Old Spice and Old School

  • Published in Film + Web

Mustafa, my man! You and your pecs are all over all my pixel-producing products.

You and your client, Old Spice, and your agency buddies at Wieden + Kennedy have grasped the online golden ring–created yet another in a long and continuing line of viral videos full of sound and fury that signifies…not nothing, of course, since we’re all talking about it. And for six months every other goddamn product sold to men is going to be accompanied by a magnificently muscled, superbly scented half-naked black man (subtlety is not a hallmark of digital communications) viral video component.

And naturally, given the ingenious nature of the ploy–Mustafa and Wieden holed up in the great Northwest mass-producing custom videos for people–squeals of a marketing revolution echo throughout the blogosphere.

Nothing makes me happier than to see you kids get all tingly about something you think breaks the rules. Except this doesn’t.

The Old Spice campaign is clever, no doubt about it. Well executed. (It’s Wieden, after all.) And tonally spot on (sardonic, ironic and solipsistic, just what the digital doctor ordered). But new?

Um, no.

Here’s the good news and the bad news about the digital ecosystem: you can do more things than you used to in marketing communications, and you have more options every day (the good). But there are such things as communications truisms, and if you don’t have those locked in at the strategic level, no amount of tactical wizardry is going to result in success (the bad).

Don’t let the pixilated pixie dust blind you. The Old Spice campaign is successful–as an awareness and brand-building tool–not because it uses viral videos and interacts with users. Those are just newish tools.

It is successful–as an awareness and brand-building tool–because it is a by-the-book multimedia promotion that honors communications basics in both concept and activation. Take on the ancient marketplace ventures we called sweepstakes and contests.

The proof, as always, is in the profit. You do remember sales, right? The bottom line? The actual reason any company does this stuff? Ad Age ran a story today that found the Old Spice viral effort bumped the sales needle only a tiny bit. But its competitors also saw sales rise in the same period. Why? Not because of any viral video but because all of them recently offered…really good coupons.

Oops. There goes the revolution.

Still, by all means, linger lovingly over that manly chest. Fire up the webcam and post your own dumbass version (you know you want to). Just remember one thing about Old Spice’s viral victory: it was old-school strategy, not new-world wizardry, that made this campaign fly.


Jack Feuer
Advisory Board, FWD:labs


[…] Old Spice and Old SchoolEx-national news editor for ADWEEK and FWD:labs advisory board member, Jack Feuer shows how a lot of buzz pales in comparison to an ol' fashioned coupon […]

10 Best Posts of 2010 - Blog – FWD:labs #

[…] Old Spice effect: brand awareness isn't enough for massive changes in consumer behavior. (See our guest editorial from Jack Feuer on this 2010 […]

What K-Swiss Can Try Because They’re Small, But Does It Sell Shoes? - Blog – FWD:labs #

Got something to add?