The Project Your Project Could Smell Like: A Study Of Old Spice

John Combs
Raymond West
DTC 338
Case Study #1

The Project Your Project Could Smell Like: A Study Of Old Spice

 The Old Spice “Smell like a Man” campaign was extremely successful at establishing brand awareness. WIth little explanation, most people can easily quote at least some portion of the commercial with ease, more than likely the portion containing something about a horse. Tracking data suggests the “Smell Like a Man” campaign successfully reach their target demographic and all sales number appear to have improved drastically. It will be difficult to repeat the accomplishments of this campaign. Historically this campaign can easy claim a cultural significance in the public zeitgeist. Looking at the history of Old Spice gives us an idea on why they chose to do such a strange and risky campaign.

The first Old Spice product ever made was called Early American Old Spice for women. Introduced in 1937. Old Spice for men didn’t come out until the following year 1938.

In these early days Old Spice was manufactured by the Shulton Company which was run by William Schultz. Schulz was a soap and toiletries maker who decided to make his own company in 1934, leading to him creating the first Old Spice scent. Schultz wanted a colonial theme for Old Spice. This is why colonial ships are used as the trademark image.

Old Spice gained global attention during World War II. Schultz was contributing to the war effort by allowing his factory to be used by the military. Old Spice aftershave became the standard among American soldiers, so wherever the soldiers traveled, the Old Spice scent went with them and became a loved scent worldwide.

Shultz passed away in 1950 leaving his son George Schultz in charge of the Shulton Company and Old Spice. 20 years later George Schultz sold the company to a manufacturer called American Cyanamid. During this time Old Spice began to offer new scents besides the classic fragrance for which they had been known.

Old Spice was bought by Procter & Gamble in 1990. Procter & Gamble were a giant consumer care product producer that also owned well known brands such as Bounty, Pantene, Tide, and Duracell. During this time Old Spice was seeing a decline in popularity. It was associated with an older man scent. Something fathers or grandfathers would wear. The youth audience was not interested in Old Spice.

Procter & Gamble knew they needed to appeal to the youth crowd in order to survive. They began donating small packages of Old Spice to 5th grade boys in health class. Making a first impression among the youth that deodorant, specifically Old Spice, was a product you would soon need for the rest of your life.

In 2010 P&G again wanted to expand the Old Spice line. They had a new liquid body wash for men for which they wanted to create a strong interest. They teamed up with Wieden and Kennedy.

Wieden and Kennedy was founded in 1982 by Dan Wieden and David Kennedy. Wieden and Kennedy pushed the envelope in the 1980’s when they helped advertise for Nike. Their advertisements were unlike any other with attention to advanced filming techniques, pop cultural references, and humour. The company soon became a top creative agency in the United States.

Partnering with Wieden and Kennedy lead to the creation of the “Smell like a man, man” campaign. This campaign would launch a new era for Old spice as the video quickly became viral and gave birth to the “Shirtless Old Spice Guy” doing video responses to tweets on the Old Spice twitter.

Old Spice, synonymous as the cologne used by high school age boys and my grandpa, found that the sales of their body wash were declining when compared to their market competition. Consumers were buying more body wash than bar soap and the Old Spice body wash introduced in 2003 was not selling as well as their competitors. Procter and Gamble approached advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy for the task of addressing their slipping sales.  

“A big question for us at the time was the name and whether the brand could be relevant to young men moving forward. An early and key decision was to turn this perceived weakness into a strength. With its 70-year brand heritage, Old Spice was ‘experienced’ and well positioned to be an expert on masculinity and being a man.”

Instead of attempting to rebrand Old Spice, or try to follow the trend of claiming the use of a particular brand’s body wash product will increase sex appeal, W+K decided to use the consumer’s existing awareness of the brand with a less formulaic commercial that satirically affirmed masculinity by using Old Spice’s long history. “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” introduced a new line of body washes scents to the public through entertaining banter. Unlike most advertisers that vied for a primetime spot during Super Bowl XLIV, the commercial was uploaded to Youtube and Facebook days before the big game and actually aired following the game. This created a buzz before the game and caught online searches looking for Super Bowl information by utilizing social media this created an effective viral campaign around the big game.

