Old Spice ad: Damn near perfect

I’ve worked on television commercials since the 80s, so I’m a tough audience. But I can say with near certainty that most of the commercials that make it to TV are just not very good. There are a million reasons why. Some legitimate (budget, timing, etc.) and some not (poor writing, bad execution, etc.).  But once in a while a spot comes along that just does everything right. The Old Spice commercial “I’m on a Horse” is one of those, for me at least. Here are five reasons why this one does it right:

1. Excellent execution. This is just done very well. The writing is crisp and funny, with just the right balance of  silly and deadpan delivery. The talent, Isaiah Mustafa is just wonderful. The right look, excellent delivery and the perfect presence to pull off the comedy of the writing and communicate its message. It’s engaging for the full thirty seconds, but has a wonderfully unpredictable and memorable payoff at the end. But most of all, they make a very difficult set of logistical challenges look simultaneously easy and fascinating. 2. Good viral elements. As of this writing, the YouTube video had nearly 4.3 million hits. Old Spice has also taken advantage of the popularity with ads on Facebook. And it was a hot Twitter topic upon its debut. The agency, Portland’s Wieden + Kennedy, no doubt had a social media plan, but it has taken on a life of its own as well. You can just about hear the marketing wheels turn on this one as it spreads around the net.

3. Rewards repeated viewings. There are two reasons that this spot is worth seeing again and again. The fact that it’s just clever and funny is one. But the visual/technical aspect is the other. I had to watch it several times to just to catch all that was going on visually. If a commercial rewards repeated viewings, there is less media fatigue and better general interest when it comes on during regular viewing. Fewer people use Old Spice’s valuable commercial time to grab a beer or take a bathroom break. And that helps them spread their brand message more efficiently.

4. Hits the target(s). In this interview Leo Laporte with TWIT.tv did with Craig Allen and Eric Kallman of Wieden + Kennedy, they discuss how the commercial was aimed at both men and women. Even though the product is intended for men, the female audience was targeted because their research showed that the wife is more often the purchaser (for her husband). The spot definitely has something for the women (hunky guy, direct communication, tongue-in-cheep comedic empathy). For the guys who will ultimately use the product, the spot provides comedy and great visual effects, but only mocks them in a way that amuses and never threatens. So a husband and wife can watch it together, both appreciate it and both take away a memorable brand message.

5. Doesn’t forget the product. How many commercials have wonderful writing, great visuals and are ultimately memorable – but you can’t remember what the product was? Those spots failed miserably. The loop was not closed with an unforgettable tie-in with the product. No such issues here. The smart comedic tone is definitely Old Spice. The product gets great placement and weight. The familiar music is there at the end. The client should be happy that all this attention should really come to their product as a result of the spot’s popularity and not just to the actor or the clever execution.

In a perfect world, Old Spice body wash sales would be through the roof as a result of this commercial’s popularity. That would mean that this great work would get its just reward. I suppose time will tell. And, of course, there are plenty of factors between connecting with consumers and consumer spending that could negatively influence the outcome. But Wieden + Kennedy certainly did their job and did it extremely well.

What did you think of the Old Spice ad? Who else is hitting all the right notes with their television spots?

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4 Comments

Filed under Advertising & Marketing, Branding, Old Spice, TV Commercials

4 responses to “Old Spice ad: Damn near perfect

  1. PR Girl

    Your analysis is right on target. This is one of the most engaging commercials in quite some time. The creative powerhouse of Wieden+Kennedy has shaped marketing for decades now, but I predict time will prove this to be one of their most successful rebranding efforts to date. Rarely does a commercial make a busy middle-aged soccer mom stop what she’s doing just to watch it more closely, so they’ve hit the target with pinpoint precision. Great job, John, on breaking down exactly why this works on so many levels.

    • Thanks, PR Girl. Great to get the first person female perspective, too.

      W+K was very smart in their execution with regard to their targets. It would have been easy to speak to either the male or female demo only and do a very funny spot. But they speak to both targets here with great accuracy to great comic effect for both. I’m interested as to where they will take this campaign next.

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