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Men Will Be Men: A Humorous Take on Masculinity

Considered to be imperial in the vast arena of advertising, Seagram’s Imperial Blue Superhit Music CD’s has consistently proven to be a worthy competitor. The brand has reigned supreme when it comes to surrogate advertising, with its sophisticated yet cheeky sense of humour. Tracing our way back to the origins of the ‘Men will be men’ campaign, the first insight into Seagrams’ agency Ogilvy & Mather’s creative genius is the twist to the title. Although it may seem controversial and riddled with negative connotations, O&M certainly maintained the fine line and managed to capitalise on the gendered aspects of the target audience.

The first step to the success of this ad series was cementing the target audience of working-class male consumers between the ages of 25-35 set against the backdrop of tier 2 cities. Albeit the fact that the ad series was a super hit across India’s cities (tier 1 & 2), the agency stuck to the original audience set throughout the years.

The first ad of the series was simple and struck a chord with tier 1 & 2 audiences alike.

In our opinion, the ulterior motive behind the specificity of the audience was to capture their aspirational mindset to sell the brand. The aspirational value is purely based on the lines of the audience’s lifestyle and not directly associated with alcohol. The sophistication of the real-life elements in its situational advertising which are brought out by the brand design – the locations, costumes and well-groomed actors – give it a premium feel which is why these ideas work.

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Imperial Blue ads

The success of this campaign emerged from keeping the ideas simple and consistent. O&M has carried the 17-year legacy forward gracefully, barring a few hiccups. The messaging has stayed the same with a straightforward tone in highlighting a slice of life picturing the modern-day man. They have stayed consistent down to the last detail – with the music and creating an awkward or sticky situation for the male protagonist- regardless of the context of the story.

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The two-liner ghazal type track has been as successful as the series, with a supposed follow up track to be released soon (as of 2017). Given the brand connect the tune has brought, we would recommend the brand not to release a full track to maintain recall value. The track is an iconic brand symbol, while this series is one of the last few successful campaigns that has the added advantage of audio branding.

The prevailing success of this campaign is a blend of ‘toning down the toxic masculinity of the phrase ‘men will be men’ and consistently keeping it humorous’ as well-known ad and brand man Karthik Srinivasan puts it. The beauty of this ad-series is the polished portrayal of relatable situations that have adapted over the years.

We must give praise where praise is due. Pernod Ricard and Seagram’s have been real sports in associating themselves with this series given the nature of advertising alcohol and the restrictions it comes with in India. Ogilvy is an industry veteran that has left us in awe, given creative inspiration, as well as serious competition, have also had their hiccups.

With this series, there are a few not so enjoyable ones that have maintained consistency, but the storyline falls through. The tone aims to highlight what men do in a “goofy sense” but has uglier undertones which fail to understand the deeper meaning perceived by the opposite sex.

It is not our intention to glorify the gendered aspects of these ads, but the time factor must be considered. It is unfair to compare an ad released in the early 2000s in today’s setting as society has changed and evolved to be more understanding and inclusive in their approach to life as well as gendered advertising.

Keeping that in mind, Ogilvy’s ad for Seagram’s released this year titled ‘Heartbeat’ gave women the centre stage. The ad hits all the right chords and has even pushed the boundaries with an exaggerated situation in contrast to the real life scenarios featured in the previous ads. We cannot wait to see the next ad in this series!

Update: October 2020

Back to basics, the second ad for the year is a perfect addition to the ad series’ legacy.

Pernod Ricard and Ogilvy are back with another ad. Although the first ad (Heartbeat, Jan 2020) wavered from the usual storylines, the team lead by Ritu Sharda, CCO, Ogilvy India (North) has yet again managed to capture the essence, tone and subtleties of the successful ad series.

Written in collaboration with Vijit Agrawal.

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