Boyz To Men: Old Spice Presents Bar Mitzvah In A Bottle

by , Jan 8, 2014, 12:51 PM
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The singing mom who opens this (new) Old Spice commercial is so grotesquely invasive and overbearing that she spies on her adolescent son from behind his bedroom door and then drags herself behind his car, grabbing his rear bumper, riding the highway atop her plastic laundry basket like a deranged witch.

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.

25 comments on "Boyz To Men: Old Spice Presents Bar Mitzvah In A Bottle ".

  1. Walter Graff from Bluesky Media
    commented on: January 8, 2014 at 1:09 p.m.
    This is a classic problem with today's advertizing. They measure results on how many hits on YouTube they get. And in this politically correct world, when you step out of the lines you get noticed. Getting noticed and remembering are two different things. Like many of the Superbowl spots, most people can tell you what the funny commercial was, but can't tell you what they were selling. Ask most people from the Millennial generation what Old Spice is and they won't exactly know. Most advertizing is a failure. Even ones that get a million hits. Advertizing hasn't changed much except the younger kids think technology will change things. It doesn't.
  2. Jonathan Hutter from Garrand
    commented on: January 8, 2014 at 1:15 p.m.
    As in yours, we watched in stunned silence. Then, I felt the need to take a shower (not to use Old Spice, but to feel clean again). The only reaction I got was creepiness. As in, "Even if it is my son, if I wasn't so frumpy, I'd hit on that." Thinking of it again just makes me feel...ew.
  3. dave alpert from pmd
    commented on: January 8, 2014 at 1:29 p.m.
    Barbara - not sure I agree with your take on this spot. Although it definitely catches ones attention, I don't know if teen males are going to react positively to the grotesque moms featured. I wonder if their presence will undercut the sexuality of the spot? I DO agree with your take on the tag line. Smellcome? Not sure they're gonna be selling alot of after shave with this.
  4. dave alpert from pmd
    commented on: January 8, 2014 at 1:32 p.m.
    One more thing. As per Jonathan Hutter above. The lyrics of the song - coupled with the competing images of the "hot" teens and the "frumoy" moms, was a little bit much - the mom describing her son "touching" the girls etc? It made me more than a little uncomfortable. Then again, I am not a teen male and haven't been in about XX years - so what do I know?
  5. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com
    commented on: January 8, 2014 at 1:43 p.m.
    I shocked myself by finding it funny. The previous spots, with Terry Crews, were definitely aimed at women, but everyone liked them. I understand what Walter Graff is saying. This one is far more polarizing (not in the vortex sense.), but I do think that it's a way to get the spray version on the map. We'll see. Btw, even with the huge success of Terry Crews, competitors were saying that Old Spice wasn't selling well without deep discounting and coupons.
  6. L John Baker from Baker Media
    commented on: January 8, 2014 at 2:25 p.m.
    Whew ! Thought you would hate this campaign ! I love it, though I do wonder how persuasive it is to teen boys who cringe at every word that comes out of their parent's mouths. Perhaps it's simply about getting them to identify with the moment and engage in the wackiness. Truly original work.
  7. seth fried from DDB-NY
    commented on: January 8, 2014 at 2:25 p.m.
    I think this is quite a smart positioning for this. the spots are funny and bizarre so they of course will appeal to teens. Having your Mom upset and worried because your hormones are screaming "gimme gimme" definitely speaks to them. It essentially says getting laid is a rite that turns boys into men. At least in Queens it did. Funny stuff, entertaining and I think very insightful strategically.
  8. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited
    commented on: January 8, 2014 at 2:27 p.m.
    Speecy spicy meat balls and I can't believe I ate the whole thing didn't sell Alka Seltzer, but they won lots of awards. I saw this spot and I don't want to see it again or I would need Alka Seltzer. Wouldn't that follow up be a kicker ?
  9. Rob Frydlewicz from RAF Consulting
    commented on: January 8, 2014 at 2:34 p.m.
    "Sprays a man on my son"? Now that's gotta be one of the most homoercotic phrases I've heard in a while in a mainstream commercial. Exactly what kind of man is being sprayed on the son? It sort of suggests an adult/teen liaison. Perhaps a future execution will show mom getting the surprise of her life! This is ripe for an SNL parody. And what a hoot that it's airing during football games (a la the infamous Snickers "kiss" ad that aired during the Super Bowl a few years ago).
  10. Walter Graff from Bluesky Media
    commented on: January 8, 2014 at 2:40 p.m.
