See? The Old Spice Social Media Campaign DOES Smell Like A Winner

Not to obsess about Old Spice Man or anything, especially since I know full well he's stopped issuing video responses, but I just knew Wieden + Kennedy's social media strategy of a few weeks ago was going to work.

In fact, I found the whole, somewhat popular, line of thinking that it didn't -- or wouldn't -- move the sales needle so befuddling that I made a few public comments about it last week. It was that, or scratch my head endlessly, which I wasn't up for.

Far as I could tell, Wieden had hit a home run. Just look at the ingredients: tens of millions of YouTube views featuring an already-popular, and outright hilarious, character. Ingenious social media outreach - which included more than 180 video responses - guaranteed to lift awareness. A parity product, locked deeply in the ha-ha advertising wars with Unilever's Axe. (All else being equal, funniest brand wins.) All of that had to make a difference.

And it did -- according to data we should all trust. Nielsen reports that Old Spice sales rose by 107% in the last month. Even if sales had only increased by half of that, the campaign should be considered a success.

So, why the naysaying? Some of you are not going to want to hear this -- but it's crystal clear. You've fallen into the trap of not trusting metrics in new media, as though a YouTube view, which is actually opt-in, is somehow less meaningful than when someone watches a commercial on TV. I can hear it already. Some of you will say that some of the ads' views fell outside the demographic, and that we don't know the number of uniques. Like TV ads are so perfectly targeted that there's no waste? Like an ad that someone wanted to watch is less valuable because ... Why? The advertiser didn't pay YouTube any money? Because decades of traditional TV measurement have inured too many of us to the fact that it's deeply flawed? Or, because if clients stopped buying lots of TV time, agency holding companies would lose a big part of their compensation model?

But the problem I'm getting at isn't just about YouTube. This kind of distrust tends to leak into other things as well. Does the massive online awareness of the campaign -- even for those who never actually participated in it -- count for nothing? You mean tweets are completely meaningless? Of course they aren't.

This distrust of nontraditional media isn't limited to social. I shake my head when media buyers get leery about buying things like Hulu (pricing aside) because they can't equate it to traditional TV metrics. Last time I noticed, the Hulu audience was pretty damn captive. It has to sit there, watching the commercial, before it can get to the content it requested. Ditto banner ads. They usually don't represent advertising creative in its highest form, but if you think their value lies solely in the click-through, you've never been exposed to advertising at all. Some part of the message usually seeps in, particularly after repeated exposure. Speaking of which, the Old Spice social media effort leant itself to multiple views. You got a problem with that? Then you've never seen a big-budget TV campaign, where frequency is part of the plan.

I'm lucky. I don't have to convince recalcitrant clients to spend their money in ways they might consider unorthodox. But I'd urge those of you in that business to question yourself, and your clients, the next time either of you start to poke holes in the validity of digital media metrics. You might realize that digital -- and social media -- metrics mean more than you think and that traditional metrics mean less.

Now, wasn't that an obnoxious rant? At least now I feel better.

13 comments about "See? The Old Spice Social Media Campaign DOES Smell Like A Winner ".
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  1. Tom Turnbull from OpenSesame, July 28, 2010 at 5:04 p.m.

    Count me among the surprised. However, not for the reasons that you list. My skepticism was around the creative. The commercials and character are absolutely hilarious. I simply didn't get the linkage between the humor and actually wanting to purchase the product. My response was to laugh but not to buy. Clearly, I was very wrong. The campaign was a home run.

    Now I'm wondering whether this approach can be replicated. Was the campaign a new model or a one time novelty?

  2. Lisa Foote from MixMobi, July 28, 2010 at 5:09 p.m.

    Catharine - Another insightful, candid column. I, too, was puzzled by the "nyah nyah" reaction. The most intelligent comment I read was that the campaign was very clearly directed at (and reached) the consumers who actually buy the product: women buying for their guy! Put that lens on the campaign and it looks even more ingenious.

  3. Kirsten Osolind from RE:INVENTION, July 28, 2010 at 5:34 p.m.

    Hi Catherine:

    The problem is confounding variables. Most marketing gurus now know that Old Spice dropped high value (and even free) coupons during the social media campaign. Coupons move product. It will be interesting to see how much of Old Spice's gain evaporates when coupon redemptions come off the company's top line. Moreover, coupon users tend to "stock up" and are more likely to switch brands based on price during their next category purchase so sustaining the sales lift is gonna be tough. Brand loyalty is particularly weak in men's toiletry and personal care purchases.

    Kirsten Osolind
    RE:INVENTION, inc.

  4. Kirsten Osolind from RE:INVENTION, July 28, 2010 at 5:37 p.m.

    P.S. Apologies for my typo in your name. Catharine.

  5. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, July 28, 2010 at 5:48 p.m.

    Interesting campaign. I wondered about the beefcake objectification of Mr. Mustafa. Had this campaign featured a woman with an attractive body would many viewers have been offended? I'm guessing there'd be a bunch of body-image research articles and another Dove campaign.

