The Leo Burnett advertising agency, which created the iconic macho Marlboro Man, said a new study it conducted found that half the men in most parts of the world don’t know what is expected of them in society and three-quarters of them think images of men in advertising are out of touch with reality.

Most ads have lumped men into one of two groups — the soft, caring type known as “metrosexuals,” who are comfortable with facial peels and pink shirts, or the stereotypical “retrosexuals,” who remain oafishly addicted to beer and sports.

“As the world is drifting toward a more feminine perspective, many of the social constructs men have taken for granted are undergoing significant shifts or being outright dismantled,” said Tom Bernardin, chairman and chief executive of Leo Burnett Worldwide.

“It’s a confusing time, not just for men, but for marketers as well as they try to target and depict men meaningfully,” he said this week during a presentation in the south of France where the ad industry is gathered for its annual conference.

At last year’s event, the firm told peers in the ad world how to reach out better to women in a well-received presentation entitled “Miss Understood.”

Leo Burnett’s survey of 2,000 men in 13 countries found that 60 percent see themselves as either power seekers who crave professional advancement or family men – termed by Burnett as patriarchs – who believe having children and being a father are the most important things.

The other 40 percent defined themselves more readily in the metrosexual versus retrosexual debate.

When asked which they would prefer, a higher standard of living with them staying home with the kids while the wife worked or a lower standard of living with them working and the wife staying home, 46 percent said they’d prefer to stay home.

Fifteen percent enjoy getting a manicure and 70 percent said they’d rather look good in a business suit than a swim suit.

“Men are far more complex than advertisers give them credit for,” said Linda Kovarik, global planning director for beauty care at Leo Burnett, a unit of French ad group Publicis.

The executives showed a few commercials, including ones for Bud Light beer, Levi’s jeans and Axe body spray, that appeal to the way men are thinking about themselves today. But they said far more needs to be done.

“The last thing we want is to look back in 10 years and find that we have unwittingly created the same cliches that female advertising is riddled with,” Bernardin said.

More here.