Are We Not Men?

Is the Super Bowl advertising lineup a boys club? To borrow an answer from the latest Geico campaign, does Elmer Fudd have trouble with the letter R?

This year, many variations of the male species are represented: We’ll get an embarrassment of Baldwin brothers, a tricked-out Gene Simmons (looking fine in black nail polish), a flamboyant dolphin trainer and a few former Chicago Bears, who can still thrust, rap and play the cowbell so badly it hurts.

But in a bit of a twist, two advertisers in this year’s game — Dove and Dockers — will speak to the tender New Man of 2010.

He might be waning — gender discussions today are all about guys losing their footing — but today’s man is also waxing. (For proof, watch MTV’s Jersey Shore for five minutes.) Rather than being New Age, he’s anti-age. And so, naturally, he now has his very own line of Dove beauty products to kick around, called Men + Care (include the + so it won’t sound like manicure).

Dove has been on the Super Bowl before with messages aimed at women. This new spot, for guys, titled “Manthem,” a joint effort from several Ogilvy & Mather offices, is unexpected, funny and peppy.

Using the William Tell overture (better known as the music from TV’s The Lone Ranger), it opens with the ultimate (seminal) image of all time for men: sperm swimming to the egg. Highly colorized and magnified, it’s a show-stopper of a cut that will be remembered. The egg soon turns into a screaming baby, and we’re off, in quick cuts, with lyrics that explain every move:

“Get born, get slapped/Now get to school/Lift weights, be strong/Know how to fight/Stay out late, but be polite.”

We’re definitely along for the ride, as a young-ish bearded guy, with a very expressive face and hapless mien, grows up, gets married, has three bearded kids with whom he bathes and becomes more and more comfortable with himself.

The idea is not tremendously original, but the ad is clever and well produced. It comes off as a cross between Guinness’ “Noitulove” (capturing, in spelling and theme, the backwards evolution of men, from pub to primordial ooze) and Dove’s own “Evolution” for women.

“Manthem” hits the right notes — there’s even a clever line about a “range” of products that refers to the Lone Ranger — and will be of equal interest to men and women.

Meanwhile, Dockers is back on the Super Bowl, for the first time since 2002, with its own empowering message for men.

There seems to be a full-blown man-pants problem in the culture these days — a crisis that reached its peak with “General” Larry Platt’s “Pants on the Ground” performance on American Idol. Surely the good general is saluting Dockers, whose “Wear the pants” campaign, from Draftfcb San Francisco, is in lockstep with Platt’s ethos about de-babyfying the American male.

Indeed, the brand is committed to getting these man-children to step away from the videogames and Jackass antics and just “wear the pants.” This is both figurative and literal. It’s about taking responsibility, of course, but also about having actual pants to wear, as their wardrobes consist mostly of jeans.

We don’t hear about “casual Fridays” anymore because, at many companies, every day is casual now. But as jobs have become more scarce (which has hit men harder than women), Dockers is hoping young men will get serious and replace the denim with khakis.

The spot itself is a bit of a shocker, not for what it includes but what it omits. Beautifully shot by Noam Murro, it shows a multitude of dudes walking in an open field. They proudly sing “I Wear No Pants,” a song written by the all-male folk band The Poxy Boggards.