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What model Shaun Ross will bring to Axe's campaign to stop stereotyping men

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By Jennifer Faull, Deputy Editor

June 29, 2016 | 6 min read

Axe – known as Lynx in the UK – has partnered with one of the first professional models with albinism, Shaun Ross, as it looks to extend the ‘Find Your Magic’ campaign and create a wider movement to help men overcome the pressure to bow to stereotypes. And already Ross has big plans for where he wants to take the brand, including a ‘College Tour’ and events which he’ll host.

Shaun Ross

Shaun ross

It will build on what has proven to be a successful shift in strategy for Axe, led by its creative agency 72andSunny Amsterdam (which also brokered the partnership) . At the beginning of the year the brand vowed to stop promising men that it could help them get a girl – or as its ads suggested, several – and instead inject a bit of honesty into the male grooming category.

The success of this has been widespread with 75 million people talking about the campaign across social media (with 95 per of the sentiment positive) resulting in triple growth in the first quarter of 2016, according to Rik Strubel, the global vice president of Axe.

“We had some comments from guys who used to buy it but said they grew out of it but are now making their way back. One of the challenges was that we were becoming too young but we’re seeing a slightly older audience [now]. We’re also seeing more women buying the products, they are huge supporters and are even more motivated to come back to the brand,” Strubel told The Drum.

It’s now hoping the partnership with Ross will keep the momentum going. Ross, a keen user of social media, has built a following using the hashtag #InMySkinIWin which encourages people to embrace their identity. Strubel said that his followers will now be introduced to the Axe brand and, likewise, it will be opened up to a new set of people that celebrate individuality.

So, The Drum caught up with Ross to find out his thoughts on the brand, what he wants to achieve with the partnership and what he hopes to see from the advertising industry as a whole when it comes to embracing diversity.

Why did you decide to work with Axe?

I decided to work with Axe because, well I’m getting paid [laughs], but to be honest I was more excited to hear that this was even an opportunity. To me Axe has been that brand for the beefy body boy, you know – the 'sex boy', the 'I’m going to take her home' kind of guy. And then when my agent said they wanted to do something with me I was like ‘what? Yeah ok you’re lying’ and I ignored the email. But then I looked on the website and saw what they’d been doing. I used to be a dancer and when I saw the commercial with the boy [the dancer], well I know him. So many people were like 'hey did you see that guy vogue in the Axe commercial'. I thought, who would think that Axe [would be] like this is what a man is.

For so long men have been have been attached to this masculine, pride, Goliath thing. That’s not what it is. A man is a person confident in his skin. Wearing heels. Wearing glasses taped together. Or if he doesn’t have a six pack. Axe got this to a tee.

Do you not see this when you look at other advertising?

I don’t think people of difference have been represented for a very long time. It’s been a spectacle … I don’t know if it’s boring models make people feel more comfortable. I think the advertising world is looking at an old phonebook.

What about sexuality – do you think that’s represented?

Absolutely not. It all leads back to the clichéd form of race. I’m from New York and before I moved to Los Angeles used to see these campaigns called “Get Tested with your partner” and guess who those people would be in that? Hispanics and blacks. Whenever I saw other ads for like Grindr or Gay Love – it was Caucasians. Whenever you see a black person in a positive gay campaign it’s with a white person.

And forget race, [let’s talk about] femininity and masculinity. Why does homosexuality have to be associated with men in heels and make-up? That’s annoying. I’m tired of gay being associated with drag queens. And even in culture, it’s always white gay culture. I don’t even like Madonna.

Do you ever worry about tokenism and brands trying to be talked about, rather than really playing a role in redefining how we think about masculinity, femininity, or sexuality?

I don’t want to be the person where you feel sorry for me. I don’t feel sorry for me so why should you? That fuse burns quickly. I feel like a lot of companies have played on that. There’s a difference between a person telling their story with confidence and the other people who are telling another person’s story to make you feel bad for them.

What would you like to do with Axe?

If I could, we should do a ‘Find Your Magic College Tour'. It’s cool and easy. I or maybe others can go and speak to young men about how to be an inspiration in your school and community. That’s something I want to do. There’s so much I could tie Axe to. I know so many people in New York and Las Angeles that would love to tell their story; even if I did an event in LA with men telling their stories.

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