Thursday, July 12, 2007

packshot Thursday number 6: King of Shaves shaving gel 

Is it because their industry is basically all about lying that people in advertising are referred to as "creatives"?

Most of what they do seems not to be especially creative at all - unless paying obscure eastern European animators to remake their award winning films (laboured over in poverty and darkness for seven years and eventually seen by a worldwide audience of sixty three) to include a packet of Persil can be deemed to be creative. Perhaps it can. Certainly it creates an improvement in the obscure eastern European animator's bank balance.

But this financial creativity is dwarfed by the creative achievement of the advertisers' mendacity. True, there are few individual lies in advertising - there is legislation to prevent this. If the ad states that you can comfortably fit four elephants in a Renault Espace then you can bet that somewhere at Renault HQ they have photographic evidence of such a feat along with signed and witnessed declarations from the elephants in question that they at no stage felt in any way cramped and, oh, by the way, the sound quality of the stereo was amazing. But there are ways and ways of lying and the advertiser's way is magnificent in its scale. Every individual statement may be true but together they are configured to build The Big Lie, the only lie they ever tell, the one upon which all advertising is based:

This Product Will Change Your Life.

And again, in one sense, that's true too. If I buy some Lynx deodorant then undeniably my life has changed. It now has slightly less money in it and smells strongly of chemicals. Not a big change but a change nonetheless. However, it is not, strangely, changed with regard to the frequency with which my presence elicits unbidden and uncontrollable sexual urges in attractive (as defined by the readers of FHM) young women.

But of course there's no suggestion that we are meant to believe this stuff. It's all very knowing and ironic and inclusive. It's all one big joke that we've been invited to join in on, so that we're chuckling to ourselves as we buy the latest brand of overpriced snake oil. But it feeds The Big Lie just the same. Consume your way to happiness. It's not that your life is deeply unfulfilling through a total absence of character, spiritual substance, job satisfaction and meaningful interpersonal relationships. Oh no. It's just that you're using the wrong brand of toilet cleaner. You fool, you brought it upon yourself. It's not as if the CGI-animated duck didn't make it perfectly clear to you. And look, your jeans don't have a brand name writ large across your arse, your trainers* weren't made by genetically modified Filipino orphans (to keep costs down so as to finance the multi million dollar endorsement of this year's most famous piece of sporting muscle), the water that you're drinking, good God, man, came out of the tap and your razor (as we slowly drift toward the point) has only two blades. You, sir, are clearly a loser.

In fairness (or as close to it as I care to be) to advertisers, the task of selling shaving products isn't easy. In essence the process is a simple one: sharp metal, its passage eased by means of some form of lubricant, dragged across flesh so as to avoid the unnecessary unpleasantness of possessing a beard. It's gone on for a while now, no one over the age of fourteen enjoys it, it's just one of those quotidian nuisances in life. So, you know, it's not something you should expect anyone to get excited about.

But look at the ads! Gilette, you will no doubt be aware, is "the best a man can get". Note that they're not merely saying that it's the best shaving product a man can get, it is just the best. Presumably the best anything. There is, apparently, no life experience that can equal, much less surpass, that of shaving with Gilette's patented gloop plastered over your mush. I can't help thinking that, if true, this is a shame. It certainly takes the edge off many of my more ornate fantasies. If wrestling with Jennifer Jason Leigh in a bathful of custard isn't going to be as much fun as shaving then I guess (and I feel confident that, in this, I would have Miss Leigh's full agreement) it's not worth the bother**.

Shaving though (done right) clearly is worth the bother. Look at that chap on the telly, the man with the strange face that has all the attributes of a human's and yet, through its very perfection, is deeply unnatural. He's just had a shave and look, he can't help but run a rugged manly (and yet surprisingly sensitive) hand down across the contours of his jawline to feel the perfect smoothness that has resulted. The sheer satisfaction of a job so very well done combined with the sensual ecstasy of his rugged manly (and yet surprisingly sensitive) hands on his rugged, manly (and yet surprisingly sensitive) skin makes it impossible for him not to rearrange his rugged, manly (and yet surprisingly sensitive) features into a carefully test-marketed lop-sided grin. He is in a post-shaving state of bliss, he has achieved razor nirvana and all is the best that it can be. This being so, one can only hope that he'll now make alternative use of his multiple razor blades and slash his rugged, manly (and yet surprisingly sensitive) throat. It's all downhill from here sunshine, what's the point in going on?

