“Incontinence products for men – trust me, they are going to be the next big thing in advertising,” opines top ad executive William De Ponce. “It’s the wet sell.  We’re already preparing a campaign for rubber incontinence pants for those post binge-drinking mornings, when your bladder just won’t stop discharging itself – I know a lot of people think you can’t make that sort of thing glamourous or desirable, but who would have thought that women’s incontinence products would become seen as essential lifestyle items so quickly, on the back of TV advertising campaigns?” Indeed, De Ponce believes that the latter campaigns have been ground-breaking, promoting products and ideas until recently treated as taboo and bringing them into the mainstream of commerce. “It was just something nobody ever talked about – to the extent that most men now believe that the nation’s women are in the grip of an outbreak of incontinence,” says the advertising man. “They are wetting themselves left, right and centre if we’re to believe these advertising campaigns. It’s an epidemic.” But the promotion of female incontinence products has been too successful for its own good, with the market saturated. “The problem is that just about every niche is now covered, from pads to panties,” muses De Ponce. “They are at maximum sales, so the manufacturers of this stuff need to find a new market to expand into – hence male incontinence products.”

According to De Ponce, this simply represents the natural sales cycle of the market – as one sector becomes exhausted, new territory has to be opened up. “Let’s not forget that, like female incontinence, until relatively recently the menstrual cycle was taboo in media terms,” he explains. “If you were male, sanitary towels were the stuff of mythology – women apparently didn’t have periods in TV ad land. But there was a perceived need for new product lines topromote, so we started seeing all those tampon ads in prime time. But, having exhausted the possibilities for advertising every regular type of female hygiene products, the marketers decided that a new needhad to be identified – female incontinence – and a whole range of new products, from pads to incontinence pants, are now being aggressively pushed in TV adverts. So now, not only do they have periods, but they regularly piss themselves.” De Ponce admits that selling male incontinence products will be an uphill struggle. “The trouble, of course, is that the causes of male incontinence are nowhere near as worthy as that of most female incontinence: motherhood,” he concedes. “Most blokes piss themselves as a result of alcohol abuse. And we’re not just talking about a bit of ‘leakage’ when laughing or sneezing. Instead it is usually full on pissing yourself before you can get to the bathroom, or wetting the bed after drinking ten pints.”

The task of making men’s incontinence marketable has fallen to top advertising creative Theo Thwackitt. “The secret is to focus less on the actual mechanics and detailed effects of the affliction in question, but rather how our product sets you free from this inconvenience and unpleasantness,” he says. “We need to take our cue from the current female incontinence products ads – especially the ones for incontinence underwear, which are squarely aimed at making women believe they can still be attractive to the opposite sex, despite suffering from incontinence. I’m particularly thinking about the one with the young mother getting dressed and musing about the changes brought by motherhood. The whole thing is clearly an excuse for the advertisers to show us an attractive young woman in her underwear, pointing out that her most specifically breasts are bigger as the result of being a mother, with the incontinence added almost as an afterthought.” Thwackitt is planning a campaign along similar lines for men’s incontinence pants. “On the face of it, what are essentially rubber pants, don’t seem like something to make you feel attractive,” he admits. “But, like their women’s equivalent, we’re styling them like normal underwear – our aim is to have a set of incontinence speedos ready for our launch campaign. We want to send a clear message, to women as much as men, that incontinence doesn’t stop you from being sexually desirable: ‘don’t worry if your other half pisses themselves – they are still sexy’.”

With men, however, the incontinence often isn’t confined to wetting oneself – there’s also the risk of ‘following through’ when breaking wind after drinking especially gassy beer, (particularly if it was followed with kebabs or Indian cuisine). “There’s no doubt that this aspect is going to be a harder sell,” ponders Thwackitt. “It’s not like you can offer something like women’s incontinence pads – something thin and discreet that can absorb all the unpleasantness so that you can just get on with your life. We’re a long way from offering some kind of boxer shorts that turn the crap into gel when you shit yourself. Right now, about the best we can offer are effectively adult nappies which promise that they’ll contain the crap sufficiently that you won’t be embarrassed by unpleasant odours, shit trickling down your legs and that will protect your furniture from staining.”

Thwackitt admits that his interest in male incontinence solutions stretch back to his childhood. “My father was a medical sales rep and we always had those catalogues full of dodgy looking medical equipment around the house,” he recalls. “My favourite amongst this equipment were the ‘discreet’ incontinence aids which consisted of two plastic bags, one strapped to each leg, which were attached to the sufferer’s penis with a catheter. I always thought that you could look really hard and impressive by wearing such a contraption to the pub – you could down pint after pint without having to go for a piss.” His interest in the device was rekindled when he became old enough to drink in pubs. “I really wanted to be taken seriously as a drinker, but my bladder just wasn’t up to it. There’s no doubt that, when drinking, there’s a threshold a man’s bladder reaches in terms of pints, after which the floodgates open,” he says. “Unfortunately, my bladder’s threshold stood at two pints. Then I remembered that device and, through my father, obtained one.” The transformation in the young Thwackitt’s drinking prowess was spectacular. “The first time I wore it to the pub the other drinkers ended up thinking that I must have a bladder of iron – I was at that bar for five solid hours without a toilet break,” he chuckles. “Of course, it was a bit awkward walking home with all that piss sloshing around in those bags strapped to my legs – they felt like lead. But it was worth it for the boost to my self respect!” Thwackitt believes that this profound experience resulted in him taking on the task of marketing men’s incontinence products: “It made me realise how important it is for men to feel they can control their bodily excretions in order to live normal lives.”