Hiding Behind Humor
If Axe were to come right out and claim “if you use our product, women will automatically like you”, they would have very few (if any) sales. People wouldn’t believe it (simply because it is so absurd), and they may even come to resent the brand for making such a claim (making it more difficult to try get the public’s attention later on, should any attempt be made to discuss Axe Hair Styling’s actual merits). Axe knows this, so it doesn’t (explicitly) make that claim – but it also knows even though people may reject ideas consciously, subconsciously they may be accepting of them.
Whether out of desperation, or even a conscious belief that the irrational is possible, there are many people who are willing to try something to get what they desire simply because they believe it is better than doing nothing. All that an advertiser has to do is imply to such people that their product is that “something.” These commercials imply that using Axe Hair Styling alone will make women like you, and hide behind absurdist humor to do so. Clearly no one believes that any woman is going to do what these women do, so Axe is safe to retreat behind the excuse that they’re “just kidding” should they be charged with trying to exploit people’s mental frailties.
But isn’t that an apt charge? Isn’t that exactly what these commercials are trying to do? None of them discuss, in even the slightest detail, how the product works, how it is superior to competing products, evidence that shows that women respond to hair styled with “product”, or anything else along those lines. They simply assert women will like you if you style your hair, and then count on the customer’s ability to lie to himself (ie: tell himself it’s only a joke) should he feel silly later on for being taken in by such an empty, simplistic claim.
Capitalism is supposed to be about trade. Not trade in the superficial sense that goods are being exchanged, or in the subjectivist sense that both party’s desires (no matter how irrational and self-defeating they may be) are being fulfilled – but trade in the sense of mutual benefit. Of a true quid pro quo. Of an interaction where both parties come away truly better off than they were before.
Sadly, in today’s “capitalism”, such trades are becoming rarer and rarer. Because of the centrally-planned, and therefore unpredictable, nature of the macro-economy, the short-term is essentially all that matters to firms. Whereas in a truly capitalistic system most firms would sacrifice the short-term for the sake of the long-term (eg: Henry Ford famously refusing to sell Model T’s in any color but black, despite public demand for variety, so that he could give his company a solid foundation first; which in the long-run was of greater objective benefit to the car-consuming public), in today’s mixed economy of capitalism and socialism, firms have no choice but to either sacrifice the long-term to the short or to go out of business.
As a result, advertisements like these are produced. People are induced to make purchases based not upon a product’s objective merits (and in many cases, tragically, there are some – despite them being ignored), but based upon range-of-the-moment, emotional impulses that have nothing directly to do with the product. Ironically, in much the same way that a woman would decide to get to know a man just because his hair made her feel a certain way; without reference to any facts that may or may not support doing so.