An Axe fragrance for men and women? Supported by an Axe campaign that isn't aggressively, compulsively misogynistic? The world must be coming to an end.
In fact, that's exactly what seems to be happening in Bartle Bogle Hegarty's launch spot for Axe Anarchy, the first fragrance in the brand's history with a version for ladies as well as dudes. Axe has long been known, and relentlessly bashed, for "giving men the edge in the mating game" (their words)—which in the advertising has always meant portraying women as brainless, sex-driven fools unable to resist throwing themselves at the Axe-using men in their midst. The introduction of a women's fragrance levels the playing field, and lets BBH finally portray both sexes as sex-crazed imbeciles, free to objectify each other equally in willfully mutual attraction—in what turns out to be the most absurdly romantic campaign Axe has ever produced.
Taking their cues from the product name, BBH and director Tom Kuntz use the 60-second spot to illustrate the apocalyptic repercussions of such unbridled passion. Lust is blind, it quickly becomes clear, as the couples, oblivious to all but each other, unleash all sorts of accidental violence around them. Kuntz, a master of the absurd, nicely ratchets up the mayhem until, at the end, helicopters have to be called in to the city, which is now literally burning up.
Lots of the comic violence is directed pseudo-sadistically at the ultimate in innocent bystanders—a man in a wheelchair rolls into the street, as his nurse forgets about him; and a dog (in the wonderfully awful print ad below) is about to get chewed up by a Weed Whacker as its owner takes a shine to a landscaper. Backed by Elvis's "Can't Help Falling in Love," the slapstick humor and gleeful pandemonium are infectious, not a term often associated with this brand—which almost seems like it's reveling at the chance to finally move beyond its icky roots. (Well, not entirely beyond them—the crowdsourced soft porn of its graphic-novel idea  is right in line with the brand's past. But, you know, baby steps.)
"When we set about exploring what the world would be like with an Axe for him and an Axe for her, we started by dialing up the romance," says BBH creative director David Kolbusz. "More romance became romance at the expense of all else. Romance at the expense of all else became a descent into chaos. With a burning clown."
Axe and romance: the strangest bedfellows of all.
Global Brand Director: Tomas Marcenaro
Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty, London
BBH Creative Team: Daniel Schaefer, Szymon Rose
BBH Creative Directors: David Kolbusz, Dominic Goldman
BBH Strategic Business Leaf: Keir Mather, Richard Lawson
BBH Team Manager: Jennifer Omran
BBH TV Producer: Ruben Mercadal
BBH Assistant TV Producer: Roz Prentice
Production Company: MJZ
Director: Tom Kuntz
Producer: Suza Horvat
Director of Photography: Eduardo Grau
Editor, Editing House: Rick Russell, Final Cut
Sound Design: Phaze UK
Sound Mix: Factory Studios
Sound Mixer: Sam Robson
BBH Print Producer: Jeremy Gleeson
Photographers Agent/Agency: Bruce Barelly, Carole Lambert
Photographer: Jean-Yves LeMoigne
Photographers Producer/Production Company: Marta Calheiros, Mad For It
Retouching: Gary Meade