Mitchum Man Ads: The New Axe

What is up with the plethora of disturbing sexist advertising for men’s deodorant? Are they that scared of the simple joy of smelling nice?
Mitchum Man ads may just be your worst nightmare. And they’re everywhere – on trains, on bar coasters, bus stops. Not only do they epitomize the worst of American masculinity, but promotes nonconsensual sexual behavior (see below). Change Happens covered this in August; our apologies for being super late on it.
Their website proudly displays a number of gems, like:

“If you’re the only one who knows which remote controls what, you’re a Mitchum man.”
“A Mitchum Man’s shirt is clean. His mind, not so much.”
“If G is your favorite kind of string, you’re a Mitchum Man”
“If your best man is holding onto your bachelor party pictures, you’re a Mitchum Man.”

And it goes on and on…

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49 Comments

  1. norbizness
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    And if you’ve recorded a calypso album after smoking out for three days solid, then you’re a Robert Mitchum Man.

  2. Cicada Nymph
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Wow, that’s disgusting. Popular portrayals of masculinity for men are about as unhealthy as those of femininity are for women. Of course, they also teach an objectification of women which is dangerous so they end up harming both genders as well as any anyone who doesn’t fit neatly into a gender box. What is next, I wonder? Maybe something along the lines of “If you can slip GHB into her drink without her noticing…then you’re a Mitchum man.” I’m going to make sure none of my close friends or family use this product and if they I’m going to make sure they stop.

  3. Posted October 3, 2008 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    Wow, seriously? I guess their demographic is sexist perverted pig-headed males. I don’t think I like Mitchum Men very much.

  4. SarahMC
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    Mitchum Man: Deodorant for Douchebags

  5. Michele
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    They are owned my Revlon. Already sent Revlon a letter :)

  6. norbizness
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Sarah: That’s trademark infringement on both Axe Body Spray and Douchebag 24-Hour Roll-on.

  7. Flippy
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    “If you have to deceive people to get laid, you’re a Mitchum Man.”
    Last I checked, those body sprays smelled like crap, so if this stuff makes them smell as attractive as the Mitchum Man sounds, then I suppose they’re doing women a favor.

  8. Posted October 3, 2008 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    I started seeing those ads here in Chicago on our El services over a year ago and was simply floored. Really?

  9. alixana
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Am I the only one who doesn’t get it? What does deodorant have to do with these terrible expressions of “masculinity”? Deodorant just keeps you from sweating and smelling. How does what you wipe under your armpits have anything to do with anything else? These advertisement people suck.
    I’d go through and say something snarky about each “If…” statement, but I think we’re all on the same page here. Although maybe I’ll add, “If women often spray pepper spray in your eyes and your male friends stop talking you because you’re reflecting negatively on them, you’re a Mitchum Man.”

  10. Roja
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    1- I want sara haskins to do a “Target: Men” episode
    2- This is partly why feminism is for men too.
    3- Apparently they have products for women too now. I wonder what an equivalent jerk-off Mitchum woman is like,… (if you convinced him that the guy you are f%$^ing on the side is just a study partner, you are a mitchum woman,… if you get him to believe you are just ‘buddies’ with his [hot] best friend, you are a mitchum woman) I wonder if this would be received as well in the Mitchum marketing meeting.

  11. vballcourtx10
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    It just bothers me that these advertisers use g-strings, bachelor parties, and the idea of who controls the remote, which all have nothing to do with deodorant, in order to sell their product. It is not a surprise that they are sexualing women in order to get men’s attention. If you flip through any magazine you can see women photographed in very little clothing or vulnerable positions in order to get people to buy the product or service.

  12. yellowbird
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Ick. I actually use Mitchum Man, and I’m a woman. I think I’ll be switching deodorants. Any suggestions?

  13. Kai
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    I think this is great. Very informative. In fact, I’m glad to know the official definition of a Mitchum Man. This way, when I smell it on a man, I will know in advance that he’s a douchebag, and I can stay the hell away without wasting time discovering all of his wonderful, “masculine” qualities on my own…

  14. Jeffrey
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    Actually, G is my favorite string, but that’s because I’m a Martin man.

