Ad of the Day: Dollar Shave Club Shamelessly Mocks Axe and Old Spice in Shower Gel Ads

Subscription service comes out swinging

Attention, men. If your body wash makes you feel like a muscle-bound rage monster, or a cologne-oozing nightclub sleaze, Dollar Shave Club wants you to consider a simpler option.

The subscription toiletries service is out with three online ads promoting its new line of shower soaps in which it lobs thinly veiled insults at major competitors like Procter & Gamble's Old Spice and fellow Unilever brand Axe.

Set in the shopping aisle, each 30-second spot (the campaign was created in-house and directed by DSC veterans the Spielbergs—aka, writer/director/actor Alex Karpovsky, from HBO's Girls, and graphic designer/musician Teddy Blanks) follows the misadventure of a guy as he studies a different product.

In one, titled "Massive Hero," a man's girlfriend suggests he try an eponymous product packaged in bright red—just like Old Spice. It has "a fully jacked amino protein delivery system," she says, quoting the copy on the bottle. Right on cue, a bodybuilder shoves his way between the couple, grabs the same stuff, rips off his shirt and starts screaming at them.

In a second ad, "Deep Midnite" two buddies examine another product that promises "24-hour pheromone release." Enter a preening discotheque nightmare clad in a too-tight black button-down, gold chains and—despite being indoors—wraparound designer sunglasses.

This doofus naturally proceeds to squeeze in the shower gel down the front of his white pants—all part of an elaborate knock at Axe's mystical product names and decade-plus of over-the-top sex-god advertising.

The third commercial, "Neon Groove," pokes fun at the kind of garishly dressed bro who might swarm an electronic dance music festival and shotgun water, presumably because he's on a steady diet of molly.

"How about a shower product that's more you?" says the voiceover at the end of each spot, promising "straightforward ingredients" and "honest fragrances" like mint and cedarwood, from the Dollar Shave Club's own line.

It's a clever strategy for the relative newcomer to the market, especially in the case of Old Spice. By reframing what in recent years has been that brand's strength—its advertising, emphasizing dapper manliness with the likes of Isaiah Mustafa and zany hyper-masculinity with the likes of Terry Crews, always wrapped up in an everyman sense of humor—as a weakness, Dollar Shave Club is presenting itself as a well-timed changing of the guard, and its success as fait accompli (even if Old Spice has lately been moving toward a weirder brand of chest-thumping braggadocio).

Whether that's an effective approach is a different question, given the considerable goodwill Old Spice has built up.

In the case of Axe, the tack is a little more like beating a dead horse, if no less entertaining. That brand has, for a good while now, been associated with a type that might be best described as delusional ladies man (though, to be fair, it has been making efforts to mature, despite hitting some sizable bumps along the way).

The real irony there is that since Dollar Shave Club was sold to Unilever for $1 billion or so earlier this year, and so shares a parent company with Axe.

In fact, Dollar Shave Club seems to be playing for a different audience altogether. Rather than, say, insecure teens desperate to get laid, it might be looking at a slightly more mature market segment. As the shower product's branding, Wanderer, suggests, it could be restless millennial men who just can't quite figure out what they want, but fancy a less expensive version of the natural scents of Malin and Goetz in the meantime.

Though even that shouldn't be confused with Old Spice's Timber and Mint offering.


Client: Dollar Shave Club

CEO: Michael Dubin

Assistant to CEO: Kristina Kovacs

CMO: Adam Weber

Assistant to CMO: Alex Danzer

VP of Brand Marketing: Nick Fairbairn

Director, Brand Marketing: Chrissy Cartwright

Sr. Manager, Brand Marketing: Oscar Weis

Agency: Dollar Shave Club In House

Creative Director, VP of Creative: Alec Brownstein

Creative Director: Matt Knapp

Creative Director: Matt Orser

Senior Producer: Matt Sausmer

Producer: Candice Vernon

Agency Director: Raechelle Hoki

Project Manager: Christine Melloy

Project Coordinator: Kristen Moran

VFX: Peter Quinn

Business Affairs: Ingenium

Legal Affairs: Allison Buchner & Vahid Redjal

Production Company: AMD Films

Directors: Spielbergs

DP: Zachary Galler

Producer: Clint Caluory

Editorial: Arcade Edit

Managing Partner, Executive Producer: Damian Stevens

Producer: Rebecca Jameson

Editor: Sean Lagrange

Animation: The Craft Shop

Score by: John Vella Music

Color Grade & Finishing: Moving Picture Company

Colorist: Ricky Gausis

Flame Artist: Mark Holden

Executive Producer: Mike Wigart

Executive Producer: Meghan Lang

Producer: Colin Clarry

Sound Mixing: Beacon Street Studios

Producer: Kate Vadnais

Associate Producer: Christa Jayne Sustello

Mixer/Sound Designer: Rommel Molina

Assistant Mixer: Aaron Cornacchio

@GabrielBeltrone Gabriel Beltrone is a frequent contributor to Adweek.