Baffling Ads In Men’s Magazines

Through some aberration in the fabric of the universe, my husband has begun receiving a year’s subscription to GQ. As my spouse’s normal attire is a pair of old jeans and a gray Champion hoodie, and his cold-weather-to-warm-weather transition is to switch from long sleeves to short sleeves, this gift in our mailbox is akin to Elton John receiving a subscription to Juggs. (For the record, I’m no fashion plate either.)

But since I cannot resist a peek into what poses as a male-oriented periodical when I’m tossed into the same room with one (my favorite is Maxim), I started reading it.

I thought women’s magazines were bad! Holy crow. I couldn’t get past the advertising. These two guys in the Calvin Klein spread (above) look like a cross between Frankenstein’s monster and the guy on the cover of Atlas Shrugged. The guy on the right’s intent stare could melt glass, and there is so much product in vertical sculpture of his hair that he better not get too close to an open flame, lest he reenact Michael Jackson’s Pepsi ad. The dude on the left looks like he’s having a very intense discussion with himself about whether he left the iron on.

There’s an entire novel going on in the Gucci spread. Sorry, I couldn’t find the full image in all of its ambiguous glory, so you’ll have to take my word for it. A clean-shaven young man with knife-edged cheekbones has his eyes downcast and leading off the page. Perhaps he is holding back tears. Apparently, these tears are because the dramatically-posed stick insect of a female model standing in the center of the spread does not return his intense feelings of love. She presses one hand to her temple as if she has a horrible headache. Perhaps this was caused by the overzealous aesthetician who removed all the hair from her head. A finger covers an eyebrow. Maybe the waxer got to that one before she decided the Sinead O’Connor-meets-Mona-Lisa-look was probably not the best career move for her head shape. At the right is a man in a tightly fitted, shiny suit, sitting cross-legged in a way that tightly fitted, shiny suits do not normally permit. Another woman, who has hair on her head but apparently is wearing a horse’s mane as a top, leans over him and whispers in his ear. What that is we may never know, but this guy isn’t having any of it. He continues to stare at the shiny fabric covering his left calf as if it contains the secrets of the universe and the location of Jimmy Hoffa’s remains.

But what really made my day was this Dolce & Gabbana spread (top). As I’ve said, I’m tragically out of the loop when it comes to fashion, but I didn’t see anything in this ad that resembled fashion. It’s a black-and-white spread featuring seven guys involved in a very intense game of tug-of-war. We do not see against whom they are tugging. Maybe the guys in the Calvin Klein ad. They look like inmates from a Turkish prison, and all have varying degrees of facial hair and lengths of fabric torn off their white pants. The one in the front looks vaguely like Barack Obama scolding John Boehner. They dig their feet-all wearing oxfords, some without laces-into the sand. At the bottom left of the spread, looking off the page, is a small black dog that looks seriously underfed. I do not understand the significance of the dog, and this disturbs me. Meanwhile, I draft in my head a novelization of the ad, a cross between The Great Gatsby, The Dirty Dozen, and Midnight Express.

This intense focus on creating a context for the products confuses me just about as much as the context itself.  I know what the ads in women’s magazines are trying to express-they’re attempting to make us feel uncomfortable and insecure about our bodies and beauty so that we will continue buying their products and the magazines. I don’t know what the hell the GQ ads are trying to do. Maybe you men out there can help me. Do you buy these magazines? What do you think about the advertising? And what is the point of the dog?

Irritating Ad Campaigns 2010

Having worked in advertising, I understand the pressures on creative departments to produce winning campaigns under sometimes-ridiculous time constraints. I’ve been part of teams that have collectively caved as the deadline loomed, and went with an idea that was not necessarily the best, but one most people agreed didn’t suck. Or one they thought the client would approve. So I can forgive a campaign that comes in “half a bubble off plumb.” But a few lately have been truly irritating, inane, insulting and have left me scratching my head, wishing I could have been in those creative meetings to strike down those stupid ideas and maybe given someone a well-needed withering stare. Here are some of my favorite awful ads of 2010. As always, your actual experience may vary.

1. “Enjoy the go.”

Excuse me? Did I hear that right, or did Charmin bath tissue just invite me to enjoy the experience that precedes the use of their product? Sometimes I wonder if Procter & Gamble is completely off their nut or absolutely brilliant for running with this campaign. If you have to sell toilet paper, you might as well make it entertaining. So…bring on a family of animated bears! (‘Cause that’s what bears do in the woods, get it?) They’re cute and cuddly and nobody’s going to get grossed out when Mama Bear frets about little bits of toilet paper sticking to baby’s butt. Now P&G’s family of spokesmammals wants you to get in on the fun. According to their web site, “Charmin wants to create a movement where the entire nation can enjoy a better bathroom experience.” Uh…thanks. But you’re making me miss the Geico cavemen.

2. “Who has time to slim slowly?”

Slim-Fast says you don’t. Apparently, they haven’t been following the tsunami of scientific evidence pointing to a slow, steady weight reduction as the healthiest way to lose unwanted pounds and keep them off. They’ve chosen instead to taunt our reptilian brains, which want what they want when they want it. This sells product (and repeat product, as those who’ve not taken the time to slim slowly gain back all the weight they’ve lost plus some), but is underhanded and even dangerous. I’ve called out this campaign less for its stupidity and more for its deviousness. Bad, bad Slim-Fast. And they’ve even printed a teeny tiny disclaimer at the bottom of the commercial that a weight loss of more than two pounds of week is “not recommended.”

3. “Love Your Vagina.”

As in the Charmin example above (you’re still thinking about bears in the woods, aren’t you?), it’s hard to sell personal (and in this case, very personal) hygiene products. This is the opening UK salvo for the Mooncup, an “alternative type of sanitary protection.” After giving the page a read, it invites you to submit whatever name you call your “lady garden.” Adorable. For more fun, go here to learn what lots of forthcoming British ladies call theirs.

4. “Don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee.”

You might have seen this. A dude sleepwalks to McDonalds, blowing off anyone who tries to exchange a word with him because he’s uncaffeinated. Dude, if you’re that much of a jerk in the morning, buy a coffeemaker and snort some joe before you leave the house. You don’t want to be this guy, either.

5. “Wow, that’s a low price!”

Oh, wow, Staples, why? I seriously, seriously, seriously want to smack this jackwagon. And then medicate him. That was easy.

6. “10:10 No pressure.”

This series of public service ads is hideous, and the worst part is that I can imagine an apocalyptic version of the future in which this could happen. The group behind the videos showing English schoolchildren being blown to bloody bits has since apologized and pulled the spots. They could have learned from Audi. If you’re trying to coerce people into obeying the green laws, why not do it in a funnier way, and sell hybrids at the same time? At least nobody blows up.

Which ads from this year made you cringe?