|Kathy O'Meara on why she's chuffed incredible hunks are back in ads with a vengeance|
Perhaps the jolliest piece of news to emerge in these dastardly days is the much vaunted, nay seismic, return of the hunk to advertising copy. Too long have red blooded laydees been putting up with scrawny androgynous pickings – a new host of advertisers have finally woken up to the fact that size zero lads just don't do it for us girls.
Hedi Slimane for Dior might have been lauded for his 28″ slimline suits, with musician Pete Doherty as his muse, but it was the skinny girls buying them which bulked his balance sheet. Now he's left Dior and the beefcake boys are filling the still-warm void faster than you can say ‘impressive gluteus maximus'.
The really rather lovely David Gandy, himself a fair flesh and muscles representation of Michelangelo's David, is leading the charge in D&G's Light Blue perfume ad, swiftly followed by Diesel and Caroline Herrera offering back the hunk for our delectation.
Psychologist boffins point squarely to the fact that in straightened times both men and women want to gaze – well frankly, letch – at figures of strength and reliability. “We want images of men who look like they could hold down a proper job,” says Jeremy Langmead, editor of Esquire. “It's reassuring. It's as simple as that.”
Boyish, semi-anorexic types won't chop the firewood, build a fire, catch and skin a bear and still have time to get down and dirty at the end of the day. Witness the Big Boy debate across 18 pages of Heat ‘Girls and Gays Rejoice!' and the slightly more cerebral ‘Return of the Beefcake' debate in the Observer Woman magazine.
Even the ghostly-but-hunky Robert Pattinson HMV special DVD issue of Twilight, left tweens gasping – and, crucially, buying. That paean to six packs, Men's Health recorded a 4.1 per cent increase in girth, sorry, sales, while all around them were shrivelling.
Big boy body supremo David Beckham has climbed out of his white Armani pants to feature semi-clad again in a new global campaign for Motorola, inspired by 1980s Arnold Schwarzenegger movie The Terminator. You see, he did come back – just better.
The campaign to launch the new Aura handset features a shirtless Beckham holding the phone, which appears to show an x-ray of the inner workings of half of the former Manchster United and England midfielder's body. Becks said: “I love classic watches so a phone that exposes its mechanics while also being so stylish is really unique.”
But one can take the re-emergence of the beefcake a little too literally. Those ‘icons' of Eighties hen night horniness, the Chippendales, are to gyrate around Ireland in a no-holds barred tour this June. Billed by the promoters as “a spectacular Broadway-style show a high-end stage production with impressive lighting displays, dancers, singers and, of course, the stars of the show, the Chippendales.” Be still, my beating pulse points.
In a glorious ‘it could never happen here, but wouldn't it be great…' moment, Heineken has launched a hilarious Dutch TV campaign for its female-targeted Jillz cider. Featuring plenty of in-your-face sexual innuendo, such as shots of the fizzy drink bolting out of the bottle (memories of Perrier), it stars four apple-picking, shirtless hunks.
The boys are miming to a cheesy remake of an old Kool & the Gang tune. Quite unlike any of our soft-focus heritage campaigns for Bulmers and their ilk, the ad could not be screened in Ireland because it would fall foul of a swathe of advertising rules that forbid linking alcohol to sexual attractiveness and prowess. Anyway, Clonmel's orchards would be far too chilly to ask any male models to prance about in the altogether.
“The four singing hunks do not address women as the usual stereotypes of housewife, sex kitten, blonde bimbo or business bitch,” Heineken said in a media statement. “Instead the ad aims at a more elementary level of their femininity, the evolutionary instinct to discuss, judge and select attractive men.”
The ad, which features as many tongue-in-cheek, gratuitous shirtless shots of four singing hunks as is feasibly possible in a minute, has been made by the Dutch-based agency Pink and Poodle, (fabulous name) which says it specialises in targeting hard-to-reach groups such as “women, youth groups and subcultures”.
The new macho paradigm. I'm buying it.
REBRAND WITH CAUTION
Speaking of hunks, (spot the seamless link), Stuart Fogarty of McConnells and Colm Carey of this parish recently guested on The Tubridy Show to discuss rebranding. They covered brands as diverse as Royal Mail (Consignia, swiftly changed back) to Marathon (Snickers, a rare rebrand success) and said that in a recession heritage brands do best.
Just as we favour strong macho male role models, so we feel more comfortable with familiar brands. It's like getting a big hug. Citing the current prevalence of those great old ads for Guinness (‘Island' was voted Ad of the Century by Marketing readers), Heinz beans and Persil, the men warned that brands changed their identities at their peril.
OGLING AT WORK
Coca-Cola made an art out of how women love to ogle at hunks with Diet Coke breaks. In 1994, Psychology Today ran a cover story on Mr Lucky Vanous and explored how gender roles had changed with the spotlight shifting from women's breasts to men's pecs.