Known for provocative advertising that portrays Axe as a brand that makes young men irresistible to young women, Unilever took an even more outrageous approach than usual for the Latin American launch of its Full Control antiperspirant line, with a campaign called "Premature Perspiration."
"We took a key topic that is related to men's virility and extrapolated it to armpits," said Hernan Ponce, CEO of Ponce, Buenos Aires, whose agency and its forerunner Vegaolmosponce have done international work for Axe since 1999.
The "Premature Perspiration" campaign explores the idea that a young man excited by the presence of a young woman risks losing his self-confidence due to sudden heavy sweating, in a thinly veiled allusion to another problem of concern to men. In spots, embarrassing underarm rings quickly appear when young men are exposed to innocently provocative situations, such as a girl eating an ice cream bar or pulling lingerie out of the dryer at the laundromat.
"The key was to really exaggerate the tone of the idea, to establish a certain distance between what we were saying and the real problem, to avoid ridiculing the target ," Mr. Ponce said. "We didn't mock men who suffer from premature ejaculation; we just approached a problem with humor."
As usual with an Axe campaign, users are invited to play with it, including making their friends suffer by using Facebook to put their faces in the latest "Premature Perspiration" TV spot.
Thanks to the campaign, which won the Grand Effie at Argentina's annual effectiveness awards in October, sales of Axe antiperspirants in Argentina rose by 11.7% from June 2010 to Dec. 2010, a striking performance for a brand that is already a market leader. Strategically, the campaign's focus on sweating helped to differentiate the Full Control line from Axe's long-established body-spray business. And because the work revolves around emotionally-triggered sweating, Full Control stood out from rival brands that talk about perspiration caused by physical exertion.
It's also doing well elsewhere in Latin America.
"Particularly in Mexico, the 'Premature Perspiration' campaign was fundamental for consolidating the brand's leadership, not only in deodorants, but especially in antiperspirants," said Dario Rubaja, marketing director of Axe Latin America.
Within a month of launching in Mexico, the Full Control line had a 1.1% share of the antiperspirant market.
What's next? Following the Mayan calendar's prediction that the world will end next year, Unilever has readied a body spray variant called "2012, The Final Edition." Ponce, Buenos Aires' new spot features a man building an arc from scratch. The last touch is a squirt of Axe, and then women start converging on the arc in pairs. The endline is "Get it on for the end of the world."