Make-Up for Men: Take a Pass, Please

Blitz Magazine, May 2005

makeupI had a bit of a shock the other day. I ran into a man I hadn’t seen in years. He is now a newly-divorced father of three, in his late ‘40s, red-headed, handsome and successful. We started chatting and I realized that he was wearing make-up. This man has red eyelashes. Had—now they’re jet black. And I could see powder on his chin and cheeks. I must be more old-fashioned that I thought, because I was just floored to see this (presumably) hetero man wearing mascara.

We’ve long been hearing about the boom in sales of men’s cosmetics. In the US, sales are now at $18 billion. In Japan, sales are growing by 4% each year, with 2004 sales hitting 13 billion yen. Much of this has to do with a greater concern for skin care, which is a good thing. And we experiencing a baby-boomer divorce surge—now the kids are in university, their parents are finally giving up the ghost. So there are a lot of men who have to go back to dating again, and it’s perfectly logical for them to want to look more appealing. But seeing this man wearing make-up just totally creeped me out. Like, gag, dude.

I wanted to see how marketers are communicating with men, so I Googled ‘men’s cosmetics’ and found thousands of pages. The Internet is the perfect medium for sales of these products—because, I imagine that most men don’t want to be seen hanging around the Estee Lauder counter at The Bay.

I find this one site—4V00 Distinct Men, whose sell line is ‘Have Fun. Be Sexy. Feel Luxurious’.

I read about its Confidence Corrector, which is ‘an excellent solution for most men!’ and a stick that will give men ‘luminous lips’, by accentuating lips and making them ‘sparkle with sensuous appeal’, as it ‘provides a youthful softness and creates a desirable wet gloss.’ Lipid Lip Serum makes lips ‘fuller, smoother, more sensuous!’ as itrestores collagen, hydrates, plumps, smoothes, and conditions lips to make them sinfully desirable.”

Ewwww! Really! If I meet a man for a drink after work, do I want to see Confidence Corrector over his 5:00 shadow, and his lips plumped and sparkling? No! No! Absolutely not!!!

I freely admit my hypocrisy here. Because of my spectral whiteness, I never leave the house without lipstick. So there’s a definite double standard. But I’m going to claim that it falls into the realm of ‘woman’s prerogative’. Or something like that.

Women, of course, will buy just about any cosmetic substance. They believe every claim, regardless of how bad the ad copy is. A recent Holt Renfrew catalogue touted Clinique’s new line as being “suitable for people with ‘reactionary skin’. Huh? Holts also wants us to know that Alexander McQueen’s “body lotion is enriched with mandrake root, an ingredient known for its magical properties. Bewitching!” And Neutrogena tells us that our skin is ‘disorganized’ and that its products will, uh, reorganize us.

Elizabeth Arden now offers: “Lip Lip Hooray…fortified with a mint-flavored breath freshener and zinc citrate, known for years to counterbalance volatile sulfur compounds in the mouth which cause halitosis (bad breath). Zinc citrate is not a new compound and has been used for years in toothpastes to help decrease malodor in people’s mouths.”

There’s an Ecosense herbal lipstick containing ‘natural waxes, neem, Aloe vera and Vitamin E’. There are a million ‘herbal’ products now, containing things like oils and roots and leaves and, I dunno, gravel from a pit in Mozambique and seeds from Tibetan cow pies. ‘Fact is, most women don’t want to know what’s in their cosmetics. The truth would hurt.

It’s human nature to want to look good. It’s the nature of animals to want to attract the opposite sex—or, in some cases, the same sex. The survival of the species requires that we all take steps to find mates. We all want to feel good too, and we feel better if we know we look good. And, in this navel-gazing, appearance-obsessed society, a lot of people are seeing cosmetic enhancements, spa treatments, skincare regimens and plastic surgery as essential to their career success. ‘Strange, but true.

So I shouldn’t be slagging men for wearing make-up. I only hope that they wear waterproof brands or avoid getting caught in the rain.

On Money for Media

Blitz Magazine, January 1999


The TV commercials which currently make me most grateful for my mute button are for Scotiabank. This campaign offers a series of homey scenarios, over which some guy with one of those squidgey, vaguely-creepy voices describes, in a stream of sentences annoyingly beginning with ‘Because’, why the people in those scenarios are Scotiabank customers. All age groups in the middle-class target are covered; extra comfort (for Riverdance fans at least) comes from Celtic music. And I now know that, if I ever lose my mind and want to work on my lap-top while perched on a stool in the middle of a lake, my account with Scotiabank will allow me to do that.

          Condescension is insulting. Humour works best. And, as we’ve seen with Richmond Savings’ successful ‘Your Money Is Our Money’ campaign, humour does work for financial institutions. For what they pay for creative, surely the Big Banks can come up with something funny.

          For example, envision a 35 year-old woman meeting with a Big Bank loans officer. She has a terrific, original idea for an interactive, educational game. She has a business plan, a marketing plan and a solid resume. She needs $100,000. and doesn’t want to liquidate any assets to raise it. But she has trust fund statements, photographs of the West Vancouver police arriving at her mortgage-burning party and notarized promissory notes offering her children as collateral. And the loans officer says: “So you call this ‘New Media’? Hmmm. Could you get your ex-husband or parents to co-sign?” Ha ha ha ha.

