Saturday, April 27, 2013

For Men

In the latest heteronormative campaign that made my jaw drop, there was the expected stereotypical real men stuff: stag head mounted on the wall above the toilet, a warrior narrative; the host is NFL reporter Tony Sigarusa. He shows the other a guy Depends information on a TV sports style TV score image.

The products for manhood are called "Guards" and "Shields." It's obviously supposed to be a silly, fun campaign. It's supposed to be stereotypical, while making real men comfortable -- even proud to use the product. Because, joke or not, the images and narrative presented still represent classic understandings of manhood. Can you guess what the campaign is for?

Incontinence products for men from Depends. In other words, the penis machine of health products.

The web and TV campaign is called .... Wait for it... "Guard your manhood."

I interpreted two meanings in this phrase: protect your dignity and protect your genitals -- not just from physical incontinence issues, but from jerks who will try to steal your junk or poke them or laugh at their shape if the product can't support such substantial weight properly.

Now, I don't have a penis or testicles and I am not familiar with male-specific incontinence issues, if there are any, so maybe I don't really get it, but I don't think there's anything dignified about this campaign. It seems inspired by men's socially constructed insecurities about manhood. I can imagine the first marketing meeting:

Marketing Man 1: Incontinence is a girly, wimpy condition. Our leaky men out there know this and aren't going to buy our delicate design that we've marketed to women. Unless! We put a print of lumberjacks and fisherman on the product.

Marketing Man 2: No, no, no. A print of pick-up trucks!

Marketing Man 3: No! Don't you see? Prints are for children! What we need is a product that has a built-in holster.

Marketing Man 4: NO! We need to be practical. We need to send the message that we understand the medical, comfort needs of the men.

Marketing Man 5: Right. I've got it! Incontinence is a medical problem, so why don't we medicalize it? Surely, illness won't be interpreted as a girly experience, right?

Marketing Man 3: Of course illness is girly!! But you know what isn't? War.

Marketing Man 1: You can't say that anymore. The army lets in women now.

(The marketing men shake their heads, sigh, grunt and scratch their crotches.)

Marketing Man 3: Right. Well, then. Let's harken back to the days when war was tough and there were no women. You know, when they used shields.

Marketing Man 4: That's genius, Marketing Man 4! (Or whatever his name is.) We'll call them Shields. And we can also offer a higher level of protection with another manly name.

Marketing Man 2: How about Guards? Women can play man sports now, but they don't need Guards!

And so manly incontinence products were born. (Maybe that's not how it happened.)

After you watch the video, check out the Guard Your Manhood website. It's also hilariously heteronormative. There's a guy in the middle of the page, posing like a football coach, with a Depends logo on his chest and a whistle hanging from his neck. Fortunately, most of the rest of the website is respectful and informative.


  1. After watching the ad, I feel as though it would be a little sissified NOT to have a bit of a leakage problem...

  2. Katy - Wow, fascinating reading of this ad, Katy! I hadn't thought of that. Depends seems not only to be trying to make their solution manly, but make the source manly. We should give them credit... It's clever marketing that will really work, I'm sure. (sigh)