11 July 2017

Our content-led campaign for Lynx directly challenged male taboos, provoked a national debate on 21st-Century masculinity, repositioned the brand as a force for good – and inspired a new generation of young British guys.

Starting from the insight that the social pressures to look and behave in certain ways were as acute for young men as women, we used intelligent, hyper-relevant content and meaningful influencer partnerships to reposition the brand as a credible voice on what it means to be a man today. We talked honestly and openly about the lives and frustrations of real British guys, earning serious discussion by the nation’s top columnists and, crucially, driving sales.

Qualitative research among Lynx’s core (and target) audience of 17-24-year-old guys revealed that even though they still celebrated famous actors, musicians and sports stars, those they were drawn to were admired because they “buck the trend”, or “make their own style”, or “speak their mind”.

Yet there was also a paradox. Within our guys’ own families, communities or peer groups, there were often red lines they felt they couldn’t cross. Whether it was opening up about their feelings or their sexuality, or simply dressing the way they wanted, invisible barriers held them back.

Working as part of an integrated agency team, we developed a short film series asking a small group of real guys what ‘being a man’ really meant – from body image and sexuality, to fatherhood, emotions and friendship.

“Men in Progress” featured talent who were pushing the boundaries of stereotypical masculinity – like Keegan Hirst, the first openly gay professional Rugby player, and Anthony Joshua, the boxer rewriting the macho rules of his sport. They provided a clear “reason to view” and drove editorial coverage across a range of media, from sport and music to beauty to LGBT.

Men in Progress was supported with a portfolio of new insights into the death of ‘lad culture’ and evolving attitudes towards masculinity, revealing the subject to be both complex and hotly contested.

Next, we created a power list that wasn’t based purely on wealth, looks or fashion. Our ‘Men of the Moment’ had to be challenging male stereotypes and achieving success on their own, unconventional terms. Selected by a panel including MistaJam, Tom Daley, Reggie Yates and Joe Mackertich, the list took in stage, screen, recording studio and sporting arena, with highlights including Eric Underwood, for bringing male ballet to a modern audience, and Olly Alexander, for using his platform as frontman of Years & Years to champion LGBTQ causes.

In our third phase we took participation in the debate to the widest possible audience. ‘Is It OK For Guys?’ was deliberately designed to be harder hitting – directly confronting taboo subjects for men.

The premise was simple. Using Google search data, we identified the questions young British men are prepared to ask online, but not out loud. From “Is it OK for guys to cry?” to “Is it OK for guys to have long hair?”, the campaign dramatically highlighted male insecurities and brought them to life in a series of short interviews produced with Lynx’s high-profile new supporters and influencers.

We landed widespread, 100%-positive coverage about the brand, its new positioning and the campaign. A Daily Telegraph feature carried a picture of Barack Obama – consistently cited as a top role model by our target audience – in tears.

The campaign even achieved the unthinkable: earning the approval of female columnists. Lucy Mangan wrote in Stylist: “The new Lynx campaign seems to me like a glorious thing – and all the more so for coming from so unexpected a brand. It’s OK guys – we want everyone to be able to be themselves.”