Axe showerpooling promo raises brows

It’s one thing to save the world by sharing rides. Now, perhaps, by sharing the shower?

Unilever, one of the world’s largest consumer product makers, this week will unleash a controversial online ad campaign for its edgy Axe brand of men’s grooming products that urges college students to shower with a friend, or “an attractive stranger.”

Showerpooling (wink) is what they’re calling it. It’s all about conserving water (wink), the company says. “This is a cute irreverent way to communicate what is really a significant message: water conservation,” says Rob Candelino, vice president of marketing for U.S. skin care.

In a viral age where sex not only sells — but often goes viral — this is a made-for-Millennial campaign. Unilever has the company dialing up the dialogue to snare Gen Y. In a recent Kraft ad for Athenos, a Greek grandmother berates her granddaughter for dressing “like a prostitute.”

But will Unilever’s latest gambit for its Axe brand catch fire or backfire? Marketers are of mixed mind.

“The idea of showerpooling with strangers to save water is so over the top, you can’t take it seriously,” says brand consultant Laura Ries. The way most guys in college save water, she says, isn’t by showering less but by drinking beer instead of water.

“As a marketing tool, it’s brilliant,” says consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow. “But no matter how much young guys would like this fantasy to come true, this ad won’t make it happen.”

Candelino says that the showerpooling spot, which is to be posted on the Axe Facebook page, YouTube, and, is really about conserving water.

He says two-thirds of the brand’s target, guys ages 18 to 24, say they’re concerned about water conservation. But their actions don’t always reflect that, because the typical college student takes showers of nearly 18 minutes.

Axe is advocating five-minute showers with water-efficient shower heads. It’ll dispense 7,000 such Delta shower heads on 10 college campuses.

Candelino says Axe’s message is tongue-in-cheek. Does he showerpool? “I’m not ashamed to say that my wife and I have very healthy water-conservation habits.”