  15. feminanimal
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Sheesh, Mitchum is the only deoderant my boyfriend can apparently wear (allergies). Funny thing, though, as in most American families, I’m the one who does the grocery shopping, for the most part, and I think I’ll clue Revlon, Mitchum’s parent co. in. Poor thing will have to deal with Tom’s or something from now on.
    Also, I think there’s a big difference between using sex in advertising (I couldn’t find anything wrong w/ the Levi’s ad, for instance, it was just cheeky and silly) and using really unhealthy, objectifying, gross sex in advertising. These ads basically suggest that it’s manly to use women in very deceptive ways, to lie to women, to basically cheat on your wife, and I guess, to watch a lot of tv.

  16. Malori
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    Can’t stand this campaign. I saw one Mitchum Man ad that depicted a stripper (without a face; just her body) being given dollar bills. It read something like, “Any man who has contributed a dollar to a woman’s education is a Mitchum Man.”

  17. Malori
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    Can’t stand this campaign. I saw one Mitchum Man ad that depicted a stripper (without a face; just her body) being given dollar bills. It read something like, “Any man who has contributed a dollar to a woman’s education is a Mitchum Man.”

  18. FrumiousB
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    Why is it that basic personal hygiene for men makes them into studly sex gods whereas basic personal hygiene for women makes them marginally acceptable in society?

  19. RedPersephone
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    FrumiousB: bingo.

  20. Theaetetus
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    So, their ad campaign is basically the comic “Pluggers”?

  21. brodyrocks
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    FrumiousB-great question. It’s infuriating that in men’s product commercials, everything from haircolor to aftershave, they MUST have a woman draped all over him. It makes me sick. In the women’s commercials and ads it’s as if women are just flat out gross if they don’t use such and such product.

  22. whenfishfly
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    lol norbizness, that’s a good one :)
    As for Mitchum deodorant, ugh. I just started using it and I like it so much better than anything I’ve used up till now. I won’t be buying anymore though.

  23. Kate
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    If you’re such a huge asshole that women can’t stand you and the only half-naked women you’ll ever see are the ones in our ads, you’re a Mitchum man!

  24. Posted October 3, 2008 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    I use Mitchum… but certainly not because of the ads! The company does make Mitchum for women too – my girlfriend is a user. So I guess that makes us a Mitchum couple? I wonder what the ads are like for the Mitchum Women, if there are indeed any?
    But seriously… this is just another in a long line of sexually provocative ads for products directed at men. And I’m sure they will continue. The age old adage, “sex sells” is unfortunately not become extinct any time soon.
    I’m not even sure how effective these kinds of ads are. Are there really men out there running out to buy Mitchum deodorant after seeing one of these posters?

  25. Zardoz
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    Mitchum used to advertise themselves as “So effective you can skip a day.” I guess they thought “we are manly” is a better sentiment than “we’re popular with infrequent bathers.”

  26. JKayOh
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    Wait, wait wait, wait—whoa whoa whoa!
    MITCHUM???? Sexy??? For real?
    Mitchum deodorant was my grandfather’s deodorant. (And that of every other really old guy on his shuffle board team.) The best revenge on Mitchum is just remembering what we’re dealing with here. Just remind your guy friends and fabulous lovers that Mitchum smells like every retirement home, funeral parlor, or Bingo hall you’ve ever been in.
    I’m completely serious.
    The female equivalent would be dabbing mothballs behind your ears.

