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Downy treats men like pieces of meat

Enter the world of Downy commercials, where only women buy fabric softener, and men are nothing more than empty-headed t-shirt models. Can you touch them? Sure.

This new commercial for Ultra Downy with SilkTouch follows a formula used in a lot of recent consumer TV advertising, in which “real” people give “candid” reactions in front of handheld cameras. (See also: Ford, Microsoft, Wheat Thins.)

Only in this case, it’s women ogling men. Two hunks are seen as wearing tight shirts of different softness. “Do I get to touch these guys?,” asks one. “I’m feeling their muscles,” flirts another. The payoff: Both men are wearing the same shirt, one washed in Downy, one not. Here’s the ad:

I’ve covered sexism in advertising on Breaking Copy a few times before, but this one stands out. This bad ad manages to objectify men and stereotype women at the same time.

Men: Dim, grinning, grunting beefcake.

Women: Fluttering lightweights who swoon and giggle.

I realize there are reasons to single out women with an ad for a cleaning product. P&G probably has a stack of research showing women are more likely to make purchasing decisions about fabric softener. But there are fun, pleasant ways to make such an ad. This one misses the mark.

Maybe it doesn’t feel light and funny enough. The documentary-style, handheld-camera, woman-on-the-street schtick makes the scene feel “real,” not letting on that these might be exaggerated characters we’re supposed to laugh at and enjoy.

Will it sell Downy? Well, some people might watch this ad and think, “I aspire to be like that person, and this product will help me achieve that goal.” But I can’t imagine who those people are.

* * * *

Who created this ad?

I don’t know, but GREY has been involved in some recent Downy campaigns.

Who signed off on it?

I’m guessing Carolina Rogoll, Downy Brand Manager at Procter & Gamble.

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Advertising, Marketing


  1. B. Ligerent says:

    My favorite part is at about 0:25 when the woman sniffs the bottle and says, “Divine!”

    As if it’s a wine or something.

    Who wouldn’t aspire to be her?

  2. Peggy Larson says:

    I disagree about the comment that the back t shirt
    Commercial is not fun and light! the woman in
    The hat is marvelous the women in the commercial are
    Devine! Oh la la!

  3. Anonyvox says:

    I saw this commercial last night and was so irritated by it. Here’s a simple test so that those who approve these commercials don’t offend every feminist out there: if you reverse the genders of the people in the commercial, does it seem acceptable? In this case, if you had men approaching women on the street, smelling them and stroking their chests, would it be acceptable? Hell no, it wouldn’t.

    I don’t find this commercial acceptable in either context–men shouldn’t be treated like this, either.

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