Typing Faster

July 20, 2010

Well, Hello Ladies: How the Old Spice Guy Changed Social Media

Filed under: Future of TV, Social Media — petertypingfaster @ 7:00 am

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few weeks, I’m sure you’ve heard about the latest Old Spice ad campaign. Starring a charmingly handsome, shirtless retired NFL wide receiver these ads have literally taken the internet by storm.

In case you have been living under a rock, here’s what I’m talking about:

And then there was this:

If the campaign had ended there it would have been remembered as a cute little diversion, but it didn’t end there. Instead, the folks behind the television spots did some really interesting. They took to the internet, and more specifically social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook, and started crafting video responses to user generated questions in real time.

To say it created quite the stir would be a huge understatement. In fact, a lot of people, including The Toronto Star think that this one ad campaign has forever changed social media.

So why, exactly, is this campaign such a game changer? What makes it so different? In the end this might be the first ad campaign that really taps into the power of social media to bring people together on a personal level. Traditional advertising is static, marketers create a message, launch it out into the world, and hope that consumers will respond. Old Spice cut out the last part, interacting directly with consumers and crafting personalized messages directly to them. The campaign became more like “…live advertising improv…” than a traditional advertising campaign.

How are people in the advertising industry responding to the campaign?

Matt Fiorentino, senior marketing analyst for Visible Measures, calls the campaign “unprecedented.”

“There’s never been a campaign that has answered users’ questions so personally and so quickly,” he says. “It wasn’t just that, it’s the way that they did it. The writing was brilliant. The acting was brilliant.”

Previous ad campaigns have indeed thrived off audience participation. Samsung Omnia, for example, challenged viewers to figure out how they created an optical illusion with a HD 18910 camera, and Tiger Woods actually walked on water after a gamer revealed a glitch that let the Woods avatar take a shot on water in the video game Tiger Woods PGA Tour ’08.

But nothing compares to this new move by Old Spice. “I think we’re going to see a lot of brands trying to figure out how they can take advantage of this new idea…of responding to users in real time,” Fiorentino says.

Mark Federman, a researcher at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, says the campaign’s success boils down to “just a very, very simple idea.”

“We collectively in our society like a good storytelling. We like cleverness. We like unusual humour and we like humour juxtaposed with surreality.”

Federman says the campaign started with a great traditional commercial, but then let social media do precisely what social media does best. “Social media is not about broadcasting a message, it’s about connecting people,” he says.

Rather than trying to further broadcast the messages through social media, Old Spice let people connect person to person, creating a sense of intimacy between the character and his millions of viewers – even for those who didn’t receive a personalized response themselves.

It remains to be seen how much this innovative campaign will boost sales of Old Spice and help the company appeal to a younger demographic, but Bagley is certain his client is “smiling.”

I’m sure Old Spice is smiling too. Just a few years ago Old Spice was on the verge of irrelevance. It seemed out of touch, a product for old white men. But this campaign single-handedly brought it back and made it fresh.

And just how relevant are we talking about here?

In the first 24 hours that the Old Spice Guy responses hit the web, they generated a combined 5.9 million views on YouTube. That’s 1.1 million more views than Barack Obama’s victory speech generated in the same time frame, 1.5 million more views than
the video of George W. Bush dodging shoes, and 2.9 million more views that Susan Boyle’s audition video.

Old Spice Guy, you da man!



  1. This was a brilliant, brilliant campaign! I happened upon it just as it was dying down but man, watching those videos — SO MANY videos!! — was absolutely fantastic.

    I especially love the one he made for his daughter.

    Comment by Brandon Laraby — July 20, 2010 @ 9:41 am

  2. http://newsfeed.time.com/2010/07/20/old-spices-viral-ads-got-attention-not-sales/

    While it won all kinds of acclaim for being a kick ass commercial, didn’t seem to increase sales any. In fact, sales are down.

    Comment by jamesnadiger — July 20, 2010 @ 10:37 pm

  3. “Social media is not about broadcasting a message, it’s about connecting people.” Absolutely true. The question becomes how do small and mid size companies do something similar without the budget of Old Spice. Here is one idea, http://bit.ly/bCxs72.

    Comment by sctoy — July 21, 2010 @ 4:57 am

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