  27. Adrian
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    Perfume ads are selling a whole image, not just a smell. Customers are supposed to connect the smell with an aesthetic style. Some of the images they pitch to women are elegant luxury, smoldering sexiness, and effortless natural prettiness. Things like deodorant and shampoo are advertised using the same techniques as they use to sell perfume.
    I know what Old Spice smells like, because both my grandfathers used their products when I was little. LOTS of people associate Old Spice with grandpa smells. Teenaged boys can think it smells kinda nice, yet hesitate to buy it because they don’t want to smell like old men. The Old Spice advertising people have been working really hard on creating a new image to go with the familiar smell and brand name.
    Mitchum deodorant is about as old as Old Spice, only not as interesting. 5 years ago, I thought Mitchum was for middle-aged people who did not want to be physically noticeable. I can see why Mitchum did not to build an advertising campaign on that kind of impression. The first “Mitchum Man” ads, with lines about running for the subway and not letting heat get to you, weren’t bad. But I guess they weren’t emphatic enough about not being your father’s deodorant (especially for people who associate their fathers with civilization, respect for rules, etc.)
    Basically, I understand why they sell stuff by trying to link it to lifestyles and images. I hate it that the exciting images and fashionable lifestyles these days are so VICIOUS. I’d still like to give the world a Coke, and keep it company. So there.

  28. JKayOh
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    I’m with you, Adrian. My assessment is obviously tongue in cheek, because grandpa memories are amongst the best I have. :)
    What sickens me is the way these companies feel the have to swing the pendulum SO FAR the other way to get their hyper-masculinized (and financially rewarding) outcome. The ad above is so revealing and disheartening. The basic translation: “If you exploit women, we want you as a customer.”
    I’ll tell you right now—Revlon has lost me FOREVER. I’m exhausted by the hypocrisy of these corporations. The sell us “natural beauty” and “empowerment” blah blah with one product, then treat us like airbrushed flesh objects in another. (Not that I get my power from mascara—I get it from Feministing.) hee hee.

  29. j316
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    ok, now, why “douchebag”? this is the kind of crap that pisses me off. Were these commercials saying “Beat your girlfriend? you’re a mitchum man”? Nope.
    “make more money than she does? You are a mitchum man”. Didn’t see that anywhere…
    “if she is complaining, it is just her period, and you are a mitchum man”. NADDA!
    Cicada Nymph – GHB? are you kidding? did you REALLY just draw a parralel from those commercials to slipping drungs into someone drink and then assaulting them? You know what. Don;t answer that…You have already proven that whatever you say will just be silly.
    Roja – those ads would be awsome and you know it….
    FrumiousB – NO. Look again. you are wrong.
    I cannot believe that any of you realla have a problem with….wait, sorry, i just caught myself. Most of you have no idea what feminism, sexism, Masogyny, or anything of the sort is really about. yes i am venting now, sit back and let me finish, then it is YOUR turn on the soap box…
    …where was i….dammit,
    If you lose your train of thought while venting, YOU are a mitchum man.

  30. Crapburger
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    Zardoz: “Wait, wait wait, wait—whoa whoa whoa!
    MITCHUM???? Sexy??? For real?
    Mitchum deodorant was my grandfather’s deodorant. ”
    My thoughts exactly! All these old brands are trying to compete with Axe and that ilk by “sexying” up their ads to sort of “re-brand” I guess. It does look ridiculous for those of us in the know. What’s next? Sexy ads for “Magic Shave”? How about “Tussy”? I’m waiting for Aqua Velva to revive itself.

  31. JKayOh
    Posted October 4, 2008 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    On j316:
    DNFTT! (LOLZ–I knew that was going to come in handy—just not so soon—sigh.) ; )
    Crapburger:
    I can’t even stop laughing. How did you remember those brands? You need to clean out your mental rolodex! Very funny.
    Here’s two more: Brylcreem and Lectric shave. (Yep, spelled correctly)

  32. Feather
    Posted October 4, 2008 at 12:14 am | Permalink

    Oh my god! I remember “so effective you can skip a day”… I LIKED Mitchum. They have a decent unscented antipersperant. And I really thought you couldn’t get worse than Lynx/Axe. Wrong!
    Who else is sick and tired of what I call “manliness campaigns” (it’s a working title – it’s really more about paranoid masculinity)? I actually preferred it when I only saw them in beer ads; not because misogyny is okay anywhere – I still couldn’t stand watching them – but they were at least restricted to a small niche. Now they’re freaking everywhere . Even ads for LEMON SOFT DRINK and ICED COFFEE. They’re not even sterotypically masculine products! What’s next, organic green tea? Reduced-fat frozen yogurt? Pads and tampons?
    You know how people assume feminists hate men… you could say feminists hate misogyny, and apparently to a lot of people being a misogynist is what is means to be a man.

