Sex sells – we’re just not sure what


Pop quiz: Take a look at this ad. Examine it closely. Study it intently. Consider it, um, fully. Now what exactly is it selling?

Uhhh, push-up bras? Umm, skin care products? Errr, flotation devices? No. No. And, seriously, no. This ad is selling — drumroll, please — shampoo. Yes, shampoo. The stuff you wash your hair with every day. I am in no way joking.

More specifically, this is an ad from Brazil for Pantene Pro-V. And, oh, it gets better. Just wait until you read the tag line, which translates roughly to: “Ensure that your hair will be the second thing he looks at.”

Get it? The second thing! Or, if you’re being a stickler about the numbers, the third thing. Groan. And just in case you’re not into brunettes, there is a blonde version. Wow, you’ve got to hand it to Pantene and its parent company, Procter & Gamble. They certainly are equal-opportunity employers when it comes to sleazy objectification.

Gosh, where to start? We could spend hours dissecting the blatant, unapologetic sexism inherent in this campaign. But even from a simple “buy my product” standpoint, this ad seems to be an epic failure. I mean, I can’t be the only one perplexed by how bad the model’s hair actually looks? Unless, of course, this is a new styling line called “Stringy & Unkempt,” in which case — wow, talk about your truth in advertising.

Now I realize that some cross-cultural differences are at work here — Pantene ads in some regions may be more conservative than others — but no matter the cultural climate, I think we can agree that using sex to sell in such a sexist way is not acceptable. And, more infuriatingly, the company is perfectly capable of making clever, funny advertisements touting its hair-care products in ways that don’t demean. Take this spot used in New Zealand and Australia last year that touts its ability to restore “age-damaged hair.”

See, that’s how it should be done. But these new ads… just ick. Darn it, Pantene. Now this means I have to go find a new shampoo.