UNDAUNTED: In a conscious effort to be 'different', Lynx is challenging stereotypes around disability

Steve Daunt has found much to be celebrated in the new Lynx campaign, even if it is a marketing ploy

Lynx, disability, find your magic

Image: Lynx/YouTube

What do you need to sell aftershave? You need a man. Not just any man. Ideally you need to be ‘the best a man can be’.

I’m old enough to remember the British Boxer Henry Cooper advertising Brut aftershave. For younger readers, Cooper is most famous for knocking down Mohammad Ali in the 1960s, while Brut was the go-to Christmas present for any male relative. It was the Lynx of its day.

A full-bodied bouquet as they say.

The reference to Lynx was not accidental there. In a semi-catatonic Saturday afternoon TV viewing session, the new Lynx ad popped up on my screen. Another ad for smellies I thought. With one sleepy eye, I watched. Here’s what I saw:

It’s obvious that they are going down the ‘just be yourself’ line of thinking. As I was researching that, I saw that it garnered plaudits for portraying a gay relationship, but it was the "who needs heels when you have wheels" mini-scene that shook me out of my slumber.

The wheels they are talking about are not some souped up gas guzzler that such an ad would normally have demanded. No, the wheels belonged to a wheelchair user. Not any wheelchair user, but a sexy looking dancer.

If I was picky, I could argue that having a leggy blonde sitting on his lap is as clichéd as anything from the '70s, but hold on; there’s a disabled man whose masculinity is placed front and centre.

It should be quite normal, but alas seeing a disabled man in an ad selling male grooming products is a thing. It shouldn’t be, but it is. 

Throughout my adult life, I’ve read reports, theses, and attended conferences on how to portray disabled people. What they all had in common was that when disabled people are seen, they were shoehorned into a series of clichéd images.

They needed our pity, our charity, or our help. They could inspire us. They could remind us how lucky we, as non-disabled people, are. They were never normal. They never did normal things.

For whatever reason, this has changed. In my mellow moments, I think those who now work in the advertising agencies have disabled peers and that informs their thinking. They see their disabled peers as just that.

A few weeks ago I wrote about Tommy Hilfiger designing for disabled children. That campaign was spearheaded by a parent who wanted to dress her disabled child like her other kids. Of course, Hilfiger saw a market and dived right in.

Cute kids in designer clothes are an easier sell than a disabled man advertising deodorant, but did the agency handling the Lynx account make a conscious effort to be 'different' and show their product being used by non-traditional males? I assume they did.

Was it cynical? Most advertising is. Did it grab my attention? Of course it did!

Might it open up a debate on how disabled men are seen? I don’t know. It surprised me, but perhaps the target audience for the ad would just see the dancer and say "meh". 

Now that would be great. The old stereotypes would have been cracked. That would be a great thing.