  33. PamelaVee
    Posted October 4, 2008 at 12:45 am | Permalink

    Men’s personal products commercials have gotten so bizarre. I write Nivea a thank you for keeping it classy with their ad that is just a clean dude walking around, and makes fun of these axe commercials.
    On the less sinister note regarding men’s body wash and that type of thing. I have noticed a huge word shift. “Moisturizers” and referred to as “hydrators” and a loofah is called a “cleaning tool” and, there’s also a phrase they use- instead of washing dirt away, it’s “powered” away. POWERED. How ridiculous.

  34. Posted October 4, 2008 at 12:47 am | Permalink

    They are getting worse and worse, taking cues after Axe.
    The worst part: a woman approached me at the grocery store promoting the Axe body scrub thingie. Squick.
    At least one men’s deodorant is taking a different stance. Nivea for Men has a commercial where they parody a bunch of Axe users, men in their late teens or early twenties, dressed in jeans or torn up slacks, dirty shirts, saying carp like “But this smell won’t attract a mate for me!” and so on, then a guy in a suit (sort of) just says “It smells good and it’s good for my skin. What more do I want?” Voiceover: “Nivea: for grown ups.”

  35. ShifterCat
    Posted October 4, 2008 at 1:07 am | Permalink

    j316, is any sexist advertising that is not so anvilicious as to be called “lawsuit bait” by the company’s board of directors just too subtle for you, or what?
    The whole site is educational, but here is a good place to start reading.

  36. Posted October 4, 2008 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    We have similar ads over here. I blogged about one (in which I got the brand wrong – oops! Goes to show how similarly nauseating these ads are) that essentially markets an anti-perspirant to guys so they aren’t distracted by being sweating when they’re staring at women. Nice.
    Making Objectification Easier!

  37. Coco la Boca
    Posted October 4, 2008 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Stuff is nasty anyway. Smearing a toxic brew on your underarms for a lifetime – sick not sexy.
    http://www.thegreenguide.com/reports/productprint.mhtml?id=43

  38. Judith Jewcakes
    Posted October 4, 2008 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    I was just thinking the other day why on earth toiletries are marketed by gender, anyway. (I am kind of radical on that point, so I’ll leave it be for now.) But deodorants are the worst. I’m sorry, but the only smell I find sexy is “haven’t-showered-in-2-days.” Body washes, deodorants, colognes–they smell like chemicals! Seriously! How is that sexy?
    A few years ago, I had a boyfriend who went on a trip and forgot his deodorant, so used some Dove, and decided he loved it, and switched over. At the time I poked fun at him for using women’s deodorant, but looking back, I mean…what was the big deal? These things don’t actually smell like pheromones, and as far as I know, those are the only smells that are actually gendered.

  39. Blair
    Posted October 4, 2008 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    These ads are so nostalgic, it makes me wonder if there a response to the Mad Men phenomenon. The Axe ads in particular are rip-offs of the old Hai-Karate ads I saw as a boy. I teach middle school and lately we’ve had to forbid bringing body spray to school because the seventh graders have been spraying each other at recess and re-enacting the ads.
    I don’t dispute that the ads are misogynistic, but they also reflect some real gender differences in brand choice. Boys do sort of meander oblivious to hygiene until they become interested in girls.
    Girls on the other hand are pressured far more to see hygiene and “beauty” as an issue of self respect and confidence.
    Your douche “makes YOU FEEL like a summer day.”
    My deodorant makes me “IRRESISTABLE TO WOMEN”.
    You can’t brand these products the same because they are innately different transactions.

