Unilever adds The Martin Agency to handle Axe, as 72andSunny is out
Interpublic Group of Cos.’ The Martin Agency has picked up duties on Unilever’s Axe, and MDC Partners’ 72andSunny is out, as the brand searches for some new magic—or better “effect.”
Actually, 72andSunny hasn’t worked on Axe in over two years, a spokeswoman for the agency says, though the separation wasn’t previously announced by the company or agency. “We’re incredibly proud of the impactful work we created together,” she said in a statement, “repositioning their brand and launching a global cultural movement that embraced modern masculinity and brought lasting impact not only to their business, but to the world.”
Axe and Lynx have a long heritage of alternating among multiple shops, dating to decades of Publicis Groupe's BBH working alongside units of Interpublic’s Lowe. But a Unilever spokeswoman said Axe has brought Martin in to work alongside Interpublic’s MullenLowe as part of the company’s practice of working across holding companies. Previously, Unilever moved Seventh Generation from 72andSunny to independent Opinionated in 2019.
“We have consolidated our overall roster to fewer creative partners, better leveraging talent from our preferred holding companies (such as IPG, Omnicom and WPP) and supplementing their expertise with specialist independent agencies,” the Unilever spokeswoman said. “Axe is a great example of a brand benefiting from this new ecosystem, as a broader relationship with IPG has enabled the Martin Agency to be part of the creative leadership of the brand.”
The move comes as Axe looks to recapture the success of its long-running but years-ago-abandoned “Axe Effect” campaign. It drove decades of growth but faced growing criticism. Those ads, primarily from Publicis Groupe’s BBH but also from various global units of Lowe, showed Axe scents leading women on often mindless, elaborate, sex-crazed chases of men.
That campaign was replaced in 2016 by 72andSunny’s “Find Your Magic” campaign, a far more cerebral effort that encouraged men to accept all kinds of masculinity, very much in keeping with Unilever’s “Unstereotype” movement to eliminate gender stereotypes.
But “Find Your Magic,” unlike the old campaign, won fewer creative awards or consumers. Axe’s share in U.S. deodorants has fallen from 21.9% in 2016 to 19.7% in 2018 and 17.4% last year, according to Euromonitor data.
MullenLowe took a stab at rethinking Axe creative last year with the tagline “Don’t Overthink It,” showing people fleeing a basketball game due to a fan’s body odor. It lasted less than a week on air, given unfortunate timing just before an National Basketball Association game was canceled, and fans were told to leave an arena in Oklahoma City after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, followed by a cascade of shutdowns of sports events.
Axe’s most recent ad, which broke this March, comes from Interpublic and navigates a path somewhere between “Find Your Magic” and “The Axe Effect.” With the endline “The New Axe Effect,” the ad shows an Axe scented man in a sort of magical realism vignette complete with singing sunflowers and a woman who pops out from a bus ad to embrace him, all to the tune of the song “Irresistible” by Australian rapper Jordan Dennis.