Drew Neisser: AXE’s Comic Twist On The Classic Damsel-In Distress [Super Bowl 2013]

Why the deodorant brand’s update to the iconic cinematic trope in this year’s game day ad was a huge success.

Sure the pressure to create an out of this world ad for the SuperBowl is astronomical but in my view, AXE’s Lifeguard spot responds swimmingly. In fact, I will argue that it soars above the others, delivering more appeal per second that also extends well beyond the initial viewing.  Break the spot down into stages and you’ll see why it’s so high on my list.

Stage 1: Melodrama
Nothing beats a damsel in distress to grab your attention, which is why it’s been a cinematic staple since the first Perils of Pauline serial hit the screen 99 years ago. In this case, our heroine is swimming just off shore, screaming for help as a murderously large shark approaches. Fortunately, a handsome hero, in this case an attentive lifeguard, is eager to save the day.

Stage 2: Action-Packed
The drama of the rescue quickly unfolds as our hulky hero dashes into the water only to start punching the shark like they were having a bar brawl. Clearly, the shark never had a chance, requiring a suspension of disbelief that most viewers will happily engage in, as if we are all on the inside of a private joke. As the lifeguard cradles the rescued girl to shore, we await his reward, and ours by vicarious extension.

Stage 3: Sex Appeal
At this point, it looks like the damsel and our hero will get down to business. Laying his prize upon a towel, they gaze into each other’s eyes like the quintessential predestined lovers.  Leaning in for the big moment, it’s suddenly make-out interruptus and instead, bikini babe is up and sprinting, squeezing in a Baywatch homage as a frolicking bit of slow-mo eye-candy.

Stage 4: Humor
The beacon for our bouncing bathing beauty is a glistening astronaut in full gear whose unexpected arrival is the heavenly twist that propels this spot into a whole new level.  Up until this point, Lifeguard is an oft-told story of boy saves and gets girl. Instead, we are offered a new plot in which even a genuine hero can be undone by a greater one.  Since in this wink-filled world, “nothing beats an astronaut.”

Stage 5: Unique
Payday arrives like a rocket blast as the voiceover invites viewers to “join AXE Apollo for your chance to go to space.” Turns out, AXE has reserved 23 seats on a private spacecraft, making this a truly one-of-a-kind global promotion. So rather than just telling an entertaining story, this ad actually opens the door for contestants to join the ranks of astronauts and to thereby, “Leave a man. Come back a hero.”

Stage 6: Well-Branded
Despite being just a thirty-second spot, Lifeguard manages to pack in melodrama, action, humor, sex appeal and a unique offer, all of which wouldn’t matter a damn bit if it didn’t tie back to the brand some how. Like it or not, AXE has built its brand on the promise to young men that it is the shortest distance between them and uplifting activities with the fairer sex, a promise that I believe rises to astronomical proportions in Lifeguard!

Check out the ad below:

AXE

Check out more Super Bowl 2013 coverage on the site today, and join us for a Google Hangout at 2pm EST on PSFK.com.

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