MARKETING TO MEN: EURO MAN: WARRIOR OR WIMP? - Europe may well be speeding towards a single currency, but there will never be a definitive Euro man. Based on research from RDSi, Jim Davies tells you why

This is not the time to be a man. While women have been empowered and liberated by shifting gender roles in the latter part of the 20th century, their male counterparts have been left dazed and confused, not knowing whether to play the warrior or the wuss. Insecurity is heightened by the fact that jobs-for-life are becoming increasingly thin on the ground, and it’s no longer a given that the man of the house is the primary breadwinner.

This is not the time to be a man. While women have been empowered

and liberated by shifting gender roles in the latter part of the 20th

century, their male counterparts have been left dazed and confused, not

knowing whether to play the warrior or the wuss. Insecurity is

heightened by the fact that jobs-for-life are becoming increasingly thin

on the ground, and it’s no longer a given that the man of the house is

the primary breadwinner.



Many men lack the imagination and flexibility to cope without a clearly

defined role in society, some stubbornly clinging to outmoded value

systems, others abdicating their masculinity altogether for the sake of

perceived political correctness. Changing cultural mores have allowed

women to become financially independent, socially confident and even

sexually predatory - privileges that, until recently, were exclusive to

men. Men, meanwhile, are undergoing an identity crisis - New Man or New

Lad? New Dad or Gay Dad? The choices and permutations are baffling.



Are men really expected to change a tyre with one hand, while rocking

the baby to sleep in the other? Is it possible to be caring, sensitive

souls during the day, but voracious sexual animals at night? Given the

opportunity, we’d no doubt complain about the injustice of shifting goal

posts, only it seems women have taken it upon themselves to become more

knowledgeable about football than we ever were.



Men of different nationalities are now squaring up to many similar

issues, though we are reacting to them differently according to

particular cultural and familial circumstances.



In some parts of the world the advancement of women is less apparent

than in others, some societies are more enlightened and accepting of

progress.



And the health of the local economy certainly plays a part. For

advertisers, tapping into the aspirations, attitudes and anxieties of

contemporary man on an international basis is a complex, thorny

problem.



This country-by-country guide to their foibles, compiled using Euromale,

a qualitative study of European men aged 18-45 by the research company,

RDSi, should get you on the right track.



Italy



Italian men are notorious peacocks who favour sculpted facial hair and

designer pastel sweaters draped casually over their shoulders. If

Chelsea’s manager, Gianluca Vialli, had any hair, you could almost be

sure he’d have pointy sideburns. To an uomo, they fancy themselves as

ladies’ men and with some justification - Italy is still very much a

matriarchal society, where women of all ages are venerated and

respected. As a result Italian men are comfortable relating to women

socially, though perhaps less so in a work context, particularly in

cases where women are their superiors.



Aspirational ads go down particularly well with Italian men, who are

slaves to their labels and generally well attuned to matters of taste

and aesthetics. They react favourably to advertising for skin and beauty

products, which appeals to the latent narcissist in them, and are also

more accepting and less threatened than most nationalities of images of

partially naked men.



The family is still very much at the heart of Italian life, and many men

have an idealised vision of a beautiful wife, beautiful children and a

beautiful home. Unsurprisingly, portrayals of domestic bliss are

popular, though they do have to be well judged rather than

schmaltzy.



Spain



In Spain, levels of unemployment are relatively high compared with the

rest of the EU, which compounds feelings of insecurity among men. In

addition, since the death of General Franco in 1975, the whole country

has been adjusting to the rights and expectations of the kind of modern

democratic society most of us take for granted - it’s almost as if

Spaniards have jumped a generation. There have been some high points,

such as the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, but generally morale among men is

low.



The onus on fatherhood and family is similar to that in Italy, and there

is still a macho tendency, as epitomised by the continuing popularity of

bull fighting - apart from dwarf throwing this is probably the most

un-PC sport in the world.



The family-oriented society brings with it a healthy respect for the

elderly, so advertising showing cross-generational bonding finds favour,

along with adrenal extreme sports spots accompanied by heavy metal

soundtracks.



There is always an element of truth in stereotypes and Spanish men tend

to fall into one of two camps: the ’Latino smoothie’, as epitomised by

Enrique Iglesias and Antonio Banderas, and arty pervy types such as

Pedro Almodovar and the designer, Javier Mariscal, who conceives

restaurants in the shape of giant, phallic lobsters.



France



It may pain us to admit it, but research fingers France as the most

sophisticated nation in the world. It also has them down as the most

smelly, so that’s some kind of compensation. Educated ABC1 Frenchmen

appear confident about their future, they are well aware of rapidly

changing employment practices and have enough self-assurance to believe

they’ll have the skills and flexibility to prosper out there, perhaps

even enjoy it.



Frenchmen can take the slings and arrows life throws at them in their

sassy stride, or perhaps with a toss of their well-conditioned locks,

because inside they know they’re worth it.



They are also - surprise, surprise - the most relaxed about their

sexuality, intrigued and even attracted by gay imagery in advertising.

This is a stark contrast to their British counterparts who run a mile at

the merest hint of gay shenanigans. As for female equality, middle-class

French men appear prepared to take a positive view of it, looking at

ways in which it might benefit them by, for example, allowing them to

spend more time with their children.



Poorer French men, however, are less enthusiastic - they feel threatened

by the onward march of women, and are unsure of what they are supposed

to be. ’They feel as if they are on the run,’ Nick Johnson, associate

director of RDSi, says. ’As a result they regress to old-style machismo,

listening to misogynist rap music and playing tough contact sports in an

effort to reassert their masculinity.’



Britain



Attitudes towards the work/family dynamic in Britain are probably more

akin to those in the US than those in the rest of Europe. This clearly

doesn’t apply to builders, but for the rest of us, the Anglo Saxon work

ethic is still strong, which means many men put their career ahead of

their family. Children tend to be deferred until the last possible

moment, because of a perceived loss of freedom and independence which

comes with the responsibilities of fatherhood. ’British men all say they

want to get married one day, but not right now,’ Johnson says.



He ascribes this procrastination to a fear of the unknown. In Latin

countries in particular, where it’s quite acceptable for men to live at

home until they get married or hit their thirties, males and females of

all ages mix on a daily basis. In Britain, however, men tend to operate

in peer groups of a similar age, which means they experience ’life

stages’ at a similar time and are wary of leaving the pack. Once they

have taken the plunge, however, they wonder what all the fuss was about

and come to a gradual appreciation of fatherhood.



As for their attitude to the status of women, they know what they’re

meant to say and can roll out the textbook answers patly, but in reality

they are in denial - the astonishing success of lads’ mags is some

indication of their true feelings.



Britons are possibly the hardest European men to advertise to. They are

expert decoders of metaphors and marketing-speak and have an underlying

cynicism which means that it’s hard to convey advertising images without

a knowing nod and a wink. British men find many advertising images too

perfect, too sickly or too contrived - humour is often the best means of

connecting with this audience.



In lads’ mags, Michael Caine features as one of the most respected

British men. Not for his acting prowess, you understand, but because he

made a fortune against the odds - the plucky underdog is someone the

Brit men can really relate to.



Germany



The Germans are among the most logical of research respondents,

determined to work at being progressive men in the 90s, even if it goes

slightly against their inclinations. They see such change as a challenge

and a question of discipline.



German men profess to a grudging admiration for circumstances in France

and Italy where they feel ’men could be men’ and family values are

deeper rooted - but this kind of behaviour would go down like a lead

balloon in oppressively ’right-on’ Germany. They have decided to make

the best of feminism by finding ways it might benefit them.



Surprisingly, perhaps, the emphasis on career and work is less marked

than the UK. German men are willing to adapt to the changing marketplace

and work on a self-employed or contract basis.



As for advertising, there is a desire to see more rounded images of

men.



’They want more complex models of male identity and a greater diversity

of role models,’ says Alex Moskvin, who completed a 300-group study of

men when he worked as the director of Research International’s

qualitative department.



Michael Schumacher features as one of their most respected role models,

but only partly because of his prowess behind the wheel, more so because

he’s a successful family man.



ANOTHER DIMENSION: AUSSIE BLOKE



The antipodean archetype has become associated with Foster’s, but ads

for the amber nectar vary by country. Joe Gill investigates



It’s the 70s and all most people in Britain know about Australia is

sheep farming and Skippy the Kangaroo. Neighbours has yet to transform

the nation’s soap-watching habits. Enter Paul Hogan as star of the first

Foster’s campaign, a lovable rogue with a lack of sophistication and

love of the amber nectar. His thick-skinned, no-nonsense attitude

becomes indelibly associated in the UK market with ’what it means to be

Aussie’.



According to John Botia, marketing manager of the Foster’s UK

distributor, Scottish Courage, ’the essence of the brand is the

positive, laid-back Aussie attitude’.



The concept has gone from strength to strength - and with the spread of

Aussie soaps and music, familiarity with the Australian way of life is

now a given for marketers. ’How well Foster’s is doing in a country is

down to how well understood Australia is. In the 70s people knew far

less about Australia but since then we’ve had the Aussie soaps and pop

stars ,’ he says.



Of course, when Botia says Australian, he means Australian men.

’Unashamedly, the ads are aimed at men because they consume the vast

majority of the beer.’



The current ’honorary Australian’ campaign by M&C Saatchi has

transferred well to Europe but in the US, where understanding of

antipodean ways is less mature, the story is different. ’How to speak

Australian’, out of Angotti Thomas Hedge in New York, uses contrasting

vignettes of everyday life to bring out the Aussie attitude.



In Australia, Foster’s takes a sporting, masculine tone - it is official

sponsor of the Sydney 2000 Olympics - to reflect those rugged, outdoor

Aussie values. And as for the UK campaign, Botia holds out the

tantalising prospect of a major twist. ’We may have a woman protagonist

in the future.’



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