Are We Entering Social Advertising's Creative Golden Age?

Quick. Name a memorable social media campaign -- besides Old Spice Man.

Stumped? I'm not surprised. Because, as with so many other things in advertising, there aren't that many memorable social campaigns. But, getting back to Old Spice Man, that just-concluded phenomenon is an example of the fact that social advertising creative is getting better, a lot better, and that it has the ability to be far more memorable than much creative that has gone before. Why? Because the best of it engages not only you but your friends, especially when it mixes content deftly with the social graph.

That thought occurred to me this morning when I read on Mashable about another intriguing social marketing app, for Discovery Channel's upcoming series "The Colony" that debuts next week, and simulates -- yikes! -- a global pandemic. The app, put together by Campfire New York, simulates how your Facebook universe might respond if a deadly virus were spreading throughout the world. If you install it, it starts to attribute status updates like those below to your Facebook friends, even incorporating details like what's going on with the spread of the disease where they live in the real world and their profile pictures. (As they didn't actually say this stuff, I haven't included their names):


"Is anyone else following this 'voluntary quarantine' stuff the government is talking about? Doesn't seem bad at all here in New York. I need to go out for beer at some point."


"I'm right there with you..."

"There's no wiggle room in our budget, and my beloved is currently at home due to possible exposure at work. I might be exposed too, but someone's gotta bring home the bacon."

"Dude. STAY HOME. Don't be part of the problem. You might be putting other people at risk!!!"


In other words, an app like this brings the point of the show home in a way that no number of over-the-air promos can. What's encouraging about a marketing effort like this -- and about Old Spice Man -- is that they are ideas that only reach full flower when they are executed within social media. Are they viral, literally (in "The Colony"'s case) and figuratively? Yes. But that's not exactly the point.

Old Spice could have gone social simply by continuing to unleash more videos onto YouTube; the Super Bowl spot "The Guy Your Guy Could Smell Like" is up to 15 million views. Instead, last week the brand and Wieden + Kennedy went way, way outside the box by using a variety of social platforms to get the campaign out there. More important, the campaign's astonishing number of video responses (clocked at about 180) made the effort much more of a back-and-forth. (True, most of us were simply not worthy of a video response, but I suppose, in our celebrity-saturated culture, it's something to aspire to.)

Discovery could've have taken the road more traveled by building a generic, fictitious social site around "The Colony." Instead, it plays off of each user's social graph in a much more engaging way to promote the series.

Contrast these campaigns to old-style social efforts, whose main objective seemed to be getting pass-along viewers. More recent efforts make something like Never Hide Films' "Sunglass Catch" for Ray Bans -- dating all the way back to 2007 -- look almost quaint. Today, it's about entwining campaigns much more deeply into the social graph.

I should close by mentioning that I'm not disagreeing with myself here. In another forum, I wrote yesterday that Old Spice Man doesn't pose a threat to traditional media because a campaign/stunt like that requires special talents and resources that most of us don't have. It's not as though every company is going to be able to execute a campaign solely through social channels and ignore paid ones. (Besides, as Joe Marchese points out, Old Spice used traditional media to establish the character.)

However, overall, I'd say that social advertising creative is growing much more intuitive about how to use this medium wisely, and that's something that -- I hope -- is a talent that can be shared throughout the industry.

7 comments about "Are We Entering Social Advertising's Creative Golden Age?".
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  1. len stein, July 21, 2010 at 4:07 p.m.

    why all the hype about "OLD" (as in grandpa's brand) Spice Man?

    what is the purpose of Advertising in all of its forms?
    is it Awareness? is it Engagement? How about sparking Sales?
    And in the case of OS and the new Man, that ain't happening to a brand that needs a complete rebranding if it is to have any hopes of survival in the Axe age.

  2. Ashley Hedlund, July 21, 2010 at 4:18 p.m.

    Social media is just another form of advertising that marketers leverage to target consumers. For example, location-based advertising (LBA) uses controlled information to target users through social networks and it is having more and more of an effect on consumers. Learn more about The Rise of Location-based Advertising here:

  3. Howie Goldfarb from Blue Star Strategic Marketing, July 21, 2010 at 6:11 p.m.

    I think Old Spice was much more successful in the industry than outside. I also am not sure how much this moved the sales needle. Will be interesting to see how this unfolds. Advertising can not fix a product I have tried but won't ever buy again (sports body wash).

    Doesn't mean it wasn't a very creative campaign.

  4. Cathy Taylor from MediaPost, July 21, 2010 at 9:51 p.m.

    Hi guys,
    Thanks for the comments. Can I admit that I find it really odd that a lot of people -- not just here -- are commenting that they're not sure the campaign moved the sales needle? I know Old Spice Man has been around for awhile but the campaign we're talking about here was last week. When do we ever expect a TV campaign that launched a week ago to have already significantly moved the sales needle? The fact is, unless it's to advertise a short-term sale, we don't. Weird tendency to crap all over social media campaigns while not holding TV campaigns to the same standard.

  5. Michael Quintos from Digital Ad Agency, July 22, 2010 at 9:32 a.m.

    Social Media is not a panacea it is a tool that can be very effective when used with other PR tools (such as TV advertising).

    I've just completed a study on the effects of a social media campaign without using traditional advertising versus the effect after doing a small ad buy; the results were remarkable!

    If you want a copy of the white-paper feel free to email me ( and I will send it to you.

    More about us;

  6. Ric Dragon from DragonSearch, July 22, 2010 at 9:59 p.m.

    We should keep in mind that social media can affect many different parts of the customer funnel. A main part of that funnel that was moved by Old Spice was that of "Awareness" - particularly in the younger demographic. AND - I'd bet, that overall perception needle was probably moved a bit from no opinion to slightly favorable.

    To Howie and Len Stein's comments... good points, but even an old dusty brand can still have life to it. Hush Puppies!

  7. Lisa Thorell from Off the Grid Public Relations, July 22, 2010 at 10:08 p.m.

    Wow, congrats on the best article title in months -- and spot on with your observations to boot.

    Folks interested in the ROI $ should note yesterday PR Week reported Old Spice's Male Body Wash experienced a 107% increase since this ad. FYI -->

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