Monday, July 6, 2009

Still Brutally Male: Still Stupid and Offensive

I wrote about how horrified I was at Brut's advertising campaign "Still Brutally Male", and that I had made a formal complaint to the Advertising Standards Bureau.

I have recived the Board's determination of my complaint. Although I'm heartened that a number of similar complaints to mine were considered at the same hearing, the result was not good (the last three paragraphs iin bold are mine). Neither was Brut's response - to my mind its response replicted exactly the arguments I had made against it, but in its favour.

I reproduce the ABS's response in full below. You might like to highlight some of your favourite bits from Brut's response. Mine are:
  • "The use of the word ‘Still” reinforces the reference to previous times when “men were (considered) real men” – still brutally male."
  • Because nowadays men are not real men. Because a real man is a brutal man, and a brutal man is a real man.
  • "It is designed to embrace the increasing desire of men (and women) for real men, a retro-sexual male."
  • I never realised that deep down inside I desire a brutal man. I never realised that non-brutal men were not real men. Now I know, and I'll seek a brutal man out immediately to make me feel like a real woman.

Still Brutally Male? Still Unbelievably Dim.

What I received from the ABS: (sorry about the formatting; I can't seem to fix. Maybe I should act like a real woman and get off the technology which is too much for my little brain).

1. Complaint reference number 255/09
2. Advertiser Pharmacare
3. Product Toiletries
4. Type of advertisement TV
5. Nature of complaint Discrimination or vilification Gender -
--section 2.1
6. Date of determination Wednesday, 24 June 2009

This CGI television commercial depicts a robotic production line where different elements are
assessed prior to acceptance for inclusion into the formula to create Brut deodorant. Accepted items include a surfboard, a T--bone steak, a rugby league football and a keg. The scanning “eyes” show alert when a suspect object, being a woman's pink handbag, is detected. The image on the screen says “SUSPECT OBJECT”. Alert warning sound and the robotic arms appear place the bag is a specific position. An apparent heated flame appears and incinerates the bag, leaving a small pile of ash. The robotic arms appear to clench its fists in celebration. The cans of Brut appear from the machine. Voice over “Brut 24 hour performance anti---perspirant – –– and now Brut body sprays – –– Brut ---still brutally male."


A sample of comments which the complainant/s made regarding this advertisement included the following:

Given the recent publicity regarding football players' treatment of women, I feel that the advert promotes aggression towards anything female. Yes, it's stylised and futuristic, but the message is clear and whether the message comes from an object or a person, it doesn't alter the intent --destroy/obliterate anything that is obviously feminine/female. I felt ashamed that my two young daughters had to watch this offensive advert. The tagline of 'brutally male' further highlights the 'message'. I suspect men who do not want to be regarded as 'brutally male' would find this equally offensive. If we are really serious about cleaning up the image of sportsmen and promote a more healthy regard for women, this advert should be removed: it's offensive to both sexes.

Find the pink handbag references and the words 'brutally male' have homophobic and violent overtones. What does brutally male mean ??? Sure, it's meant to be a play on the brand name but what is appealing about 'brutal' males? Was surprised this ad went to air.

I am deeply disturbed by the current television advertising campaign for Brut aftershave. Using the tagline "Brut: Still Brutally Male" draws a horrifyingly overt link between masculinity and violence. Given the shameful rates of intimate partner violence, sexual assault and physical assault in Australian society, where the majority of perpetrators are men, this tagline is ill-judged and offensive.

The links between performative 'male' behaviour and explicit violence are well established in popular culture. When a mainstream, high profile brand like Brut effectively states that brutality and masculinity are inextricable, this presents a disturbing message for the men and boys who take on board that to be a man they must be aggressive, and a frightening picture of modern masculinity for the women who must negotiate the threat of intimidation and violence every day.

Violence and brutality are always inexcusable, even if it is intended to be a play on words. In my
submission this advertisement perpetuates it with this appalling tagline. I also note the effects that this ad may have on survivors of violence. I submit that the ASB should exercise its powers to withdraw this advertisement immediately.


Comments which the advertiser made in response to the complaint/s regarding this advertisement included the following:

The Brut brand is positioned as an ultimately male antiperspirant deodorant alternative. It is
targeted to consumers as the brand for men who embrace their masculinity. Global research
highlights this as a significant current trend and it is commonly referred to as “retro-sexual” (as
apposed to a “metro-sexual” trend of past years).

