I’m The Man Max Headroom And Rick Astley Could Smell Like

Old Spice twitter feed

Zach Gottlieb at Wired:

If you’ve been feeling lonely at home or bored at work in the past couple of days, you may have found solace in a recent ad campaign by Old Spice.

First made famous in a Super Bowl ad launched this year, Old Spice Man — the topless, überconfident ladies man selling you a new fragrance from Old Spice on your TV screen — has taken to the interactive world of social media. For the past two days, Old Spice Man has been responding to Tweets, Facebook posts and comments on reddit, Digg and Youtube with short, snappy (and rather funny) video messages.

But this isn’t just your average social media campaign promoting a particular product. It’s cheap, quick and efficient, and even though the campaign is now over, there is sure to be some aftershock. In fact, just last night a group of redditors put together a soundboard of Old Spice Man sayings so that people can have him step in as your voicemail greeting.

The campaign works so well because it is super-direct, nearly instantaneous viral marketing that costs next to nothing. Just consider the concept — one character standing in front of a shower all day, a few simple props, and a camera crew set up and ready to record, rip and respond to messages with a personalized video.

On the other end, consumers and people just looking for a laugh interact directly with the Old Spice Man, which instills a certain amount of trust and closeness with the company. Words like “trust” and “closeness” might sound like they belong in a Cosmo article about what makes a strong romantic relationship, but let’s face it — today, consumers don’t just want a good product, they want to know that the person selling to them cares.

What better way to show you care than with a studly half-nude man responding to something that you wrote only minutes ago?

Erick Schonfeld at Tech Crunch:

You know you’ve got a viral marketing hit on your hands when the CFO of Google mentions it in an earnings call. Yes, I am talking about the Old Spice YouTube Tweetathon where the bare-chested Old Spice Man addresses people on Twitter via personalized commercials on YouTube .

At the tail-end of a long, very long, 90-minute earnings call in which I dozed off at least three times, Google CFO Patrick Pichette perked me up when he made a reference to the Old Spice social media marketing campaign. “It just gives you a glimpse of where the world is going,” he said with a touch of awe in his voice.

That begs the question, one day will all ads be made like this? The Old Spice Man has already answered this, it turns out, and he warns of the cataclysmic effects which might result if he were to do ads for all the world’s products.

Marshall Kirkpatrick at ReadWriteWeb:

A team of creatives, tech geeks, marketers and writers gathered in an undisclosed location in Portland, Oregon yesterday and produced 87 short comedic YouTube videos about Old Spice. In real time. They leveraged Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and blogs. They dared to touch the wild beasts of 4chan and they lived to tell the tale. Even 4chan loved it. Everybody loved it; those videos and 74 more made so far today have now been viewed more than 4 million times and counting. The team worked for 11 hours yesterday to make 87 short videos, that’s just over 7 minutes per video, not accounting for any breaks taken. Then they woke up this morning and they are still making more videos right now. Here’s how it’s going down.

Old Spice, marketing agency Wieden + Kennedy and actor Isaiah Mustafa are collaborating on the project. The group seeded various social networks with an invitation to ask questions of Mustafa’s character, a dashing shirtless man with over-the-top humor and bravado. Then all the responses were tracked and users who contributed interesting questions and/or were high-profile people on social networks are being responded to directly and by name in short, funny YouTube videos. The group has made videos in response to Digg founder Kevin Rose, TV star Alyssa Milano (now big on Twitter) and many more people, famous and not.

It is well done and it appeals to peoples’ egos – but there is something more, too. It feels very personalized, even if it wasn’t directed at you. Those people that got responses, and many people who didn’t, have Tweeted, Facebooked and otherwise shared links to the videos back out across their social networks.

Iain Tait, Global Interactive Creative Director at Wieden, is leading the effort. “In a way there’s nothing magical that we’ve done here,” he explained by phone this afternoon. “We just brought a character to life using the social channels we all [social media geeks] use every day. But we’ve also taken a loved character and created new episodic content in real time.”


The videos aren’t being posted in chronological order immediately after the Tweets and comments they are in reply to. They get moved up and down a queue in a deliberate, orchestrated, if very fast way.

Tait: “Those people are having more fun than I’ve ever seen anyone have in a shoot like this. That’s part of why it’s doing so well. It’s genuinely infectious, it transmits itself through the internet in a massive way.”

How loved has the new campaign proven to be? 4Chan, the anonymous nihilist obscene messageboard from whence sprang memes like LOLCats and RickRolling, was the subject of what’s now the 3rd most-watched of the Old Spice videos made yesterday, after the ones made for Perez Hilton and Kevin Rose. 4channers hate everything, especially people who talk about 4chan – which this savvy man in a towel did not do. But 200,000 views later, that absurd video response to “Anonymous” has received more than 4000 thumbs up from viewers and less than 100 thumbs down.

