What did our reader's think of the gay kiss in the new Lynx advert? One man, Martyn Judd, admitted on facebook that he feels uncomfortable seeing men kiss, here we share what he said.
Martyn's comment was written in response to the following question:
"Who'd have thought that Lynx, one of the world’s most shamelessly heterosexual brands, would run an advert that includes a gay kiss? Lynx has proudly positioned itself as a brand that “helps guys get the girls” by producing “products that guys love” and “ads that quickly become part of the British guy’s psyche”. So what does this advert tell us about the changing nature of masculinity and the male psyche.....?"
High risk strategy for masculine brand
Firstly, I would say that, unless this is some strategic blunder, with the PR (branding) department outwitting the strategists, this is very unlikely to have been done lightly. This move 'should' have been based on a significant amount of consumer research, ie it will boost profits, not damage them.
In other words, the consumer reaction to an advert depicting two men kissing will strike a chord with a target demographic that will buy more of the product than the demographic that will be indifferent, or even react badly to the advert. It does, however, remain a high risk strategy for a strongly 'masculine' brand.
I would say that the only social comment it makes, is that masculinity is most likely, in modern times, to be defined less by sexuality and more by attitude and non-sexual behaviours.
Despite being high risk and having the potential to dilute the brand's image and associations, it is quite a clever piece of promotion. On the one hand, it says "Hey! Lynx is for all men! Lynx doesn't discriminate and it most certainly doesn't care who you sleep with! We are modern day men and we are proud of masculinity as an all encompassing concept!", but on the other hand, it is possibly controversial and is happy to cause some demographics to be uncomfortable and, perhaps, even to consciously set out to stimulate a backlash.
Why? Well, the age old saying goes that no publicity is bad publicity. I was once told by a boss, "Dare to be different. If nothing else, make sure the buyer remembers you, even if that means farting in his office before you leave!" With so many products and brands fighting for their own share of voice, anything which makes one advert more memorable than another reduces the overall cost of a PR programme. As long as you don't cross the invisible line and dip into the 'immoral', everything is fair game.
Gay kissing is still controversial
I know that, in an ideal world, a homosexual kiss between two men would not even be a talking point. But it's not and here we are discussing it - the brand manager's work is already more than 50% done! The Lynx ad has effectively doubled its share of voice by being thought provoking. By the inclusion of a simple kiss, people will think, "That's the one with the guys kissing" when they walk past the product in Tesco (alongside 20 other similar products).
And it is controversial, no matter how PC, open-minded and forward thinking we may all believe ourselves to be... The girls all go "awwwww", the social commentators all go "yup, society is moving on", the homosexuals all go "hey, we're being included and we are the norm", the homophobes all go "that's disgusting, an outrage" and, if you are like me, you go "ewwww, I really didn't need to see that"!
Thus we arrive at the controversial part of my essay... Yes, when I see two guys kissing, my reaction is one of "ewwwww". Ta daa! There it is! Rally the troops and charge!! "The Neanderthal homophobe must change his ways or die!" Actually, this is where it becomes a very grey area...
Does this make me homophobic?
Am I (and many many others) homophobic, ie do we actively dislike or discriminate against a person because of their sexuality? No! Do we have a genuinely negative gut reaction to seeing two guys kissing(or two girls if you are female)? Yes! It is a sub-conscious reaction and, I'll be very very blunt, it is a feeling of unpleasant nature and one that makes many people look away, myself included.
This is what Lynx's high risk strategy is ultimately achieving and it is a very very powerful part of advertising. To put a two-dimensional image on the TV screen or billboard and to actually cause the audience to have a physical and emotional reaction! This is advertising heaven! The holy grail as it were. Advert = trigger = emotion = physical reaction = NLP anchor! The advert has taken NLP 101 and anchored your emotive response to a visual stimulus and a physical reaction.
When you see the product, the visual stimulus will again trigger the anchor, which will in turn trigger the emotion. Take it a step further and, when you even so much as think about the brand or the product, the NLP anchor sets it all off again! Pure genius!! No wonder the Lynx brand is worth a fortune.
I have no control of my reaction
I did watch the ad (link below) and it's a very very good ad. My conscious reaction was tempered quite a lot by the context and brevity of the kiss, to be honest. However, the reaction was still present.
A good friend of mine once, during a somewhat drunken conversation in the early hours of a Sunday morning, explained his own sexuality. He asked me to think about the emotional and autonomic physical reaction I had to a naked picture of an attractive woman. Which I did.
He then said, "That's how it is for me when I see a naked picture of a beautiful man." That was pretty much a defining moment in my personal understanding of sexuality. It is an unconscious physical and emotional reaction to an external stimulus, over which you have absolutely no control.
---Picture: Flickr/Bill Taroli
Martyn is part of the Family Justice Network. The views expressed in this article are a personal perspective.