So I stumbled upon this article on AdWeek about Irish Spring’s new campaign. The advertisements, some of which are posted on Youtube, serve as TV spots, calling back to Irish Spring’s ads of the ’80s. The old campaigns use non-Irish actors struggling to brogue it up amid stereotypes of freckled children and the slogan “Fresh and clean as a whistle.” When I watch these, I feel what is apparently known as fremdschämen, or extreme embarrassment for someone else. I didn’t write this post just to use that word, though if I’d known of its existence before five seconds ago I might have. Anyway, these new ads are a call back to those old ads, and guess what! They’re still embarrassing. The nostalgia is really the only value, but let’s face it, nostalgia is pretty damn powerful. Look at Ready Player One.
The AdWeek article I’ve linked to explains why companies should rethink advertising like this, why stereotypes just can’t work any more and why can’t we just, god forbid, use shots of real Irish people doing real things that Irish people do? Why do we have to fall back on St. Patrick’s-style bullshit? Further, the nostalgic ads are a breeding ground for the classic men’s bodywash advertising stunt, which is to say, they’re just telling men that if they use Irish Spring, hot women will want them. How can they get away with this when a) it’s false advertising (no woman has ever been attracted to a man because of his bodywash and any man who still believes that doesn’t have the hygiene regimen that requires body wash) and b) it’s degrading.
I’ve always found the Axe ads both laughable and deplorable. If you can’t tell.
Of course, we have to be honest and recognize that this kind of advertising is a symptom of overall society, and as much as it may upset you that I’m recognizing that or it may make you think I’m too sensitive, that doesn’t make it any less true.