David Weigel at Andrew Sullivan’s place:

Marshall Kirkpatrick’s write-up of the strategy behind Old Spice’s guerrilla YouTube campaign — one that comes after they hired video comedy dada-ists Tim and Eric to record even crazier videos — leaves you with a less grimy feeling than the usual advertorial. Yes, even after you read this disclaimer:

Disclosure: Wieden + Kennedy is an occasional consulting client of the author’s. But this story was too cool to abstain from telling just because of that.

Well, I’m not a consulting client of anyone, and I adore the concept — a handsome, arrogant character answering basically anyone who 1) sends him a question he 2) has time to answer. Simultaneously, the Morlock “I’ll click on anything” side of the Internet and the Eloi “I only read Boing Boing on my iPad” side decide that it’s funny, and indulge the joke. It churns for a day. It wins a place in meme history. And now that we know the joke, it’s over. These concepts are approaching the lifespan of fruit flies while getting us closer and closer to the phony interactivity of Max Headroom. As deodorant concepts go, that’s fairly exciting.

Cord Jefferson at The Root:

Problems with heteronormativity and misogyny—all women love diamonds!—aside, the Old Spice Guy spots are funny in the offbeat and visually exciting manner Internet audiences demand. PC World is calling the commercials “the most brilliant ad campaign ever.” They’ve become so popular with Twitter and Facebook users that there’s now a YouTube channel on which Old Spice Guy speaks directly to his Internet fans in 15 to 30-second bursts. It was there that Old Spice Guy granted a Twitter fan’s request to perform his marriage proposal for him.

Most of us should be able to agree that nuptials beginning through a corporate Internet meme have a difficult road ahead; the success of the Old Spice Guy, on the other hand, might actually be a sign that being a black man in America is getting slightly easier.

It wasn’t so long ago that black men in advertising were used to fill one of two roles: violent savage or passive, simple-minded gofers. Take for instance this Van Heusen shirt ad from 1952—less than a decade before Barack Obama was born—in which a scary black man adorned in bones is juxtaposed with a group of well-groomed whites. On this billboard, a black bellhop points excitedly at a white family’s new Plymouth, certainly agog at the mechanical finery he couldn’t dream of affording. Mad Men’s Don Draper may be quite handsome, but advertising in the early 20th century was frequently hideous, exploiting the meanest of stereotypes in order to sell garbage people didn’t actually need.

Today’s ad agencies continue to push useless crap, of course, but to their credit, they’re usually far less racist in their salesmanship. To wit, Old Spice Guy. Time was when a muscular black man addressing America’s “ladies”—not just black ladies, but all ladies—in a sexualized tone could have gotten him killed. The black male’s inherent maleness wasn’t an attractive quality; it was brutish and animalistic, something to be feared and pointed at as if looking at a zoo.

Today, Old Spice Guy bucks that notion. He’s everywhere, topless and smoldering. And not only are his strength, intelligence and beauty at the forefront of his character, they’re heralded as being at the apex of manhood. No man, black or white, can ever be as sexy, dynamic, talented and worldly as he, and no woman of any race can or should want to resist him. In day’s past, Old Spice Guy would have been seen as threatening, aggressive, certainly unfit for a million-dollar ad campaign. But here in 2010, far from being fearful, America is rushing wildly into his sturdy embrace.

Steve Spillman at Big Money:

So, what can we learn from this episode? That social media advertising worked like it’s supposed to! The Internet at large usually doesn’t like being pandered to. But this time everyone was seduced by the machines of advertising. For a brief moment, it was totally hip to be into the Old Spice guy and to try to get the Old Spice guy to make a video for you, and to just talk about Old Spice a whole lot, which, duh, is exactly what Old Spice wants you to do. Symbiosis!

The hardened cynics at Reddit are even calling it “the greatest ad campaign in Internet history.” It might actually be just that, really. In a way it represents the natural apex of social media advertising. Here we have normal people and influential people alike interacting with a brand as if it were a person. Mass-marketed personification.

Hopefully, this means that such a creepily invasive campaign is never possible again. Like, maybe this was a one-time thing. After all, the backlash hasn’t started yet, and it’s inevitably coming.

But more likely, there will be more Old Spice Guys. In advertising, there’s no way to patent a successful formula.

UPDATE: Tricia Romano at Daily Beast


1 Comment

Filed under New Media

One response to “I’m The Man Max Headroom And Rick Astley Could Smell Like

  1. Pingback: What We’ve Built Today « Around The Sphere

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