The follow-up is hard. Ask The Stone Roses. Their eponymous first lp released in 1989 was hailed by critics as an instant classic. It was a major force in the Madchester music scene that engulfed the U.K. and even made a splash in the U.S. in the early 90’s. So when they got ready to release their second record nearly five years later, anticipation was high. And the pressure was on. When it finally came out, it was almost universally panned by critics and ignored by the public. You could say they were asking for it by calling the record Second Coming. The band broke up two years later and all the promise was gone.
Following up great creative execution is hard, too. In a world where you’re only as good as your last whatever (TV spot, blog post, SXSW panel discussion), there is immense pressure to replicate the success of the last effort. And how do you do that? Change as little as possible and hope there’s still interest? Go in a completely different direction and risk alienation? Or the dreaded “c” word – compromise. What’s a top creative agency to do? Well, if you’re Wieden + Kennedy and you’re following up the Old Spice commercial “I’m on a Horse” spot that introduced the body wash product; you do all these things with mixed results.
The new ad, for a recently introduced deodorant scent called “Matterhorn,” has the trademark tongue-in-cheek macho we’ve come to expect from the campaign. However, it fails to deliver on what made the body wash spot so unique and rewarding. I praised their effort the last time out. Let’s revisit my evaluation of the last ad and see how the new one compares:
1. Excellent execution. Not really. The writing tries hard to achieve the same mock macho tone, but misses. And this time they use a narrator instead of the on-screen actor. This serves the action well, but does not allow the viewer to make the connection we made with Isaiah Mustafa’s character in the last spot. And the sight gags are ok, but don’t come near the clever simplicity and big payoff from last time.
2. Good viral elements. Not so much. I’d be surprised if this campaign achieved anything close to the organically viral following of its predecessor.
3. Rewards repeated viewings. Here’s where there is the biggest gap for me. I’ve watched the new spot several times in order to write this post. But if I didn’t have to, I wouldn’t have. And when this one comes on when I’m watching TV, I doubt I’ll watch it with the interest I did last time around.
4. Hits the target(s). Whereas the last spot expertly walked the line between male demo and female demo and cleverness and mock insult, this one does neither. The new ad even has an actress who is presented as vapid and stereotypically and mindlessly adoring. Granted, the target may be slightly different for this product, but the execution is certainly not as clear in its intention.
5. Doesn’t forget the product. Ok. I’ll give them this one. The awkward and kind of creepy mountain emanating from the actor’s armpit is enough of a reminder that it’s a deodorant. And the ubiquitous Old Spice branding is handled as adeptly as ever. Even though the tone is definitely Old Spice and the approach to the brand is intact, the impact just isn’t the same this time around.
Though I’ve been critical here, it’s important to point out that this is not a bad spot. Hey, even Second Coming had some good songs on it. However, based on the expectations set by the last commercial, this one falls short for me. I understand that there could be plenty of reasons for that and that the pressure was certainly on the folks at Wieden + Kennedy this time. But I expected more. Maybe the third time’s the charm. The Stone Roses never got that chance.
What did you think of the new spot? Did it live up to your expectations?