Will Axe's Space-Mission Contest be Won by a Woman?

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Axe's bro-centric marketing campaign to send 22 people to space has hit what might be a major snag: Of the top five contestants on the social leaderboard, two are women.

At number four on the leaderboard is Justine Ezarik, the internet celebrity better known as iJustine, who entered the contest because she really wanted to go to space.

At number five is popular Tumblr user Molly Pfaff, who entered the contest Feb. 5. She wrote on her blog: "Axe says they're 'scouring the world for a few brave men' to send to space," adding, "How awesome would it be if a woman actually won this thing?" The copy on AxeApollo.com has since been changed. It now reads "civilians" in place of "men."

Matthew McCarthy, senior director of brand development for Axe North America, said that he's "not surprised" that so many women are engaging with the contest, and that the campaign is gender-neutral. While he said the U.S. site has always made it clear that women and men could join the contest, other countries where the campaign is running might not have had it spelled out. That, he says, had to be fixed after the campaign launch.

But still, the U.S. site, AxeApollo.com, and some of the other marketing materials, remain male-centric. For example, the U.S. landing page reads: "Leave a Man. Come back a hero."

"Because we're a male-grooming brand, none of our consumers are surprised when we direct things towards guys," said Mr. McCarthy. "We talk as a male-grooming brand."

But YouTube blogger Ms. Ezarik says that when she asked her fans to vote for her, many told her that when they did, the confirmation copy read, "Thanks for voting for him," and "You can help him out even more by sharing your vote." Those pronouns have been changed, but it's unclear when that change took place. Mr. McCarthy said it was "a few weeks ago," but Ms. Ezarik said it still referenced "him" when fans voted for her a couple of days ago.

The contest, which was announced in January, invited consumers to sign up to join the Axe Apollo Space Academy. The two people who by April 27 have snagged the most votes on the contest's U.S. site will be invited to come to the Axe Space Camp in Orlando, Fla. They'll join the winners from the other countries at Global Space Camp, where they have a chance to join the International Space Crew. Ms. Ezarik is fairly confident about her chances of being part of the 22-member team that will actually go into space. She said that she has experience in zero-gravity situations where she has seen "grown men puking their guts out."

As for being trapped in an enclosed space with an Axe body spray user? Ms. Ezarik says she wouldn't mind. "If I'm in space, I don't care."

It might not be bad for Axe if a few women win the contest. Women are often the purchasers of men's personal-care products, including deodorant and body wash, an insight leading to the launch lines such as Dove Men+Care and campaigns like Old Spice's "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like."

For a campaign that seems to talk to the everyman, to give the average consumer a change of a lifetime, it seems probable that a celebrity, not a regular person, will win. Jesse Wellens, currently leading the voting, and Chris Smoove, in third place, are both prolific YouTubers, who have been posting videos and tweets asking fans to vote for them.

As for being trapped in an enclosed space with an Axe body spray user? Ms. Ezarik says she wouldn't mind. "If I'm in space, I don't care."

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