At its core, BBH's recent "Susan Glenn" Axe campaign is hardly presenting a new revelation or message in the wide world of advertising. The brand's prior campaign, which more or less featured six-pack-equipped males with lustful, skimpy girls hanging off them, wasn't truly different, ideologically, from their recent "Susan Glenn" sensation. Both campaigns essentially state that, with Axe, you get what you want in life -- which, of course, is hot chicks. However, the key difference between the two is that "Susan Glenn" delves into the until-now-untapped psyche of the average teenager. And boy, is this powerful stuff.
Narrated by the perennially-real-sounding Kiefer Sutherland, the spot explores the ultimate unattainable fruit -- one's high school crush. The copy is written retrospectively, with good ole Kiefer almost wistfully recalling his supposed crush, Susan Glenn. Yet Susan wasn't just the girl that got away, but rather, the girl that was never in reach. This is an important distinction.
Similar to the campaign's vanilla surface point, the usage of Sutherland is too nothing new to advertising. The former 24 star is a voice-over king, and, in general, having celebrities endorsing consumer products is as old as dirt. Yet, in the case of Axe/"Susan Glenn," seeing a celebrity like Kiefer -- who seemingly has it all -- touch on something so intrinsically human, not only helps sell the spot, but also, more importantly, casts a completely different, more relatable -- and haunting, for that matter -- vibe than Axe's former faux fantasy-land agenda.
But perhaps it is the the close of the spot that truly takes the (deodorant) cake. Up to this point, Sutherland is just the voice-over; but BBH had another gem up their sleeve. The audience sees the spot transition from Sutherland's yonder year's world into his present-day, "I'm Kiefer friggin' Sutherland" world. Now, speaking directly to us, he states, "If I could do it again, I'd do it differently" -- and then we're hit with a tagline of, "Fear No Susan Glenn." Woah. Did you just get chills? I know I did.
There is no doubt that BBH's "Susan Glenn" campaign is superior to its previous campaign, but that doesn't really matter. The real question is whether "Susan Glenn" can help Axe win back the incredible volume of customers it lost to Old Spice over the past few years. One can make the argument that while "smell[ing] like a man" is important (a la Old Spice), "having the confidence of a man" -- as Axe is now, more or less, suggesting -- is the more effective, provocatively psychological selling point.
Follow Ben Berkon on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BenBerkon