A “shower thought,” as defined by the widely read subreddit that popularized the term, is the sort of semi-philosophical breakthrough that comes to your brain during your most quotidian moments. Your morning shower might be, for instance, when you realize that the human knee is really just a giant knuckle or that if there is a heaven for dogs and a hell for squirrels, both are probably the same place.
It’s the sort of banal yet profound-sounding stuff that the Internet loves to spread, and there always seems to be a shower thought or two among Reddit’s most popular post at any given moment. Now, “shower thoughts” is also an ad campaign to sell a “sophisticated” line of Axe products to men.
And some Redditors aren’t taking it very well.
“Axe” is jacking our shower thoughts and not giving credit. Literally word for word,” a thread that sat at the top of Reddit on Thursday morning proclaims. It links to the first of a couple of ads from Axe’s new campaign, which does indeed use a “shower thought” that appeared on Reddit at the end of August: “When you’re criticised for being short, they’re really just saying the worst thing about you is that there isn’t more of you.”
The Axe ad repeats said shower thought word-for-word and then dramatizes it with Muggsy Bogues, a very short man who played in the NBA.
The video now has more than 10,000 “dislikes” on YouTube, thanks to the angry Redditors who see the campaign as yet another example of a company stealing their content for financial gain. The second of Axe’s ads was posted earlier Thursday morning but features a “shower thought” that doesn’t appear to come from Reddit at all.
In a press release announcing the campaign, Axe said that the three-part set of ads was meant to demonstrate how showers are “where guys can unwind, recharge, and reconnect with their true selves to foster original and creative ideas.”
While it’s certainly striking that the Axe ads are called “Shower thoughts” and use one of the subreddit’s most popular posts word-for-word, it’s worth noting that shower thoughts are by their very nature the sort of thing the Internet has passed around among itself for years. And even in the outrage thread, there’s disagreement among Redditors over whether “Shower thoughts” is worth the vigorous defense. Some have pointed out that there’s no guarantee any of the thoughts posted to the shower thoughts subreddit are themselves original and that “Saturday Night Live’s” old “Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey” bit, and not Reddit, should probably get credit for the genre of funny wisdom that sounds vaguely profound.
Based on a few searches, it appears that the “short” shower thought in question did indeed first appear on Reddit in its current form, on August 30 of last year. But, well, it’s kind of been everywhere since then. The exact phrase, like many of Reddit’s popular posts and images, has been scraped from Reddit and repeated on Twitter by a number of different accounts, like it’s a ghost with unfinished business.
That being said, it is still easy to understand why some of Reddit is furious about shower thoughts becoming an ad campaign, even if it’s used to having its own content re-purposed and redistributed – and often does the same to others. Joke and content stealing has become a serious problem on the Internet, and it’s only made worse when other people make a lot of money off of something that another person posted first.
We have reached out to Axe for comment on the campaign and Reddit’s response.