          Well, that’s not funny but it’s pretty much the way it is, even in this supposed Age of Big Bank Enlightenment. Which is why anyone trying to get ahead in new media and/or film needs access to money. Lots of it. With easy, patient terms and helpful, co-operative administrators.

          For extra advice, you can book a lunch date with Kim Campbell, the Canadian Consul General to Los Angeles. Unfortunately, while you’re down there, you can also drop in and say hello to the guys at Totally Hip Software. Now, thanks (they say) to the BC government’s lack of support, they’re there too.


A Day in English

Blitz Magazine, January 2003

On, Like, Language


It was a dark and stormy night. John sat at his window, sipping a cup of double-half-caff-no whip-no-sugar-half-water, watching thuh snow swirl down to the streets. He wished he’d remembered to cover and plug in his Durango so it would start in the morning, and became accepting of the fact that he might have to take transit the next day. Then his thoughts returned to thuh events of his day.

Basically, I was bad from thuh outset. As he was leaving the house, his wife said:

“John, I won’t be here when you get home. And I’m also not coming back too.”

 “Ohmygod Brittni! Why?”

“Basically, our relationship has suffered a disconnect. At the end of the day, we no longer dialogue.”

“Ohmygod,” replied John, stunned. “But just because….doesn’t mean…Is there another man?”

“Yes. He’s a fisher. And his mentoring capabilities are…considerable.”

“So that’s it?”

“My people will contact your people.”

“OK…Well, ciao Brittni.”

“Ciao John.”

John was severely impacted. But he pulled himself together to take his first meeting. It was with a young hockey player—the kid was headed for NHL stardom but, when speaking with the media, he kept forgetting to say ‘uh’. John spent from 9 a.m. in the morning to 10:15 a.m. in the morning coaching him; making sure that he’d remember to say ‘uh’ after every third word. The two interfaced well, and John was satisfied that his help would positively impact the boy’s personal development and career path.

At 10:30 a.m. in the morning, he met with his biggest client, thuh owner of a grosherie store chain that was launching a line of culllinary products. John was ready to strategize. Mr. Brown’s expression indicated a negative viewpoint.

“Basically John,” said Mr. Brown, “I think it’s time for me to re-task marketing. Just because you’ve done some really great work doesn’t mean that you’re thinking outside the box. Basically, at thuh end of the day, our interactions indicate differing views and path progress expectations. And, in addition, you are also having difficulty providing my company with mentoring and leadership. At thuh end of the day, I actually don’t actually feel that our relationship is resulting in optimized and maximized potential points. And as well, at thuh end of the day, I also think that the snapshot of our relationship indicates that we need closure.”

John stared at Mr. Brown, absorbing his words. Basically, he knew that, at the end of thuh day, thuh upshot of this dialogue would be negative for his financial wellness.

“I’m sorry John,” continued Mr. Brown. “If you could up-date my accounting department… Thank you for conferencing with me.”

In a daze, John saw Mr. Brown out. Then he went to Destinee’s office and gave her the bad news.

“Ohmygod!” Destinee exclaimed. “That basically means we’ll have to downsize! And as well, at thuh end of the day, Luigi’s position will be made redundant too!”

Actually, John had basically forgotten about Luigi, the design wizard brought onboard to spearhead the creation of the packaging for Mr. Brown’s new line. Luigi was known as one of the best in the business—he was 17 and spoke no English, but he sure knew his way around a bottle of olive oil.

“He’s still fairly young,” John replied. “His career will probably recover.”

Destinee was not soothed. “Ohmygod! Our image consultant said it’s key to keep at least one New Canadian onboard! Our team will look like we’re not keeping current! Ohmygod!”

“I could care less! This is not actually a nucular disaster! Just because we lost one client doesn’t mean we’re finished! Gather the team! We need inter-office interaction! To brainstorm about how we can achieve conflict resolution! And as well, we must also identify solutions, and plan how we can best interface in order to bring about those solutions.

“In addition, we can foster new relationships too! We can spin this so the agency will be positively impacted! We will locate the box! We will envision that box! And then we will think outside it! At thuh end of the day, the bottom line is that we’re basically still here and we’ll soon be on track too! Book the dialoguing for 11:30 a.m. this morning, then order up lunch. Expense it on Mr. Brown. As well, out-place Luigi too. But in a way that will make him feel empowered.”

Basically, Destinee actually fell down on the task. As John watched the snow flurry down, he listened to the news report on the TV behind him.

“And a terrible incident downtown today. At 12:00 p.m. this afternoon, a young man who had been fired by English R Us Advertising jumped from a fourth-storey floor and landed below, on top of a young man walking their dog. The dog was unharmed but, at 8:00 p.m. this evening, the man died from their injuries.

As constable Jane Doe said: ‘It’s tragic. They’re just a kid. The gentleman that fell clearly required counseling with out-placement. We did attend the premise, and found that the incident was unforeseeable. For the next 24 hours, grief counselors and social workers will be posted on that portion of the sidewalk to assist anyone needing assistance with acceptance of the event. At the moment, I have nothing more to say at this time.”

John sighed. “Ciao Luigi.”