The Lynx ads: Puerile but harmless?

25 June 2012

Written by: Emil Jeyaratnam

I’m a woman, and I’ve never been offended by the Lynx advertising campaigns. Quick, someone repossess my ovaries!

I think they’re puerile, yes. But ultimately harmless. Then again, is Unilever really bothered about my outrage? If we’re being honest, the answer is no. I’m not part of the target demographic that Lynx ads are aimed towards – young men.

In an article published by The Age, Nina Funnell and Danielle Miller expose the hypocrisy of Unilever in the mixed messages the supposedly sexist Lynx campaigns and the all-body-type-embracing Dove campaigns may be sending young girls. Unilever is the parent company of both Lynx and Dove.

Putting aside for the moment the fact that these different products have very gendered and very different target markets (ergo, different marketing strategies), are the Lynx commercials really that sexist?

Is an advertisement or brand image almost solely centered around female attractiveness really sexist? In none of these ads are the women being actively repressed or discriminated against. Their sole crime, apparently, is being young and attractive and scantily clad.

Surely there is more reason for my fellow members of the sisterhood to direct their ire at fashion labels that insist on marketing their products to women on skeletal pubescent-looking models – a body type unattainable to most of us. Sure, I’ll never look as good as the women in the Lynx ads either, but no one is expecting me to.

I’m more inclined to think that the intelligent men that these campaigns are actually targeting have more of a reason to feel offended. The Lynx brand is based on lowest common denominator advertising – that pretty, barely dressed women standing by a product will make the male of the species immediately rush out and buy said product.

By comparison, the Dove campaigns are targeted at women and choose to embrace all different body types in their well groomed and well-lit glory. These commercials give a more sensitive approach to marketing. It’s based on the assumption that women care about body image and want to change a dated beauty marketing paradigm. The Lynx ads, meanwhile, are still stuck in “me Tarzan, you Jane” territory.

And before we let all this outrage get too out of hand, let’s remember that the Lynx ads are tongue-in-cheek. Although Lynx’s latest attempt at humour featuring Sophie Monk in an endless charade of ball related double-entendres has fallen flat, keeping a sense of humour about these things is important in a heavily saturated consumer market.

This is a case of marketers being marketers. They are creating messages and brands across a vast array of products for a diverse array of markets. I for one will continue to roll my eyes at the Lynx commercials, and applaud the stance that Dove has taken on body image, all in the knowledge that their ulterior motive is to sell a product and make money.

What we should focus on is equipping our younger generations – both boys and girls – with this knowledge. Let’s show them how marketers and advertisers are trying to sell them a product. Let’s teach them to make informed consumer choices beyond what they see on television.


Laura Hurley is a Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University.