    You said it Paula. Advertizing is narcissism far more than it is selling a product. This will win awards and garnish what the agency wants, more work, but in reality if the client started to ask if they could show the ad is increasing sales, the ad agency would be out of business. Comedy is cute but it turns your product into a caricature and folks will look at it in the store and say, "that's the Old Spice stuff in that ad". That's about it.
  11. Ruth Thomas from Second helping
    commented on: January 8, 2014 at 3:04 p.m.
    We had a split decision on this ad....I was laughing out loud while my husband thought it was creepy. Will it be remembered? I think so...will it sell product?...I don't think the young men who the actual product is geared to would like the association. Then again, what do I know? I am sitting in my housecoat and sending this on AOL.
  12. Tom Scharre from The Hunch Fund
    commented on: January 8, 2014 at 3:12 p.m.
    I hope this sells a boatload (yes, that was deliberate) of Old Spice. Because that would suggest that adolescent boys can appreciate an absurdly sophisticated mashup of musical theatre, helicopter-mom caricature & an idealized fantasy of boy-gets-girl. But I smell trouble. So far, all the buzz seems to be among adults. Adults. Not the Axe-marinated target. Personally, I think these spots a terrific. But I am old enough to have been a loyal Old Spice user back when it came in a heavy glass bottle with a stopper. Still, anyone who can sell something this odd to P&G has my respect and admiration.
  13. Tom Scharre from The Hunch Fund
    commented on: January 8, 2014 at 3:16 p.m.
    *are terrific*
  14. Suzanne Sease from Suzanne Sease Productions, Inc
    commented on: January 8, 2014 at 3:27 p.m.
    I used to work at one of the most creative ad agencies and some of the most creative people. I side with Barbara- I laughed hysterically. Maybe because she and I are mothers of boys, that we thought it was so brilliantly creepy. And maybe because I live in the suburbs, I find it even funnier with the 1970's style moms. Or maybe it is because of the over powering cologne he sprays on himself when going out. He is in high school. It's funny, it's advertising- don't take it too seriously!
  15. dave alpert from pmd
    commented on: January 8, 2014 at 4:14 p.m.
    I didn't even realize these spots were launching a spray version. Not a good sign.
  16. Patrick Scullin from Ames Scullin O'Haire, inc.
    commented on: January 8, 2014 at 4:57 p.m.
    Smells like teen spirit and a huge marketing success. Brilliant to prey on mom's sweating as they see their precious little boys becoming irresistible sexual creatures. What more could little boys want?
  17. Paul Van winkle from FUNCTION
    commented on: January 8, 2014 at 7:02 p.m.
    It's a funny thing when a primary objective of new campaigns is deemed to be (even by ad and media pros) more likes and more hits on YouTube. Have we lost our minds? If the campaign doesn't change perception (that Old Spice isn't your Dad's perfume), change feeling (that perfumes are geeky and stinky), and sell more product....why dive deep into Oedipus-ville? Let's ask P&G how it worked in a year. I can't watch. Maybe my mother caught me masturbating once too often, I dunno.
  18. Walter Graff from Bluesky Media
    commented on: January 8, 2014 at 8:49 p.m.
    We haven't lost our minds. We've just never admitted the truth. Most advertizing doesn't work. Ad agencies are more in the business of perpetuating themselves and their income (the big ones are all now public companies so profit is number one reason for existence). They do this by trying to create ads that become more important than the product they are trying to sell. They would rather win an award than anything else because ad awards must mean you are "good" and that sells you to more customers. PERIOD! Or haven't you worked for large ad agencies and seen first hand what is discussed. Who doesn't remember the little dog that said "Yo quiero Taco Bell". Famous $500 million ad campaign won many awards. It was yanked abruptly when Taco Bell saw it's introduction directly dropped sales by 6%. The results were so bad that the president of Taco Bell, Peter Waller, was swiftly replaced by a former executive for Wendy's. TBWAChiatDay won a lot of awards though. Taco Bell not only lost sales but $42 million in breach-of-contract awards to two Michigan men who created the diminutive mascot, an idea that was then taken to another agency. Who doesn't remember the famous Energizer Bunny. 