D&AD Archive Dive: O is for Old Spice

Harriet Beaumont writes about the Tibet issue for Free Tibet; when not writing, she is persuading journalists and editors that they would like to write about Tibetan issues. Harriet is delighted to be writing about something slightly more frivolous.

O is for Old Spice, the pinnacle of princely perfumes, the font of fearsome pheromones, the O in OMG.

I’m the person who switches channel when the ads come on or, if trapped, mutters in a curmudgeonly fashion about the ridiculousness of trying to seduce me into buying something by romanticising it, or by suggesting with faux chumminess that my home / work / love-life will be transformed by whatever nonsense product is up on screen. I don’t care how stunning the cinematography is, how poetic the language is – the advertiser is using it in an attempt to hoodwink me, and that ruins the aesthetic. In short, I’m not a fan of most TV advertising.

But this sophisticated viewer is endlessly delighted by Old Spice’s ‘The man your man could smell like’ campaign. The ad is a bluff within a double-bluff, because of course it’s selling me Old Spice, but its tongue in cheekiness speaks to me not at me – the man your man could smell like and I are in on the joke together.

The man your man could smell like says yes, this (buffing and glossing the product and its users) is what we’re doing; it’s really silly isn’t it?! So now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s have fun with it and ham it up even more. The man your man could smell like says I know I’m ridiculous and I don’t care… in fact, I revel in my ridiculousness.

It makes me laugh, still. You may think this says more about my puerile sense of humour than it does about the ads, but sales are the proof of the pudding, and the campaign apparently works/worked big-time. Admittedly, I personally have not contributed one bubble to the doubling in sales of Old Spice bodywash that followed the campaign, but I doubt they care about that. I have added an embarrassing number of views to their impressive YouTube figures so I am a contributor to the success of the campaign, albeit obliquely. Let alone that here I am thinking and even writing about it.

And this engagement is of course the key – it’s why the campaign was not only commercially successful, but also won numerous D&AD pencils. The initial ad campaign was wonderfully playful, and the subsequent social media campaign was an immaculately pitched invitation to play, to be creative, to interact, to contribute to the game in an easy and accessible way. It picked up on the buzz and skipped into the sunset with it.

I’m sure, for anyone in advertising, this is bread and butter, this is the way the wind is – and has for some time been – blowing. So, get a whiff of the Old Spice magic: this is the man your man could sell like.

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