Five Things The Old Spice Man Means For Advertising

If you are reading this, you are likely in the advertising industry, and if you are in the advertising industry you have undoubtedly heard all about the phenomenon that is "The Old Spice Man." When Old Spice, W+K et al, made the decision to produce extremely rapid custom content based on the popular character, they changed the very way we will look at advertising going forward. The big question for everyone is: What does it all mean? Here are a couple of thoughts.

1.     Creative and production matter (still)! It seems that the death of high-quality content in the advertising world has been greatly exaggerated. With the Old Spice Man, we saw that a great creative concept and high quality production work can still trump most challenges facing advertising.

2.     Buying media to build an audience. Stories have a funny way of rewriting themselves. What people in the advertising industry will remember tomorrow, and what they are already talking about, is how Old Spice was able to get so much "free" media through YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. However, what is left out of this scenario is the millions of dollars in television and digital media that Old Spice used to build an audience for a genius creative campaign. It was this equity with their consumers that allowed the short-form content to be such a success.



3.     Rethinking content production. While the entire campaign was brilliant, the most innovative part was the execution of a series of short but extremely high-quality responses from the Old Spice Man to questions in social media. Building in a plan for the production and distribution of additional, audience-engaging, high-quality content is not an easy task. While it can be highly impactful, there are a number of factors to consider (we'll get to that).

4.     An idealized version of The Old Spice Man will (unfortunately) be the new standard in digital (RIP Crispin Porter's Subservient Chicken). It is the brilliance of the work and the fact that it was so innovative that make it nearly impossible to replicate.

A lot of things came together for The Old Spice Man to make it such a great success. First, it was first. If tomorrow there was another character addressing digital fans, it would be hard-pressed to get the same reaction from people. Along with average fans, Old Spice Man addressed a number of very influential social media types, and these people in turn promoted the Old Spice video to their millions of friends, fans and followers. There is obviously a limit to how many times a brand could reuse this tactic.

Second, the character was so well put together and so well executed, that he stood on his own (reminder: AFTER an audience was built using paid media vehicles). This is, of course, very rare. Not every campaign that is remotely funny will meet the high bar set by The Old Spice Man -- but that doesn't mean it's a bad campaign, it just means it needs more distribution support.

5.    OK, I only had four, but five sounded like a better number for a list. What else do you take away from the Old Spice Man phenomenon? Leave a comment and drop me a line on Twitter, and we will pick a fifth lesson. I might even generate a personal response wearing a towel in a YouTube video... actually, that's probably not the best idea for me or you.

11 comments about "Five Things The Old Spice Man Means For Advertising".
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  1. len stein, July 20, 2010 at 11:47 a.m.

    WOW- quality TV production still engages, then goes viral, then a few QAs... please show me the ROI for what was/is "my father's brand. Did the OS "guy" engage the AXE-generation? That's the real deal.
    And who's to say if "Wasssup?" had been launched in the viral age?

  2. Marilyn Casey from MC Public Relations, July 20, 2010 at 11:49 a.m.

    ...and we're still talking about it, dissecting it, and being engaged by it. Thanks, Joe. And I think your discussion -- online -- with you draped only in a towel -- is a great idea!

  3. Jon-Mikel Bailey from Wood Street, Inc., July 20, 2010 at 12:13 p.m.

    I love it, all except for the threat in number 5! This just reminds me of how companies miss the point of social media and even open source. It goes back to the days when people thought all they needed was a web site and it would make them rich. All this takes time and money and planning. Thanks for breaking it down so nicely here.

  4. Jim Jinks from mediabids, July 20, 2010 at 12:42 p.m.

    Thanks for the balanced view...and especially for the shout out to the media department. (We tend to get overlooked when things go right.) The Old Spice Man points to what it takes to get 'talked about' these days -- and due to fragmentation and technology -- what it takes to really make advertising 'work.' Our jobs are infinitely more difficult, challenging and important than just a few years ago. It's a great time to be in this business.

  5. Randy Campbell from Santa Barbara Independent, July 20, 2010 at 1:14 p.m.

    A very similar campaign, but not as virally popular, is the arch-everydude "Keith Stone" for Keystone beer. Irony within irony, funny, and a nice execution for the brand, and yet...

    Nothing lacking in the Keystone presentation, I think it just further underscores the lightening-in-a-bottle created by the Old Spice team.

  6. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, July 20, 2010 at 1:26 p.m.

    And a speecy, spicey meatball to you ! ;)

  7. Rick Lavoie from RUCKUS, July 20, 2010 at 2:05 p.m.

    I'm sorry. I may be missing something but this campaign is not "brilliant" or a "great creative concept".

  8. Tracy Morris from Tracy Morris, July 20, 2010 at 2:09 p.m.

    The towel, Joe. We want the towel.

  9. Eric Steckel from Turnpike Digital, July 20, 2010 at 7:52 p.m.

    I think Dos Equis could leverage the "Most Interesting Man in the World" in a similar way. Of course, their man has much different a twist, which might separate them from obvious comparisons. The campaign is, to me, very clever and tongue in cheek.

    That said, Joe, you're probably right that any act that follows Old Spice Man would, at best, be measured against an ideal and at worst be a pale imitation.

  10. Katia Shirikian from POPAI Arabia, July 21, 2010 at 2:43 a.m.

    Hi - I agree. it's the after social media "math" that made the added value to the ad. Digital or not, towel or not, it's what became of that commercial . I wonder how much of it was intentional ??!!

  11. Sandy Miller from Success Communications, July 21, 2010 at 2:47 p.m.

    I love the campaign from a creative/agency perspective. The only thing that suprises me is that from what I"m reading it's extremely popular but sales of Old Spice still aren't going great.

    I hope that changes.

    So based on that it makes it tough to "sell" these concepts to clients when their bottom line is how much product did it move.

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