115 Energizer bunny ads were created over 20 years. The problem? Duracell found that 40% of its customers thought the campaign was promoting Duracell, not Energizer. In fact Durcell's market share grew and Energizer never beat them, famous bunny or not. DDB Chicago won a lot of awards though and got a lot of business. Someone already mentioned the infamous Alka seltzer meatball ad that everyone knows. It did nothing for Alka Seltzer but the ad agency got a lot of business. How about Dove's campaign for real beauty that along with popular print ads, produced a Super Bowl commercial, as well as one of the most-watched ads of ALL TIME!!! The result was a short lived increase in sales that ended quickly and then later in tragedy when it was revealed that the agency (what was Dove's approval) lied. These were manipulated pictures, and actors hired specifically to look like the agency wanted. I could go on an on about one famous ad after another that did NOTHING but did get the agency business and prestige. So talk about all the myths of advertizing and talk about all the amazing campaigns but let's be honest, there is a huge difference in a popular campaign and a successful campaign. Most popular campaigns are very unsuccessful... that is unless you are the agency that is more concerned with winning awards and their business than actually selling your product which unfortunately is the case for advertizing these days.
  19. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com
    commented on: January 9, 2014 at 3:52 p.m.
    @Walter-- so what kind of advertising (my autocorrect won't let me put the "z" in!) works? The kind that's not memorable, and that people don't want to see? Implicit in this, then, for me at least, is that no advertising works.
  20. Walter Graff from Bluesky Media
    commented on: January 9, 2014 at 4:37 p.m.
    "Advertizing" is an acceptable way to spell it and is listed as so in most all dictionaries. What kind of advertizing works? Plenty. I've worked on some very effective spots and some real stinkers. My point was that it's often not the kind that most people think as my examples and countless others show. Somehow people think a million hits on YouTube or a "talked-about" Superbowl ad is successful. Perhaps, but for who - the client or the agency? Most of the time, it's only the agency that benefits. During last years Superbowl the highest-rated commercial, according to data from the Kantar Media division of WPP, was not from a marketer but rather from CBS, the network that broadcast the game. A promo for a CBS show called "Person of Interest" beat all other spots. So much for all the "great" commercials. And while I doubt anyone remembers any of last years Superbowl spots, the highest-rated commercial from a marketer was for Samsung Mobile, which ran just before the “Person of Interest” promotion, at 10:29 p.m. Yes, timing is everything. So much for all the funny ads. In fact research and polling shows over and over that funny ads do least for a brand. For instance, after the 2012 Superbowl Ace Metrix did extensive research into the effectiveness of "funny" commercials during the past two Superbowl's, measuring sales, persuasion, influence, etc. The results? Funny commercials were less likely to increase desire or intent to purchase than commercials that played it straight. In other words, funny ads are useful for entertaining viewers, but are not the most effective way for advertisers to convince those viewers to buy the product or service. So much for the buzz about this Old Spice spot. Cute... Already forgotten. What ads do best based on my experience making ads and selling products and ideas? Ones that make an emotional connection. PERIOD! Empathy goes a long way towards a person liking your product and wanting to buy it than a clown spinning plates. A clown can spin plates but unless you have some sort of emotional connection to him, or his circumstance, you'll soon forget him and probably never know what he's selling. Here is a list of Ace Metrix best ads of 2013. Probably none that really fit the illusion of funny is best, or incredibly "creative", or outstanding. Yes, the Geico Hump day spot is in there and for good reason - you can relate to that camel. Emotional connections always work in advertizing, not just funny. http://www.acemetrix.com/news/blog/adweek-list/ And here is what I find to be a great article on successful logistics towards making good advertizing: http://www.decisionanalyst.com/publ_art/adeffectiveness.dai
  21. Alan Schulman from SapientNitro
    commented on: January 9, 2014 at 6:42 p.m.
    I laughed harder and was way more entertained by Barbara's writing and this review than the spot itself - which is usually the case. Keep em coming Barbara @blipp
  22. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER
    commented on: January 9, 2014 at 8:50 p.m.
    is bluesky media pronounce bloo-skigh or bloo-skee?
  23. Walter Graff from Bluesky Media
    commented on: January 9, 2014 at 8:58 p.m.
    @ Tom - All depends I on where in the world you where brought up I guess but thanks for asking.
  24. Jim English from FJC
    commented on: January 11, 2014 at 12:45 a.m.
    Couldn't help thinking of Campbell's Chunky Soup "Mama's Boy" campaign. Those spots made me laugh. We need more lighthearted moms pitching packaged goods.
  25. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER
    commented on: January 13, 2014 at 9:22 a.m.
    Holy water?

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