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Old Spice "Man": Short-Term Laughs, Long-Term Pain?

Posted by Abe Sauer on July 8, 2010 12:30 PM

By now, most have seen at least one of the ads in Old Spice's hilarious Cannes Lions Grand Prix-winning "Smell like a man, man" campaign. No? Well, above and after the jump are several of the best. Watch them, laugh, and then ponder the question, "Is this good for the brand in the long term?"

These ads have been huge viral hits, as well as receiving numerous industry accolades. Besides the Cannes honor, the "Man Your Man Could Smell Like" Super Bowl 2010 spot was named commercial of the year by the Association of Independent Commercial Producers. Today the spot was nominated for a 2010 primetime Emmy award. So Old Spice will certainly move more product and a short-term boost in sales is certainly nothing to be ashamed of.

However, in the long term, is Isaiah Mustafa, the ad's star whose exposure has landed him a production deal with NBC, the only real beneficiary? Worse yet, is Old Spice, by laughing at itself, hurting its brand? Is Old Spice making the age-old advertising mistake of confusing making consumers laugh at your brand with engaging consumers with your brand?

Years ago, during Old Spice's heyday, the brand was more Sean Connery than Jim Carrey. The brand's messaging was sincere, moody and engaging (below).

Would Old Spice be better served by leveraging its legacy to gain respect? The demand for brand authenticity is increasing, and Old Spice seems perfectly positioned to exploit its heritage to the brand's advantage.

For inspiration, the brand could look to the exploding popularity of the Sailor Jerry brand or the intriguing recent campaign (below) from Canadian Club simply titled "Damn Right Your Dad Drank It." [Editor's note: Share your thoughts on Abe's column in our debate forum; we're inviting Old Spice and its agency, W+K, to weigh in too.]

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Belinda Lightfoot Australia says:

I think you have missed the point.  These ads have shot the Old Spice brand from the edge of obscurity back onto the world stage.  They are brilliant and clever making Old Spice not a brand to be laughed at but one to be admired.  The fact that they are aimed at women (and not men) is even more clever. Considering the rush of misogynistic male toiletry ads around, these are a breath of (...err) fresh air. Sexy Isaiah is gorgeous to look at and can obviously act and he definitely makes us laugh 'with' him not 'at' the brand. As you state, "They have been a huge world-wide hit, winning numerous awards...". That's not something to be laughed at, unless it's all the way to the bank.

July 9, 2010 02:01 AM #

A Sauer United States says:

I don't doubt for a second these ads are popular nor that they will probably sell some Old Spice for a little while. While the ads are technically addressing women, since I have mostly seen them on TV channels such as Spike and ESPN, I wonder if they are really targeting them, but....

What I do wonder is "what's next?" The ads are certainly hilarious and cut through the clutter but what terrain is Old Spice actually claiming here? What's it's brand position? As Rob points out below, as popular as these are to pass around the internet, it sees a runner up to a real positioning campaign like Axe's.

July 9, 2010 09:14 AM #

Sara Underwood Canada says:

I agree with Brenda. The ads are funny, engaging, very well executed, and appeal to women. And I hate to say it, but even in this day and age, who does most of the household shopping?

July 9, 2010 07:13 AM #

Lakeisha McCoy United States says:

In an age where consumers are inundated with hundreds if not thousands of ads a day, advertisers are faced with the herculean task of cutting through the clutter. The new Old Spice campaign has successfully achieved this with a witty, thoughtful and engaging ad campaign. Many of my friends sent me versions of this ad and posted it on Facebook well before I viewed it officially on TV. The campaign has been quite a conversation piece; which is nothing to laugh at, it's something to take note of. Relating Old Spice as a cologne that a man's father use to use is an outdated approach. Old Spice needed a way to make its brand relevant in this day and age and to a broader consumer base, such as younger men and the women who shop for them. Kudos on a job well done!

July 9, 2010 08:19 AM #

rob earl United States says:

They certainly have resurrected the brand name and gained attention it had lost over the years. And perhaps it has given Old Spice relevance with a new and younger audience. Not at all bad. But I don't think this campaign has had anything like the impact and appeal of the Axe advertising. Old Spice looks like a runner up in the category.

July 9, 2010 08:56 AM #

john blackburn United States says:

It seems that the author would prefer brands attempt to bore people into buying their products.

July 9, 2010 10:22 AM #

A Sauer United States says:

If by "bore" you mean "create a lasting connection" then yes, I would like brands to "bore" consumers.

July 9, 2010 10:56 AM #

Tobias Brandt Sweden says:

Great campaign, all the more memorable for being funny. This misses the point. Humor is a great (proven) way to create and engage brand loyalists.

July 9, 2010 01:50 PM #

raj United States says:

If the recent sales needle is moving at the rate they managed to kick start after the purchase of the brand from an American Cyanamid unit in 1990, with subsequent brand tweaks, the recent creative is merely an added bonus.

July 9, 2010 02:18 PM #

Stephen Denny United States says:

Curious - has this campaign sold more stuff? There's no question it's great theater, but did it get more people to buy it? Or not?

That's the only question worth pondering here from a marketing perspective. From a cultural or theatrical perspective, it's tons of fun. But that's the thing about viral video in general. It may cut through the "ad clutter," but it's there to get people to do something commercial (in the original sense of the word), either right now or fairly soon.

Is there an Old Spice marketer in the house? Hello? Someone give us some facts, please!

July 9, 2010 02:24 PM #

Arne Kittler Germany says:

I think Old Spice had choice but leave their heritage somewhat behind to gain relevance with consumers from younger generations. The question is whether the product itself can actually live up to the taste of younger audiences now that the campaign has brought new attention to the brand.

July 9, 2010 05:41 PM #

Shirley Brady, Editor, Brandchannel United States says:

Hi guys - we're moving this over to our debate forum -- post your thoughts on Abe's piece at http://bit.ly/cgt1EE -- and we will invite Old Spice (and W+K) to weigh in, too.

July 9, 2010 05:46 PM #

Comments are closed

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