How Old Spice Revived a Campaign That No One Wanted to Touch
as seen on mashable.com
The Modern Media Agency Series is supported by IDG. Ad agency JWT has used mobile marketing for two brand name clients. During a marketers’ panel discussion, John Baker explained the important role mobile played in a promotion for Zyrtec and for a campaign across media for Macy’s.
Maybe advertisers should stop hoping that their new campaigns should be super-successful and instead wish for them to be moderately well-received.
After all, almost no one has been able to create a second act for ad campaigns that become cultural touchstones. Remember Budweiser’s “Wassup” for instance? That campaign broke in 1999, but only lasted for a few more executions. The “You’re getting a Dell, dude” guy also wore out his welcome, fast.
If anything, adding a social media layer to a successful campaign only raises the stakes as bloggers, Tweeters and Facebookers pile on to celebrate and watch to see if new ads live up to the set standard, then mercilessly scold it for not doing so. Such was the situation Old Spice and ad agency Wieden + Kennedy found themselves in in the fall of 2010.
By then, Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign had already received heaps of industry accolades, including the Cannes Film Lion Grand Prix, and it had broken new ground by having spokesman Isaiah Mustafa star in hundreds of YouTube videos, responding by name to bloggers and fans who tweeted comments about the campaign.
“It was definitely daunting,” says Jason Bagley, a creative director at Wieden. “It was both the best and worst spot to be in,” adds Craig Allen, another creative director. After batting around ideas, Bagley, Allen and other creatives on the account at Wieden decided that instead of abandoning the campaign or risking repeating themselves, they’d use Mustafa’s character to create a storyline. In this case, it was sort of a riff on the classic 1950 drama All About Eve. While that film featured a wide-eyed ingenue usurping the role of an aging star, it was decided that a long-in-the-tooth star would try to steal Mustafa’s spokesman role.
But who would play Mustafa’s foe? The first name that came to mind was Fabio Lanzoni, the Italian model who is better known by just his first name. After all, Fabio had performed a role similar to Mustafa’s in ads for I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter that ran in the ’90s. “Fabio was the first name that popped up,” says Allen, “but we assumed he didn’t want to do it.” In preparation for rejection, Wieden decided they would plan to tap other short-listed candidates David Hasselhoff and Dolph Lundgren. It turned out, though, that Fabio was on board.
Upon meeting Fabio, Bagley and Allen soon discovered why. “He has a great sense of humor,” says Bagley. “Something we learned is that the Fabio you know from TV is a character. We thought maybe he was going to be this cheesy metrosexual model, but in reality he’s a guy’s guy.” Months after the shoot, the three would even become friends with Fabio and visit his home in Los Angeles, where they would sample Fabio’s 300-deep motorcycle collection.
With their villain on board, the agency concocted a loose storyline in which Fabio was jealous of Mustafa’s popularity and wanted to challenge him for the throne. The brand unleashed the first of the Fabio ads on YouTube and on TV on July 20 with no explanation. On July 25, Fabio laid out his “Mano a Mano in el Baño” challenge to Mustafa at “9 a.m. tomorrow, Internets.” The next day, Mustafa accepted.
That week, over a three-day period, Mustafa and Fabio would shoot more than 150 videos at Wieden’s Portland, Oregon, headquarters. As Bagley recalls, the crew went in with just a vague idea of a plot and no ending. The idea was to incorporate fans’ comments (including Mashable‘s own Pete Cashmore) into the storyline, but that wasn’t as easy as hoped. “We were kind of freaking out the first day,” says Bagley. “We weren’t shooting enough video.”
Eventually, they found a rhythm. Part of it was playing to each actor’s strengths: Mustafa got the verbose, absurd speeches while Fabio’s responses were kept short. As for an ending: A fan named Jordan S. suggested that Mustafa should build a time machine to prevent Fabio from trying to take his place. Bingo! They had their denouement.
When the dust settled, the campaign looked like a winner. Overall, it netted more than 22 million YouTube views in one week. Old Spice and New Old Spice Guy Fabio held the number one and number four spots for most viewed channels for the month on YouTube. Old Spice rep Andrew Nicolai says that’s the first time that’s happened, a claim that a YouTube rep confirmed. Other measures were also impressive: The campaign drew more than 53,000 YouTube comments and 68,000 new Facebook fans.
Did it sell more Old Spice? Mike Norton, a rep for Procter & Gamble Male Grooming (Old Spice is a P&G brand), says Nielsen figures show it did, though he declined to share exact numbers. But the campaign also solved a problem for the brand. “We set an objective to engage fans the way we did last year,” says Norton. “We didn’t want to try to do the same thing.”
Mission accomplished. But what about next year? Soon, the Wieden team will be brainstorming concepts for summer 2012. Meanwhile, the brand has experimented with a new campaign featuring multiple spokesmen, including a sea captain (or a guy who wants to be one). Rather than get worked up about 2012 though, Bagley and Allen are savoring the moment, at least for now. “l always fear that people aren’t going to care and wonder if they’re going to engage,” says Bagley. “We’re really happy that millions of people have done just that.”