The initial commercial launched on February 7th, 2010. It starred Isiah Mustafa standing in a bathroom wearing nothing but a towel. Mustafa would come to be known as “Old Spice guy” or “Shirtless Old Spice man.” The commercial is one long continuous shot with a transitioning background. Mustafa recites a lengthy monologue about how to be more manly and smell like a man. The video starts with Mustafa standing in front of a running shower in a towel. About half way through the video take a decisive turn, as the shower scene gives way to boat scene, closes in on Mustafa holding a clam that he claims, “Has two ticket for that thing you like.” The clam with the tickets falls away to show Mustafa holding a handful of diamond as a bottle of the Old Spice body not so subtly rise from the diamonds. Shirtless for the entirety of the 30 second commercial, Mustafa undergoes a couple costume changes as his the viewer watches the video. His towel is removed as he is transitioned to the boat, where it is revealed he is where white pants, and, through still shirtless, a sweater is then wrapped around his shoulders more befitting of the nautical backdrop. The video ends with a pan down as Mustafa’s next reveal, and easily the part of the video that most people remember, is that he is on a horse and the camera pans out to show him ride casually on the beach instead of a boat. More than likely this commercial has taken a note from the success of Skittles’ very random 2004/2005 “Taste the Rainbow” campaign, although they have chosen to maintain a decidedly more coherent narrative that is more straightforward with the campaign’s initiatives and goals for the commercial. Though the transitions are smooth from scene to scene, the changes are not natural and come off as bizarre, but comparatively much more literal than Skittles’ “Experience the Rainbow. Taste the Rainbow.” Both ads offered a novelty approach and were looking to reach a new age demographic by utilizing their strengths instead of rebranding, but the “Smell like a Man” campaign offered a more simple narrative than Skittles did that relied heavily on spontaneous sight-gags and puns but still used some of the core random elements to entertained and created awareness of not just a new line of body wash scent but also created an open discourse between the target audience, men, and the women that were buying their body wash. Women purchase well over half of all body washes marketed to men. This awareness was the focus of the ad campaign as women were addressed directly. A relatively unknown actor, Isaiah Mustafa, was chosen to be the voice of the campaign. He has an athletic build and comes across with a confidence in stance and dialog delivery, while still being relatable and appealing through an effective use of humor, which has been supported as a type of persuasion technique in general conversation that has shown to be highly successful in advertising. Mustafa addressed the “ladies” in a clever, rapid-fire monolog that draw attention to “their man” starting a conversation about the type of body washes being purchased at the store for that male demographic. By stating, “Look at your man, now back at me,” this created two conclusions. One is the obvious one stated in the video as your man, “Sadly, he isn’t me,” The other conclusion is one of the goal of the campaign, “… if he stopped using ladies scented body wash and switched to Old Spice, he could smell like he’s me.” The initiative in this case is actually to draw the audience’s attention away from what they are watching to engage in a conversation. Almost seems altruist with scientific results suggestion that many relationships suffer from the attachment people have to their phones, unless the end goal is of selling body wash by initiating this discussion is considered. The use of “lady-scented body wash” draws into question the masculinity in a humorous way that did not insult their audience and at the same time making the target audience aware of their new line of body washes that were more “manly smelling”. This also has an effect of both elevating both the brand and those already loyally using the brand while effectively calling into question their competitors in a suave and charismatic way that did not directly disparage rival body wash companies or give them free advertising.

A sequel commercial was made in June of 2010 following a similar formula to the first. Single continuous shot format with transitioning backgrounds and Mustafa interacting with many random objects as he recited a long monologue encouraging women to have their man smell like an Old Spice man.
These two videos generated a vast buzz for Old Spice and the initial commercial soon was a viral sensation. Old Spice then took it another step forward. They had a new mascot for their company and kept the videos coming. Only now the videos were personalized responses to people on Twitter talking about Old Spice. These videos were made for celebrities, prominent social media individuals, as well as everyday normal folk.

Here we see a tweet from Ellen DeGeneres, and a reply from Old Spice Guy:


Another Tweet from Digg founder Kevin Rose was also replied to by Old Spice


Over 180 personalized responses were created by Old Spice in response to fans comments and questions on Facebook and Twitter. Making the campaign of the Shirtless Old Spice Man one of the fastest growing interactive advertising campaigns. W+K germinated the word-of-mouth and helped to continue the buzz created by the ad by using the shared enthusiasm on Twitter to find celebrities, thought influencers/leaders on social media, and the everyday “man of the street” end consumer. After realizing the advantage social media had on this campaign, W+K took on the rather industrious task of engaging those that had professed their entertainment of the ad by posting short videos of Mustafa replying directly to Twitter user’s hashtags. Since the use of social media had been the primary focus and success of the campaign, the videos were an effective way to continue people talking about the ads; although it was a huge undertaking to approve scripts, film, and edit videos that directly responded to the users comments. W+K had the benefit of the confidence P&G so all final script approval was completed without a review and approval process from the client. W+K was completely responsible in writing scripts that were timely, so they had a sped-up timetable of production, but still had to be direct responses to the Twitter user’s post. They created guidelines for the scripts that included not explicitly take on a competitor brand, inadvertently promoting their brand, or become too political all the while effectively maintaining the initial video seating Old Spice and Mustafa as an authority on masculinity. In order to build interest in involvement they started their replies with celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, Alyssa Milano, Oprah and Ashton Kutcher, that had referenced the campaign on twitter, even going as far to send a video to Kevin Rose, co-founder Digg, that did reference the ad. Most of the video replies were created for the average Twitter user. This effectively humanized the brand and created a sense of inclusiveness. The biggest downside was in the month following the campaign that primarily focused on gaining a massive twitter following, a total of only 23 tweets went out. The primary problem with this is that an effective social media ad campaign is never done because it should be constantly looking to establish that brand in new and interesting ways into their follows social media lives. Going overboard in an social media etiquette mistake too many companies have made but it is important to establish a balance, especially following a win like this campaign had.

One final video was made to mark the end of the campaign. In it Mustafa explains that all great things must come to an end and that he is off to go help the world in other ways. This closed out the interactive advertising campaign.

The campaign during that time was extremely effective and the Old Spice and Mustafa portrayal was extremely popular. In the first day, the video had 5.9 million views. Easily surpassing the first 24 hours of other trending viral Youtube video views like Obama’s Victory speech. If for no other reason the campaign strategy was successful as it was viewed ten times more than the Dove’s Super Bowl commercial. Fans of the Old Spice Facebook increased 60% from 500,000 to 800,000, increased 300%, Youtube subscribers doubled, and Twitter followers rose 2700%. The biggest measurement for a successful ad campaign comes down to how well the commercial increased sales and this campaign exceeded expectations. Old Spice Red Zone body wash over doubled its unit sales from the previous year by May of 2010, and by July had risen 125% according to Nielsen. Some of this increase in unit sales can also be contributed to a coupon promotion that went on at the same time as the rest of the campaign. Though still popular, with an easily quotable script, and easily identifiable amongst their target audience, the effectiveness of the continuing campaign seems to have seen a decline for the views of follow-up videos.


This type of decline is to be expected, but this type of campaign as definitely had an effect on the on how companies approach social media when considering an new ad campaigns. The decline however didn’t stop the character from returning to many Old Spice advertisements to continue the legacy. In 2011 Old spice announced the Fabio would become the new Old Spice icon. This was met by backlash to lovers of Mustafa. This gave birth to a video featuring both actors confronting each other to figure out who was the preferred Old Spice icon. 

