5 Things Wrong With These New Veet Commercials, From Minor to Egregious

Where to start with 'dudeness' ads?

UPDATE: Veet has now pulled the ads due to criticism. The brand writes on Facebook:

"Hi…this is the Veet marketing team in the US. We just wanted to let everyone know, we get it—we're women too. This idea came from women who told us that at the first hint of stubble, they felt like 'dudes.' It was really simple and funny, we thought. To be honest, the 3 of us could really relate to these real-life moments and they made us laugh. Not everyone appreciated our sense of humor. We know that women define femininity in different ways. Veet helps those who choose to stay smooth. Our intention was never, ever, to offend anyone, so we decided to rethink our campaign and remove those clips. Thank you for letting us know how you feel."

Not everyone is in love with this apology. See the Facebook post for more.

Original post below:

Veet, the hair-removal brand, has a new ad campaign out from Havas Worldwide with the theme "Don't risk dudeness." Three ads feature women who turn into hairy, overweight men (actually, the same hairy, overweight man) because they "shaved yesterday."

A lover is disgusted, a nail technician is appalled, and a taxi driver refuses service because these gorgeous women are now sporting a whole 11 hours of hair growth. "Don't risk dudeness," Veet tells us, and follows up with the tagline, "Feel womanly around the clock."

I'm no Letterman, but he's retiring and I just drank a lot of iced tea, so I'm feeling good and I'll take a shot at a list. Check out the first ad below (it breaks tonight during Dancing with the Stars on ABC), and then my take on five things wrong with this strange campaign.

5. It makes fools of both men and women.

Veet impressively accomplishes the task of ridiculing both men and women here. The burly guy in the nightie speaks in a baby-girl voice, doing neither gender any favors.

To its credit, Veet has left the YouTube comments open, but it's not looking good. "I'm kind of dumbfounded as to how a campaign like this was passed when it's pushing a lot of really old ideas about gender typing," says the second of only two comments so far. (The first wasn't kind either.) "So if a woman doesn't shave her legs, it makes her a man? If a man wakes up next to his girlfriend, who hasn't shaved her legs in a day or two, it'll completely repulse him? It's considered 'rude?' If a man shaved his legs would it make him a woman?"

4. It's empirically wrong.

Realistically, not shaving for one day still goes unnoticed at the beach. I polled other women for this one. Results may vary, but no one's turning into Chewbacca overnight.

3. It's dumb.

Everything is exaggerated in a way that's supposed to be funny, but comes off as cringe-inducing—for example, the taxi driver who leaves the EW SO GROSS woman behind in one of the two spots below. (Also, the word "dudeness" can be bullet item 3b.)

2. It's mildly homophobic.

Guys are repulsed by other guys? I know this is supposed to be comedy, but … eh.

1. It shames women.

Telling women that they're less womanly if they miss a spot shaving their legs in the shower, or if they're part of an entire sect of women who choose not to shave at all, is closed-minded. And shame is a weird marketing tool.

In an age when marketers like Dove are seeing great response to ads about accepting one's imperfections, any products that demand women be squeaky clean 24/7 is rowing against the tide. Even cartoony humor can't gloss over that kind of regressive message. As a friend told me on Gchat: "I don't like it. Maybe it's cause my legs are always slightly fuzzy and I don't think that makes me a dude. I also don't like that it implies that only feminine women are sexy. Mostly it's just annoying."

A swing and a miss. Or maybe more like a shave and a nick, am I right? (Sorry.)

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Roo Powell is freelance contributor to Adweek.