“The issue here isn’t why should people smoke. It’s why should people smoke Lucky Strike”
~Don Draper, Mad Men “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”
What do these letters mean to you? Probably nothing – but if it were the 50s, or if you were a hip Lucky Strike smoking Mad Men fanatic, you would read “Lucky Strike means fine tobacco.”
Why didn’t they print that on the label? There is a difference between reading “Lucky Strike means fine tobacco,” and “L.S/M.F.T.” The first supplies every consonant, but with the second you tell yourself the message. What’s more, you have to unbury the message from your subconscious. Every time you see the bottom of a pack of Luckies, you’ll tell yourself in hypnotic fashion “Lucky Strike means fine tobacco.” It’s just like drilling flash cards before a test.
Advertising is a means of breaking in to the consumer’s brain to leave behind messages. It’s inception.
Does Grey Global Group, the company who made this commercial, care about feminism? No. The message in this commercial isn’t that women deserve equal treatment to men. It’s that women should buy Pantene shampoo and conditioner. As their latest commercial “Shine On” displays, once you have shiny Pantene hair you can have the confidence to stop apologizing to men when you don’t need to.
I know I’m alienating fans of these commercials, but if you’re offended, you are my target audience. Stick with me!
Grey has been making commercials like this for Pantene for years. Sweeping emotional appeals followed by a tiny Pantene tag as if wasn’t all an ad. Look up “Chrysalis” from 2011. It’s a full hero's journey tale about a deaf girl who learns to play the violin, despite the harsh words of her detractors. It’s 3 minutes and 30 seconds, and it made me weep like a goddamned baby. It is, without a doubt, one of the best advertisements I have ever seen.
In fact, Grey is doing so well they’ve been named Ad Age’s No. 1 agency of 2014. 95% client retention – 20 out of 22 pitches won. Those numbers would leave Don Draper shaking in his Brooks Brother’s suit.
Other successful campaigns are for NFL Fantasy Football, Gilette and Ketel One Vodka.
“Gentlemen… This is vodka. There was a time when standing for something stood for something. When men refused to drink whatever the world just happened to pour in their glass. There was a time when men were men. It was last night.”
~Ketel One ad, 2014
The same company who dared to ask “Why are women always apologizing?” sells vodka based on the promise that drinking it will affirm your masculinity, sprinkled with nostalgia for the good ol’ days. Back when men refused to drink whatever the world just happened to pour in their glass – when men refused to accept things like Civil Rights and the rise in feminism. Be a man; drink vodka.
Of course they’re just playing to their target audience’s ideologies. They’ll exploit men who miss what they see as a declining patriarchy the same as they’ll exploit the women trying to fight the living, breathing patriarchy today.
In 1948, Lucky Strike put out a “marching cigarettes” stop motion ad, exploiting the viewers sense of patriotism and respect for the military. It makes perfect sense. Soldiers were the biggest heroes of the day. Who better to compare cigarettes to? Today, movie theaters sell soda cups that look like Iron Man whenever a new Avengers movie comes out. It’s the same thing.
They will use your own viewpoints against you. They know what you like, how you vote, and what you buy from Facebook. If Grey cares about feminism, why don’t they put those messages in an NFL ad? They could target a huge population of men riddled with misconceptions about feminism. But they won’t. Gilette is still “the best a man can get” – Grey came up with that one, too.
Maybe this Pantene thing is the start of a slow trickle of change in advertising? I don’t think so. Do you know who advertises Lucky Strikes today? Yes, they still advertise. The British American Tobacco company – one of Grey Global Group’s big clients.
Don’t be fooled. All advertising is hollow.
Will Irwin is a Writing for Film and TV major. To the dismay of his peers, romanticism got to Will at a young age on the back of an embarrassing amount of late middle school nights spent watching romantic comedies on TBS. He fell in love with love a hundred years ago, and their relationship - though sometimes dysfunctional - has been going strong ever since.