Saturday, 16 February 2013

Axe, Lynx Address Gender Confusion in Unilever's Global Space Academy Contest

by Dale Buss


The early days of the Axe and Lynx Space Academy contest (which we broke on January 9th) to fly winners into space has encountered a not-unforseeable snag: Some of the leaders in the social media-based competition for spots on the space flight are women, despite the original wording of the male-skewing sibling brands' contest: "Leave a man. Come back a hero."
This presents an interesting identity challenge to the Unilever-owned brands that have built their identification on the testosterone-fueled young male in search of—and equally targeted by—eager females. Now, eager females include those that are just as eager as their male counterparts to get into space. For example, Justine Ezarik, better known as internet celebrity iJustine, recently was at number four on the leader board, according to Ad Age. Social media support is the most crucial component of bids to get the brands' consideration for slots on flights by Space X Corp. beginning in 2014.
Molly Pfaff, who made it up to #5, wrote on her blog that Axe is "'scouring the world for a few brave men' to send to space," according to Ad Age. "How awesome would it be if a woman actually won this thing?"
Matthew McCarthy, senior brand development director for Axe North America, recently toldbrandchannel that the contest is certainly open to women. He said, "We want all different types of people to step forward for the chance — we don't have some sort of Axe litmus test. We want anyone who's got a passion for going to space and who thinks that would be the trip of a lifetime."
The contest's fine print doesn't address gender either, saying only that the competition is "open to legal residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia, 18 years of age or older as of date of entry."
McCarthy told Ad Age that he's "not surprised" that so many women are pursuing the out-of-this-world prize. He said that outside the U.S., where the Axe brand is sold as Lynx in Ireland, the UK and Australia, the company hadn't been as clear that women were eligible, but Unilever fixed that after the campaign launch. Among other things, the confusion points to the challenges of running a global campaign for different brand names in various markets.
Still, Axe's Super Bowl ad, for example, was pretty clear that the guy who showed up in the astronaut suit on the beach and stole the heart of a bikini-clad blonde was, well, a guy, and in aLynx promotional video in which a handful of people dressed in Lynx-branded astronaut suits wander around London to promote the launch of the Apollo collection of men's products and the contest, the only individuals shown slamming the glass shut on their space helmets were, well, guys.
One thing is pretty clear: The actual winners of the Space Academy Contest aren't going to be flying into space in anything resembling the astronaut suits that have become a central device in Axe and Lynx advertising of the Axe Apollo fragrance and the competition to get into space. Another Unilever video, of the type of plane that will perform the space flights, shows a craft way too small and streamlined to seat someone dressed in a huge, bulky traditional space suit.

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