Would You Buy a Suit from this Man?

I don’t have time for ads, generally speaking. Largely for this reason, I don’t watch tv except online or on dvd, and I rarely read newspapers and magazines in print anymore.

But yesterday I caught up with two contrasting ad campaigns, both for men’s formalwear. (My interest in my husband’s wardrobe makes me more their target market than you might think.)

I often see the blokey-but-smart-and-a-bit-smartarse full-page ads that 3 Wise Men puts in every issue of the Air New Zealand inflight magazine, Kia ora. There are lots of words on them, which is the way to draw me in to anything, really. And I used to have lots of time on flights.

Yesterday I was flying by myself with SBJ, so I made a partial response to the invitation to take the magazine home with me and ripped the ad out to read at home. You see, it was titled ‘The 3 Wise Men Bluffer’s Guide Number 18: Fatherhood.’

What does an upmarket menswear business want tell us about fatherhood? There were six headings:

Long Haul
Lead by Example
Silly Stuff
Time Out

It was down-to-earth, SNAGgy, positive advice for new dads, interspersed with only a couple of details about shirts and ties. Assignment Group, who created the campaign, describes it this way:

3 Wise Men is a unique brand. It is all about making guy’s lives simple – with all shirts being $120. So we made them synonymous with manful simplicity. The ‘Bluffer’s Guide’ print ads that provide all the information a bloke needs to be awesome.

The Bluffer’s Guide to Fatherhood is too new to be online, unlike the Art Gallery Openings one above, but here’s a sample encouragement to fathers:


From the moment kids are born, they think of you as a superhero. Strangely however, most Dads spend the rest of their waking hours doing their utmost to ruin that status by staying late at work, and being irrationally impatient and excessively grumpy. Instead, preserve their unconditional adulation by spending as much quality time as you can with your kids. And sorry, throwing sugary treat food at them occasionally while you jump on a conference call or watch wall-to-wall sport on telly the nights your partner goes to book club, doesn’t count. High stakes Scalextric races, hallway knee rugby or doing anything with power tools, bows and arrows or mud however, absolutely does.

Odd use of commas aside, that’s great advice. Plenty of dads don’t need to hear it, but lots do. And it’s given in a tone that might – seriously – make a difference to some guy’s parenting.

It’s so unusual to read something useful and positive in an ad campaign that my feminist hackles hardly bother rising at the various cliches and the not-the-broadest vision of masculinity – sorry, ‘manful simplicity’ – portrayed in the ad. It’s a lot broader than any beer commercial I’ve encountered, for a start.

And to their credit, they advise dads to ‘see how high your son can wee over the lemon tree, how far down the alphabet your daughter can burp’, so there’s a victory for gender-equality right there.

So a gold star for 3 Wise Men. More thoughtful advertising that could actually make the world a better place, please.

And then I got home, sweet home, and read this in the New Zealand Herald online:

Using three blonde playmates to market a New Zealand menswear brand has been labelled “obvious”, “cheap” and “sexist”.

But the publicity ploy has worked with its target audience and has helped the brand’s image rather than hurting it, an expert says.

Just over a month after Hallensteins announced the exclusive cocktail event to launch its summer campaign, Misses January 2012, September 2011 and July 2011 hosted the party of 150 people at a private home in Belmont on Auckland’s North Shore last night.

The Herald was flown by helicopter with Heather Knox, Tiffany Toth and Jessa Hinton to the property.

University of Auckland senior lecturer in marketing Dr Mike Lee said Hallensteins was rebranding with a Hugh Hefner-esque image.

“They’re saying it without actually saying it. They’re aligning themselves with Playboy’s image with the playmates – especially so because recently they’ve made the move away from high school mufti into suits.”

Dr Lee said the fact that the campaign had offended some people for being sexist would work in its favour.

“Some men will find the fact that it’s angered people, particularly feminists, appealing, and [it] will even draw them into their stores more.”

Dr Lee said that while the campaign was obvious, it was effective because it appealed to red-blooded males – playmates helped men feel more comfortable about having an interest in clothes.

Is it time to boycott Hallensteins?

It is extremely disappointing to see a New Zealand company that has profited from outfitting young men use women’s scantily-clad bodies to sell men’s clothes. Hallenstein Glasson made $21 million bucks last year.

It is irresponsible to make an unusual, expensive and likely surgically-obtained body shape aspirational, both for young men to get their hands on and young women to strive for.

It is unambitious to encourage young men to focus their lives around attracting buxom women who make money by wearing small clothes. Surely we want more for our menfolk?

It is harmful to create unrealistic – even stupid – expectations about women’s bodies. Young men who buy the Playmate ‘ideal’ will become disappointing partners. Young women who aim for a Playmate look are at risk of exploitation and insecurity, not to mention a shameful waste of time and money.

Shame, shame, shame on you, Hallenstein Glasson and Publicis Mojo, for thinking so little of young New Zealanders. We’d all be better off without you.

If anyone would like to tell these companies what you think of their campaign (or what I think of it!), you might like to email them, as I have, at info@publicismojo.co.nz and on the Hallenstein Glasson contact page (if anyone can track down a proper email address for senior leaders at PM or HG, please let us know and I’ll update the links).

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2 comments on “Would You Buy a Suit from this Man?”

  1. Andrew Reply

    the price of those shirts aside, the 3 wise men ad is clever.

    That said, there is little incentive for men to grow up in our society. the eternal boyhood is alive and kicking. give a man a heavy load, the knowledge that he is appreciated and is doing something useful, and he’ll shift mountains.
    dilute the significance of what it means to be a man, undermine masculinity at every turn (TV and advertising stereotyping straight men as incompetent and insenstive bogans) and it shouldn’t be a surprise that we’re on the whole uncertain of our role and not growing into manhood.

    even in christian circles the “wild at heart” image of masculinity paints guys as needing to be neanderthals and to kill a bear to be a real man.

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