This, you may have gathered, is not my experience. I shave and I don't much like it but it's got to be done. A while back I bought some of this:

It did not give me unprecedented sensual pleasure. It did not make me the centre of an epidemic of nymphomania. I remain resolutely unrugged and unmanly (though not, I hope, surprisingly insensitive).

It made shaving a little less unpleasant and for that I am, quite genuinely, very grateful.

*Just do what exactly, Nike?

** We should also note that Gilette is only the best a man can get. Apparently there are yet greater heights of pleasure for the female of the species. This much, at least, I can believe.

Since I've returned to the unneccessarily pleasant world of the beardless I've found that only a brush (I can't afford badger) and a dish of shave soap a la the good old days will do.

That was a marathon post, and very funny.

I did go on a bit didn't I. It had been kind of brewing quietly in the couple of weeks I skipped.

Oh and thanks. I'm so unused to writing at any length these days that it took a long while to get down and I'd entirely lost any sense of whether or not it was at all funny by the end of it. Very glad you found it so.

I now hope to one day achieve 'razor nirvana'. It may not be the best a man can get, but its the best that I can pray for...

I'm sorry, is this Dave Shelton's blog? Where did all those words come from?

I cheat and use my head shaving thingy on my face so I never have the smoothness. I figure, since it'll be stubbly by the evening, why bother? Much quicker too.

And beards, in moderation, ain't too bad.

This comment has been removed by the author.

Martin - Mr Cleary, is that you?

Pete - I'm not really as anti-beard as I may have made out but I am pretty convinced that I'm much better off without one myself.

Oh, and I don't use my head shaving thingy on my face but I do sometimes use my razor on my head (at which time the use of a good shaving gel becomes all the more important).

Ay sir, that'll be me.
I was expecting to see some pictures but instead found all of these words. It was nice because they were put together in an amusing way...

"It made shaving a little less unpleasant"

Yes, I find it does too, how modern that we can share a "sensitive" and yet manly moment.

I usually leave it so long between shaves that I have to get rid of the main growth with foam and then use KoS to achieve "razor nirvana".

All this talk of shaving has reminded me of the Terry Gilliam animation in Monty Python where the bloke starts to brush on shaving foam in a normal manner (I think he's humming all the time whilst doing this) but then ends up covering his whole face leaving just the eyeballs, he then dot's the eyeballs, grabs a razor and cuts off his whole head.

I often feel like doing the same when having to bloody shave.

Funny post Dave, bet it did take an age to write all that out to your satisfaction.

No but how do you really feel? ;)

Great post! Try being female, sturdily built and over 20 years - and having products thrust at you which are modelled/shown by teenage nymphets who have had even their lovely features rearranged into impossible heights of perfection by the ad agency in photoshop. Not that it bothers me...oh no!

Cheers, Faz.

And Cheers, Greta - nice to see you here. God yes, women get it all far worse than men - I particularly enjoy the 12 year old girls who explain how this or that expensive skincare product helps them not to have wrinkles.

Gretel, not Greta. Apologies.

The best a woman can get, of course, is Herbal Essences.

Herbal Essences - is that the one that makes the woman in the ad go a bit Meg Ryan? Not quite as wretched as L'Oreal and "Because I'm worth it" and all that (and don't get me started on Andie MacDowell...) but it's a close thing. If they had the nerve to combine that campaign with obviously phallic bottles though, now that would be bold marketing.

That's the one... I bought a bottle of "Erbal" at LIDL for my swimming bag, and every time I wash my hair in the ladies' room in Dulwich Pool there's that moment when I realise that I have this enormous cone of stiff lavender-scented chemical foam on my head and somehow it's threatening to make me scream YES YES YESS any second now. I must admit it's one of the highlights of the day though, the frisson of it all. I mean, I could never go there again!

Yes, I also wonder why those models are looking so happy declaring their value in, say, mascara. Mind you they never say how much mascara. Maybe they cut that bit. I mean surely there's a tipping point, like if terrorists abduct Kate Moss and ask for just too much mascara to return her, there must be a point when the government says: no, sorry, that really is just too much, we can't allow this sort of thing. Maybe that's what she's really saying: "Because I'm worth it. 30.6 tons of this stuff. Oh yes I am."

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