OPINION: Mills on ... Lynx's razor launch

Have you ever noticed that whereas razors are quite reasonably priced, the blades are a complete rip-off?

It's a bit like the computer games manufacturers' hardware/software trick: get consumers hooked on the hardware and then you can charge them the earth for the software. They probably learned it from Gillette.

Of course, the reason you may not have given the price of razor blades too much thought is that shaving is a pretty low-interest category. But not so low interest that it's escaped the notice of the brand extension gurus at Unilever, whose mission is to achieve world domination through creeping brand extension. And one of the so-called power brands with which they aim to do this is Lynx, which last week extended into the male grooming sector with the launch of a new shaving system.

Lynx, you will recall, is a deodorant that was going nowhere until a series of ironic ads by Bartle Bogle Hegarty turned it from a naff product into something your average 15- to 25-year-old chose over Right Guard (another Gillette product, ironically). The secret was advertising that was fresh, relevant and made an emotional connection with the consumer.

That style is continued in the launch work for its razors. The basic plotline - Lynx is the essential seduction tool for all nerds - remains. Shot in a style that pastiches Bollywood-meets-Saturday Night Fever, our hapless would-be Lothario shaves and grooms himself in preparation for an evening on the pull. He's got all the accoutrements: mauve Y-fronts, badly cut suit, open-necked shirt with collars as a big as an aeroplane wing and necklace. Carefully, he opens a velvet-lined jewellery box for the piece de resistance. No, it's not a condom but a match. Copying his film star hero, he inserts the match between his teeth before jumping on his ancient scooter. Arriving at the disco, he hopes to impress the object of his affections by striking the match down his cheek. But because his shave is so smooth, the match won't light, so his girlfriend grabs the match and successfully strikes it on her roughly shaven armpit. There's no dialogue, merely the backing of a soundtrack that sounds like a Cornershop out-take. That jingle - 'Gillette. The best a man can get' - it isn't.

The joke ending aside, this is actually a simple type of ad: a product demonstration. In that and that only, it's consistent with the other ads in this sector. In everything else it's completely different: a) the bloke's not a smug, vain hunk, b) Gillette would rather die than have a laugh, and c) it doesn't have that macho Aerosmith cock-rock ambience which the Gillette jingle provides.

The real question, though, is whether this is a credible area for Lynx to enter. Received wisdom has it that shaving ads are about using technology (it's surely no coincidence that Gillette's star product is the Mach 3 - a name which invokes both alpha masculinity as defined by Top Gun and macho technical superiority) to get a close shave. And Gillette's unchallenged domination of the market may imply that there's something in this. Then there's the inertia factor. If Gillette does the job, can anyone really get excited enough to change?

However, nobody has ever tried a different approach. Lynx certainly wouldn't be credible copying Gillette. An ad that is true to the Lynx heritage and makes a splash in the market by being different must be the way to go. As I said, it's fresh, relevant and engaging. And you never know - you might just pull.



An award winner, then? I'd give it a pretty good chance of something lustrous at the BTVAA.

What about commercial success? If you already buy Lynx body spray and stuff, you'll love it. And even though I'm on the, er, outer edge of the target age group, I'll give it a try.

Will Gillette change? By the time it does, it'll be too late.



dominic.mills@haynet.com.