1. Emails received 03/04/2009; 25/05/09; 29/05/09 – “(Still) Brutally Male”.
As a result of our positioning we use the term “Still brutally male”. This is intended to:

  • Build our retro-sexual positioning as the brand that is still unrelenting or uncompromising in its masculinity. The definition of “brutally” in the context of “Still brutally male” is unrelenting or uncompromising.
  • The use of the word ‘Still” reinforces the reference to previous times when “men were (considered) real men” – still brutally male.
  • It is a play on the Brut brand name, as many brands do, and we believe that the majority of consumers will see it as such.
  • It is designed to embrace the increasing desire of men (and women) for real men, a retro-sexual male.
For further consideration, this “tagline” has been part of our advertising campaign for over 4
years, with this TVC first aired in 2005.

2. Emails received 25/05/09; 29/05/09 – “Pink handbag”
The theme of the TVC is intended to portray that only masculine ingredients go into the DNA of
Brut. A chain saw, guitar, surfboard, keg, steak, ball are accepted as ingredients while a pink handbag is rejected.

The rejection of the handbag:

  • Reinforces the theme of the ad.
  • Is stylised and tongue in cheek.
  • Would be positioned, we believe by the man in the street as a non masculine item.
  • The stylized victory pump by the machinery imitates typically what is seen in numerous masculine arenas and particularly the sports arena.


The Advertising Standards Board (“Board”) considered whether this advertisement breaches Section
2 of the Advertiser Code of Ethics (the “Code”).

The Board noted complainants concerns that this advertisement depicts men as aggressive and violent and encourages violence against women.

The Board noted that the name of the product is 'Brut' and that the Board has no role in determining the acceptability of product names. The Board also noted that this product has been on the market for many years.

The Board noted that some complaints focused on the broadcast of this advertisement during football and that complainants considered that it was inappropriate for this type of advertisement, suggesting masculinity and aggression, to be broadcast during football during recent controversy over the behaviour of some football players. The Board considered that this placement may be considered unfortunate by some but that this placement is obviously relevant to the advertisers' target audience (young men).

The Board considered that the advertisement is clearly designed to position the product as a men's product and to distance itself from less stereotypically masculine 'metrosexual' products. While the tone of the advertisement is loud and features products stereotypically associated with men, this is clearly done so in the context of establishing the product as a man's product. In the Board's opinion the scene in which the bag is 'zapped' is accompanied by playful music and is not menacing or threatening, and the action of the robot arms is consistent with a job well done/victory movement -which is also not aggressive.

The Board considered that the advertisement's reference to 'brutally male' is a play on the product's name and is not suggestive of violence towards women or suggestive that all men are violent or aggressive. The Board considered that there was no suggestion of condoning any violent behaviour.

The Board considered that the advertisement did not vilify or discriminate against men and did not contravene section 2.1 of the Code. The Board also considered that the advertisement did not depict, condone or encourage violence and did not breach section 2.2 of the Code.

Finding that the advertisement did not breach the Code on other grounds, the Board dismissed the complaint.


Minta said...

OMIGOD! I'm insulted for all the true 'real men' out there. They are being portrayed as thugs. Do they really believe their own BS?! Good grief.

The upside - I loathe the smell of Brut - so at least when I smell it when I go into a room - I'll know there is a thug in the room and take evasive action! Because that is really what they are saying in their ad campaign. If you are a thug - this is the deodorant for you! Ha, maybe we could get Wil Anderson to do something on it!

Well done Rachel for trying to make them see sense.

lisa said...

Arses. Good on you for complaining though! (And I do love a good highlighting of pertinent passages.)

Miss T said...

I do feel very affronted by it!

And Minta, I agree - it is an insult to all the 'non-brutal' men out there, who I hope would be just as offended to be the subject of these messages as I am offended to be portrayed as a pink handbag (I love pink handbags. But I am not one; I own one. Big diff).

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Sylvia said...

All the REAL MEN should be mortified at this commercial.. Seriously, they are being portrayed as morons that knock women around. While there are some bad men out there (as there are women too), they aren't all that way, and people shouldn't accept a portrayal of a gender that is incorrect and quite trashy.

Anonymous said...

Trackback as I found you article while putting together a post regarding the Brut ad.

Brut have come up with a third version of the ad now for the 2010 season. It is obvious Brut still don't get it.

It is an ad I've discussed with a few mates and they are as well offended by the "brutally male" tag line.