Boyz To Men: Old Spice Presents Bar Mitzvah In A Bottle
Called “Momsong,” this commercial for a new line of body sprays depicts women whose teen sons are just past puberty and starting to date: an uber-awkward time for everyone.
After the introduction of a certain spray -- and, thus, young women into the picture -- moms are shown as such freakish clingers-on to their sonny boys that an immediate call to Child Protective Services would seem to be in order.
With the comically uninviting tag line “Smellcome to Manhood,” this spot positions the Old Spice spray to be a bar mitzvah in a bottle. As the song puts it, the stuff “sprays a man on my son.”
Adding to the frenzied psychological stew, these matrons look less like the groovy young contemporary moms we’re used to seeing in commercials, and more like zombie grandmothers frozen in amber from the 1970s.
Altogether, “Momsong” created by Wieden & Kennedy, raises some misogynistic overtones, I’ll admit. So as a mom of a (now grown) son, why do I love the spot so?
To begin with, it’s so wacky visually that, as the song lyrics go, we didn’t see it coming. Bursting with weird characters and the same kind of unexpected special effects that added to the genius of the Terry Crews spots, this Momsong is a genuine showstopper. When the spot appeared during the NFL playoff game on Sunday, whole rooms just snapped to attention and sat in stunned silence, like a client’s Super Bowl dream. (So far it’s had over 1 million views on You Tube.)
The Madge the Manicurist type on her laundry basket is shocking (really, when was the last time a modern woman wore a housecoat?) And the two-faced Janitor Mom is the stuff of nightmares. But the woman who pops up through the sand like a prairie dog to spy on her son’s date had me laughing out loud.
Then add the cleverness of the writing and the driving beat of the song. Like a Lonely Island video, the story is powered along by various characters crooning different stanzas of the tune: “He was just my little sweetie, tiny fingers, hands and feeties…Now he’s touching kissing feeling all the women because Old Spice!New sprays!Sprayed a man onto my son. Now he smells like a man.”
It works because there’s a kernel of truth to it. We’d like our sweet little sons to be innocent boys (“It goes so fast!”) far longer, but we’d never act out like this. This is the monster version; it’s like seeing your Mom Id on screen.
It’s also a brilliant contrast to the previously popular Axe spots, showing young men hitting on the typical sexist version of young, breast-implanted, bikinied women. That’s actually more threatening.
Plus, the state of motherhood is so fraught with the need for perfection these days that it’s great to see this disaster and laugh.
Of course mothers want to respect boundaries and their kids’ bodily integrity. But anyone who has had a teen boy tends to be thrilled when the kid starts taking an interest in hygiene. It’s debatable whether a spritz or two of Old Spice actually improves that smell situation, but it’s still better than the boy in question simmering in his own aromatic broth.
In the end, the Total Drudge Mom shown in this spot seems to come from the Ice Age -- or perhaps the original Old Spice era. That she now seems such a distant object of horror and laughter is progress.