A new series of videos as been distributed by Old Spice to promote their “Timber” and “Bear Glove” scents. These “Make a Smellmitment” videos have brought back Mustafa in his Old Spice role. This time Mustafa was not alone. He is competing with another familiar but not as iconic Old Spice icon, in the the form of Terry Crews. Terry Crews had many hyper-active advertisements with Old Spice where he would shout at the viewer. These commercials often explosions and flexing muscles.
These two icons each are advocating for a different scent. Crews for Bear Glove and Mustafa for Timber. The commercials feature elements from both of their previous ad campaigns with Crews often exploding into a small ball of fire, and Mustafa riding a horse, or smooth talking the viewer while looking seductively at the screen. This campaign is still young having started in August 2015. While funny, these videos do not seem to be having the same impact as their past incarnations.

Some critics have criticized the commercials as sexist. The “lady-scented” addition was a push toward something eventually gain the term “manvertising.” “Manvertising” is an attempt to objectification of men in advertising. A more typical example of “manvertising would be the Marlboro Man. Though this has been a small, vocal minority that has not little consequence effectiveness of the campaign but future campaigns might find a slight paradigm shift in a socially consciousness audience that has shown to be less tolerant towards casual sexism. A constantly changing demographic coupled with an ever raising resistance to advertising overall continues to keep advertisers scrambling to help companies effectively reach their audience. The impact of the initial campaign successfully reach an audience in a new and interesting way but now marketing through social media sources has become an old hat and is now considered a necessary consideration when strategically planning an ad campaign. It seems as though the internet surfing audience has become inoculated to viral video, or maybe the internet addiction has left advertising companies hustling to fill that void with new content quicker and quicker. It remains to be seen how effective the Old Spice campaigns will be going forward utilizing the same established and over-imitated campaign might prove to be less compelling. An argument can be made for simplicity as the ultimate sophistication and not trying to fix something that is working but an escalating arsenal that plans the next step has to be considered when attempting to reach an audience that constantly inundated with overstimulation. Many companies are finding people like to know their money is going towards companies that are socially conscientious. Considering the legacy as a household name brand that Old Spice has already established, P&G might find the charitable actions of Schultz to be most beneficial.

The campaign seems to have successfully reached the market demographic and all sales number appear to have improved drastically. Although, the campaign could use areas of improvement which is to be expected in a campaign that did not know if their social media focused campaign was going to be successful. Many companies have studied the “Smell like a Man” campaign and have cannibalized those results to create equally, or at the very least marginally effective ad campaigns with diminishing returns. Repetition of the same ideas is rarely as effective as the initial impact but some of the ideas once put into practice proved that social media must be considered as a primary strategy for an ad campaign to be effective.


The Project Your Project Could Smell Like: A Study Of Old Spice

One thought on “The Project Your Project Could Smell Like: A Study Of Old Spice

  1. Ran across these on imgur just tonight. Looks like the recent campaign has been taking place in the form of a “gif war” competition on imgur with Old Spice as a promoted post. Promoted posts are paid advertisement posts which caused some controversy when they were first introduced.

    In the past regular imgur posters randomly start “gif wars,” usually edited lengthy movie clips, but sometimes other videos clips, where they insert their own script or make alterations to tell their own story. Usually, the edited gif script centers around a monologue “inspiring” their supporters and calling them to action. Supports comes in the form of “upvotes” and positive comments rallying on them as the winner of the “gif war.”

    Overall, this seems like a convoluted system for an effective social media campaign and this is more than likely why we are just not finding out about it. I am not a regular visitor to imgur but they do occasionally pop-up in my newsfeed.

    The logic behind this campaign seems to draw attention to the current videos ads where Isiah Mustafa is facing off against Terry Crews representing their particular scents with the winner being most popular Old Spice guy cause there can be only one… Apparently taking Terry Crew’s head is not an option as it pops off and flies around the screen in multiple videos.

    Old Spice Gif Off

    ROUND TWO: The Taxman Cometh… For Cats!

    ROUND THREE: DealWithIt.gif

    ROUND FOUR: Late Night Imgur is 2spooky4me

    *I am not even sure what is going on in this last one… O_O


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