By Published on .

Here's the brut manifesto: In today's politically incorrect land of men behaving badly, of laddie books like Gear, Maxim and Stuff, of oddities such as "The Man Show" on Comedy Central and the uninhibited testosteronism of movies such as "American Pie," it's definitely OK to be a guy.

Implicit in that is the permission to ogle chicks, make fun of wimps and generally do guy stuff, like leave the seat up.

That's the hubba-hubba mentality behind a new TV commercial from Ammirati Puris Lintas, New York, for Unilever's Brut antiperspirant. Yes, that Brut-the once-moribund brand endorsed a lifetime ago by Joe Namath.

Well, its brand equity never really went away, even though its market share has been slipping for years and now hovers under 4%. Brut now is being resurrected in a swirl of guy-centric images and attitudes.


The '90s rehabilitation of Brut began about a month ago with a campaign that ran as wild postings, other out-of-home media and in selected magazines. With provocative headlines set against a Brut-green background, the ads simply conveyed what the agency creative team considers Brut's heritage: men being men, and digging the hell out of it.

"Smell better than guys twice as smart," reads one ad. "Of course I'll respect you. I just won't call," reads another.

That attitude now is unapologetically on display in the TV commercial that broke last week. Titled "Commercial," it's a deft parody of pharmaceutical ads; indeed, it's half expected that former Claritin spokeswoman Joan Lunden will step into the frame and start spouting copy points, although in the Brut world she'd probably be wearing a thong and halter top.

The spot delivers its ridiculously exaggerated product message-and accompanying, over-the-top disclaimers-in an earnest, straight-faced manner.

Directed by comedian Christopher Guest, who starred in the faux-documentary classic "This Is Spinal Tap," the spot is one of those things either loved or hated. For every frat boy who raves about it to his buddies, there's likely to be an angry feminist rallying a Lever Bros. boycott at the local Stop 'N Shop.

It opens on a comparison shot of two men's arms applying the product. Brand X goes on a twiglike appendage belonging to some pencil-necked geek, while Brut goes on what looks like Stone Cold Steve Austin's arm. Next seen is the presenter walking in the woods.

"Brut should not be used by men who aren't real guys," he says as beefy lumberjacks saw away at old-growth timber in the background.

The next shot is of a buxom lass in a low-cut top leaning over a pool table in a bar, giving lots of cleavage. As more endowed ladies swarm around him, our presenter approaches the camera and says: "Brut has been considered an effective treatment for erectile dysfunction."

A title card appears, to clear up any confusion: "Brut antiperspirant should be applied to armpits only."


The spot closes on the spokesman standing behind a hot tub in which two more buxom women are, um, relaxing. He warns viewers that a "small percentage of men wearing Brut have been stalked by centerfolds."

What about the risk of offending those who either don't get the joke or don't think it's funny?

The Ammirati team isn't worried about negative reaction, even from Bob Dole.

"We showed this to young women in concept form, and they thought it was funny," said Jim Allman, chairman-CEO of the agency's New York office. "Certain people might take offense, but overall we were surprised by how both men and women of a wide age range seemed to have a really relaxed attitude about this now."

It wasn't always that way. Back in the early '90s, what was then Hal Riney & Partners, San Francisco, was at the center of a brewhaha over a campaign for Old Milwaukee beer that featured the "Swedish Bikini Team," a bunch of leggy blondes who delivered six-packs to thirsty guys. The agency defended the work by claiming it was a spoof.

Ammirati executives said that research lead them to the core Brut insight, that these days "inside every man, there's a guy," as co-executive CDs Rob Feakins and Roger Bentley put it.

Mr. Feakins cited social evidence like that discussed by feminist author Susan Faludi in her new book, "Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man." It contends men have had their boyish tendencies suppressed for too long.

"If this were a new brand, there might be greater scrutiny" of the ad and its randy view of the American male, Mr. Bentley said. "But since this is Brut, people accept it. This brand can talk this way."


Mr. Feakins said the team met little resistance from the client when they pitched the commercial, written by Doug James and art directed by Andy Golomb. Indeed, Unilever VP-Marketing Alan Jope said that the Brut work is part of an overall effort on the part of the marketer to create advertising that's more visible.

"We will not be satisfied with good anymore," he said, "and you can't be better unless you're different."

Mr. Jope added that the tone of Brut's advertising acknowledges the "tremendous pressure that men have been under for the past few years" as they've struggled to find their role in the post PC-environment.

As for the bad-boy nature expressed in this creative, Mr. Jope said it was qualified: "We're tapping into one role a guy might play, but the next day he goes back to being the caring father or the good partner."

The humor isn't meant to be anti-women or chauvinistic, the executive added.

"Everyone gets it. It raises a chuckle with women as well as men," he said.

Backed by an overall budget in the $10 million to $12 million range, the TV spot is running on appropriately guy-oriented cable programming. It was produced for the agency by Colleen O'Connor, one of a number of women who worked on the

Most Popular
In this article: