Axe Kills ‘Sexy Beast’ Campaign, Calling It Out of Step With Its ‘Progressive’ New Direction

DDB Puerto Rico work is quickly halted

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Axe on Wednesday killed a campaign from DDB Puerto Rico that dealt in regressive, simplistic notions of male-female relationships, signaling once again the Unilever men's personal care brand's newfound preference for more grownup messaging about attraction.

DDB launched the campaign, "Sexy Beast," last week and pitched it to media outlets on Monday. Adweek's AdFreak blog panned the campaign on Tuesday, and by Wednesday the landing page was gone (pushing visitors to the brand's Facebook page instead) and the campaign's YouTube video had been removed.

The campaign had featured a tongue-in-cheek, multiple-choice style survey, aimed at women, asking them about the attributes of their ideal man. The possible answers were cartoony at best, and at its conclusion, the survey spit out a goofy physical image of the user's ideal man—a cartoon caricature with exaggerated features like giant ears (he's a good listener) and a long tongue (he's witty), etc.

Adweek asked DDB about the campaign's disappearance. The agency referred us to Unilever, whose global vice president for the Axe/Lynx brand, Rik Strubel, confirmed Thursday that the work had been killed because it didn't fit Axe's new brand direction—the more inclusive, less meathead-y take on masculinity embodied in 72andSunny "Find Your Magic" campaign.

"As you know we are moving Axe on with the intent to help create a more progressive conversation about masculinity and attraction," Strubel told Adweek. "The work we are doing with 72andSunny has started to bring this to life with great response from men and women around the world. However, it is a journey and we're still evolving ourselves. We might not always be perfect, but people encourage us and it seems that we're moving in the right direction."

Of the Puerto Rico campaign, Strubel said was well meaning but did stray off course.

"I applaud the intent to create a discussion about the multiple ways men can be attractive. It was meant to be funny," Strubel said. "But it certainly did not deliver on the strategy to inspire men to find their magic and work on it … and to ask women about their perspective on what they feel is/is not attractive in a man today. Hence we decided to stop it." 

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.