning Chuck Norris’ name carried in the past.
The video starts with a muscular looking black man in a bathroom wearing nothing but a towel speaking to a female audience making outrageous claims of how magnificent he is compared to their partner who can only come as close as smelling like him by using Old Spice body wash. He performs seemingly impossible miracles during his monologue as his bathroom is transformed into a ship deck and then to a horse all while he creates diamonds out of thin air from his palm. Along with his bold confidence, unique delivery, and impeccable physique he gave off the illusion that this was no mere man talking, but a god who every man should try to emulate. Although he obviously appeals to a female audience, he is selling a product for men by showing he has something women want and if you use this body wash you can have it too. Much like the Dos Equis, ‘Most Interesting Man in the World’ became a model of the ideal man, the Old Spice Guy became the voice of reason for the ideal man. These examples of masculinity in advertisement, although subtle, follow the cultural norm of how we expect men to be in society. From this ad it can be decoded that in order to be appealing to the opposite sex, men should look, sound, and even smell a certain way. This ideal, although not apparent because it is masked by an advertisement, is still encoded with the hegemonic view of what a normal man should be.
The subtle messages in this commercial are so perfectly interwoven with its mass appeal that even if the majority disagrees with what is shown it’s still seen by many, and that is what’s most important. One can’t help but be reminded of what society expects of men after watching this commercial. This constant reminder is how the media shapes our ideals. Whether popular belief is shown or not, with enough repetition it can still affect our unconscious decisions. I’ve found myself actually buying Old Spice products as a result of watching these commercials not because I believe if I smell like the Old Spice man that I will attract more female attention but because It’s a brand I’m most familiar with, placing it above the rest when I shop. This repetition is the same way media can sway a culture’s ideals, from the Old Spice Guy to Abercrombie and Fitch ads with the ideal man posted all over, shaping what we view as normal.
It is not logical to believe that a single product can affect so many aspects of daily life but the more it represents the wider the appeal. American media is always reinforcing the idea that more is better. This constant reminder becomes a subconscious belief of many Americans in daily life and fuels our economy. The Old Spice Guy is a prime example of this ideal showing what you have isn’t enough to the opposite sex; you need to use their body wash. The success of this commercial is largely based on advertising that ‘more is better and we’ll show you how’ convincing many people that their glass is only half full.