  40. Vanessa
    Posted October 4, 2008 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    Troll is banned folks, sorry about that. And please don’t engage them!

  41. Crapburger
    Posted October 4, 2008 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    I was in line behind an adolescent boy who was buying 5 mini sized Axe deodorant sprays (I guess if he were a lady they would be called “purse-sized”). He simply couldn’t restrain himself before checking out, grabbed one and sprayed it ALL OVER himself. I was gagging, and after about two seconds the lady behind me said loudly, “JESUS! That smells like shit!” The kid left, but the scent lingered. People in the next line were looking around with faces of disgust, trying to locate the source. If you ask me, the stench of Axe is just as repelling as their ads!
    When I first saw the Nivea ads, I laughed so hard. I buy Nivea and it made me feel good about myself.

  42. Cicada Nymph
    Posted October 4, 2008 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    “Masogyny” ….hahaha
    Not engaging, just found that humorous.

  43. Posted October 5, 2008 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    “If you are so pathetically insecure that you require basic hygeine products to reassure you of your “”masculinity”"… you’re a Mitchum Man.”
    The thing that kills me about this type of thing is that a bunch of people sat around a table and said, “yeah… this is a great way to re-position our product! they’ll go for it!”

  44. eve23
    Posted October 5, 2008 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    Basically condoning guys being assholes. It’s ‘normal’ to trick women into objectifying themselves through images to many others.

  45. closet librarian
    Posted October 6, 2008 at 5:12 am | Permalink

    I’m living in Moscow Russia, but we still have those obnoxious AXE ads here too. Extraordinarily sexist.

  46. Danyell
    Posted October 6, 2008 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    I used to work in a summer arts camp, with a lot of kids in the 10-15 age group. One of the 12-yr-old kids came in spraying that Axe crap on himself. When I asked him what made him buy that brand, he didn’t even have an answer! They don’t even know why they buy it! The ads are so effective and seep so deeply into the back of the brain that impressionable types buy it before they realize what they’re buying into. They just “for some reason” think that the stuff will make them cool & sexy, but they don’t remember why!
    So anyone who thinks that talking about sexist advertising doesn’t have a point, then you’re seriously mistaken…or maybe they’ve gotten to you too…
    “If you need an ad campaign, invented by out-of-touch business people who only want your money, to define the kind of person you want to be, you’re a Mitchum Man!’
    P.S.- Do these ads sound anything like a Jeff Foxworthy routine to anyone else? “You’e a Mitchum Man” sounds a lot like “You might be a red neck.”

  47. Posted October 6, 2008 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    Heck yea, you’re right Danyell.

  48. Ishtar
    Posted October 7, 2008 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    I’m from South Africa and our Mitchum ad is completely different so I was really surprised to read of this (frankly, offensive) campaign.
    Mitchum is an expensive product in SA, their products being as much as two and three more expensive than others. Our Mitchum ad goes like this…
    Well-known SA actor (sadly, now deceased)and in the background a thoroughbred horse. The actor asks, “What if I told you you could buy this majestic animal for a R117.00? You’d say it was too good to be true wouldn’t you?”
    Pause and then the “thoroughbred” brays like a donkey.
    The actor continues, “And you’d be right.”
    Pause and then the payoff line…”Mitchum, you get what you pay for.”
    I thought that was a clever ad and not even a whisper of a naked woman/prostitute/stripper/sex of any kind in sight.
    Re: the Axe commercials – I thought only we were subjected to those grotesquely silly ads. There were rumblings of discontent here when the ads went even more over the top then usual and now they seem to have settled into self-parody.

  49. djkolbe
    Posted July 22, 2009 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    I created some Mitchum Man quotes to show what I view a Mitchum Man to be like…
    Mitchum Men don’t want their sons to be as successful as themselves
    Mitchum Men know that at some point in their lives they will be involved in an explosion
    Mitchum men have a pair of Sunday work boots
    Mitchum men don’t know shit about tying fancy ties
    Mitchum Men NEVER flush. They like knowing someone witnessed what they did

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