Axe's Super Bowl Ad Is The Last Thing You Would Expect From The Brand

From the first scene, the new Axe Super Bowl commercial feels like nothing the brand has produced before.

A somber piano track bolsters scenes of war and oppressive regimes. There are allusions to North Korea and the Middle East, World War II and the Vietnam War.

A character resembling Kim Jong-un overlooks a massive crowd, a man has what seems to be a bomb handcuffed to his wrist, a young soldier grips his machine gun, and a tank patrols a destroyed city. Everything seems bleak, until each of the men connects romantically with his wife or girlfriend. “Make Love, Not War,” Axe says:

The ad is for the new fragrance “Peace.” An abridged 30-second version of the commercial will run during the Super Bowl on Feb. 2.

BBH London wanted to do something completely different after the success of its previous Super Bowl campaign, which launched the “Apollo” line last year. It promoted Apollo with a contest that will send finalists on a Lynx spacecraft when the program goes live (probably next year). It drove sales across 50 markets, which inspired the ad team coming into this year’s project.

“It dawned upon us that we could do something good, and use our influence over those markets positively,” David Kolbusz, deputy executive director at BBH London, told Adweek.

After the BBH team decided on an ad twisting war movie cliches to promote peace, it sought a charitable partnership to prove that it was coming from a genuine place and not trivializing violence. So it linked up with Peace One Day, a non-profit dedicated to institutionalizing Sept. 21 as an international ceasefire Peace Day. Axe donated $US250,000 to the organisation and is promoting it in its ads and on its Facebook.

The “Make Love, Not War” commercial, whose name is inspired by peace demonstrators from the ’60s, is another step away from the sophomoric, sexist ads Axe became known for over the past decade.

Sure, last year’s Super Bowl spot featured a girl in a bikini, but at least several girls didn’t simultaneously undo their tops like in an earlier ad. And then there was BBH New York’s Susan Glenn commercial that marketed Axe products as a way to feel confident around an intimidatingly perfect girl, rather than as a way to lure a gaggle of mindless, loose women.

While the Axe brand will continue to be about young guys impressing the ladies, its marketing has recently involved more of an equilibrium between the sexes. The new ad is the first time Axe has been presented in a serious way.

For the Peace line, BBH will use the hashtag #KissForPeace to promote the brand by asking couples to post on social media images of themselves kissing, reports the New York Times.

“We know for that brief moment when a guy and girl are kissing that the world is a more peaceful place,” Matthew McCarthy, senior marketing director for Axe, told the Times.

That sounds a little like something the old Axe would say if it were trying to be romantic, but the brand is undeniably going in a different direction.

Here is one of the ads from the print side of the campaign, via Adweek:

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