October 10, 2005

New era of man in media ahead: book

By Michele Gershberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Real men are about to make a comeback.

Too many male consumers are getting turned off by their
portrayal as preening sissies or incompetent louts in
television programs and advertising, according to the authors
of a new book on marketing.

To reach men, marketers will have to shift gears and appeal
to their masculine tendencies, even if the definition of
manliness has never been more elusive.

"There is a dire shortage of great advertising to men,"
said Marian Salzman, director of strategic content at WPP ad
agency JWT and co-author of "The Future of Men."

"There is a straight (heterosexual) man who embraced a
mention of femininity. He responded to those marketing messages
but ultimately had a reaction that's pushed him back to
traditional masculinity," Salzman told Reuters in an interview.

Salzman and co-authors Ira Matathia and Ann O'Reilly once
worked together at Havas agency Euro RSCG.

The three helped turn previous pop culture buzzwords such
as the metrosexual -- straight men interested in personal style
to a degree usually associated with gay culture -- into tools
which advertisers used to craft their commercial messages.

Their views coincide with research on men and marketing by
other agencies. In a recent study by Leo Burnett,
three-quarters of men surveyed said male images in advertising
were out of touch with reality.

U.S. companies are also investing more to reach male
consumers who have migrated from traditional media like
television to the Internet and video games. But even when they
find those consumers, they aren't always sure what to say.


Salzman believes the metrosexual moment, heightened by
media stories of men waxing the hair off their backs and lining
up for pedicures, is over and will give way to a new breed of
manliness. Think former U.S. President Bill Clinton or Irish
rock singer Bono, but not an old-fashioned tough guy like the
Marlboro man.

"He's the 'ubersexual', a guy who hasn't given up on his
emotional side, but still embraces his masculine side," she
said. "It's being a guy who's more comfortable in his
masculinity, but also interested in being partnered with a
strong woman."

Clinton would be one such model as he supports the
political ambitions of his wife, U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger also fits the
bill, less for his body-building past than for his marriage to
Maria Shriver, former television journalist and member of
America's most famous political family, the Kennedys.

For marketers, a renewed take on male-ness would extend to
products traditionally associated with women, from household
cleaners to cosmetics. That would reflect the increased role
men take in household chores, or their interest in personal
grooming that doesn't seem feminine, Salzman said.

"We've seen almost the end of unisex," she said. "We see
people really gravitating to their own gender."

Models for the future include recent ads for the Dyson
vacuum cleaner which shows its male inventor proudly describing
its engineering with no less pride than for a motorcycle.

Gillette's new Fusion razor plays up not only its five
blades but a mustache trimmer, while Burger King won accolades
for funny commercials restoring men to the center of the
burger-chomping universe.

"It's time for guys to stop apologizing about being guys.
You can take a gourmet cooking class or have a Labrador
retriever and still have a standing poker game with your male
friends," said Salzman.