  6. Holly Hamann from TapInfluence, July 28, 2010 at 7:43 p.m.

    Catharine - excellent post! I have been marketing in the online space for years and am constantly surprised at the criticism viral marketing gets for supposedly not being measurable or the argument that "funny" doesn't translate to more customers. Like expensive, full-page bleed ads in magazines were really measurable? Old Spice hit this one out of the park but, like any risky brand move, know one really knew how the story was going to end. They just turned out to be right. Love the rant.

  7. Donna DeClemente from DDC Marketing Group, July 28, 2010 at 10:41 p.m.

    The fact that Old Spice had a great video campaign that went viral together with promotional coupons shouldn't take away from the campaign. It's all about integrated marketing. Offering relevant incentives to consumers together with a medium to get the message out is what it's all about.

  8. Gayatri Bhalla from Greenfield Belser, July 29, 2010 at 10:03 a.m.

    Alleluia! Well put.
    I especially agree that digital suffers too greatly from the sting of frequency whereas broadcast/print to do. Given the increase portion of digital day-part, doesn't it also stand to reason that digital recall is increasing as well?
    The way we consume information and process visual stimuli is shrinking - we process faster as a result of being exposed to more digital stimuli (even us dinosaur Gen Xers, nevermind the Millenials).
    Keep on ranting - it's only obnoxious when no one else agrees.

  9. Cathy Taylor from MediaPost, July 29, 2010 at 10:05 a.m.

    Thanks for the comments all. A couple of additional points:

    1) I knew the coupon drop was going to come up in the comments and almost included a mention of it in the column. Did it help sales? Yeah. Does it usually help sales with other high-profile campaigns? Yeah. But, the coupons, although a significant part of this, couldn't produce a 107 percent gain. Without the campaign's awareness and likeability, the coupons would have just been other coupons. You can ask the question of whether things will change once the media blitz and coupon drop is over of any campaign. What I don't like to see -- I'm not saying that necessarily applies to the comment above -- is people singling out campaigns like this as though those factors don't play a role in other campaigns. Of course they do.

    2) On the comment about whether being funny translates into sales, I think, though not universal, consumers reward humor, particularly in parity categories. they certainly do with brands like Bud Light. You made me laugh? I'll buy your product. This is especially true since so few brands can be truly funny, as opposed to TV commercial funny.


  10. Kirsten Osolind from RE:INVENTION, July 29, 2010 at 12:39 p.m.

    Has P&G assessed actual campaign ROI? When you factor in the COST of Weiden and Kennedy's initial Superbowl spot (which is part of this campaign -- and necessary -- since it introduced the Old Spice Guy character and launched the "viral sensation"), production of 184 videos, staff to manage and monitor the social media (including personal Youtube thank you notes)....AND the cost of coupon redemption....


    As someone who started my career with P&G, I'm dubious. I can't fathom how this campaign turned a profit. And it simply can't be heralded as a clear cut case study of brand social media ROI.

  11. Gayatri Bhalla from Greenfield Belser, July 30, 2010 at 3:38 p.m.

    The task at hand is to overcome the tsunami of digital and social skepticism, but the sheer volume of metrics simply isn’t enough (in fact, Google Analytics is avoided by most marketers for being too dense)—it also requires a shift in mindset. Marketers need to be open to digital metrics, willing to track and read the data and, at the very least, pilot campaigns in new channels. I expanded upon this discussion in our blog (

  12. Cathy Taylor from MediaPost, July 30, 2010 at 4:27 p.m.

    Interesting point Kirsten. Here's my counter: that Old Spice would have had to spends tens of millions of dollars in traditional media, plus production to get the same exposure for the social media aspect of the campaign using traditional media.

    Instead, it basically used a small dose of TV and a lot of production to get the same effect. however, the production wasn't all that expensive despite its quantity. They basically hired writers (who are already on staff anyway), production team, and actor for three days. Much of it was shot in one take. I'm sure that cost was much cheaper than doing one big budget shoot and then spending millions upon millions in media money.


  13. Harold Sy from Riptown, August 3, 2010 at 8:30 p.m.

    Hi Catharine,

    This is definitely a great post but like the above mentioned posts, I'm not too sure how much credit could be given to the SMC. From my perspective, the SMC seems at best, a mere tool to expand the previous marketing dollars they spent as well as a cheaper alternative to frequency and follow-ups?

    There seems to be too many variables to directly relate the SMC endeavor to the mentioned 107 percent growth. And to be honest, how do you dissect this campaign as well as attribute, which percentage of growth was actually caused by the SMC?

    Prior marketers have often argued against PPC models. They often argue that when a user clicks on a banner or link of let's say a Product, the act of clicking on that ad cannot be directly and completely attributed to the existence of the ad, but rather, it is only a percentage of the whole branding and product.

    The campaign is definitely a success, but how much could be attributed to the SMC is definitely the biggest question.

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