Last Monday, Old Spice agency Wieden+Kennedy embarked on an intensive social media campaign in which the brand's mascot, the "Old Spice Guy," endeavored to reply to as many questions from social media users as possible via the medium of YouTube video.
Three days and 183 video responses, later, the Wieden+Kennedy team had produced one of the most viral social media campaigns to date. The content has already amassed a total of 36 million views in just seven days since it launched and continues to generate buzz throughout the social networking sphere.
"We anticipated it would be popular, but didn't anticipate this," said Jason Bagley, creative director at Wieden+Kennedy. "If you'd have told us at the beginning we would attract 20 million views we'd have laughed. We still can't really get our heads around it," he told ClickZ last week. In fact, the videos have now amassed almost double that number of views, and with mainstream media outlets such as the New York Post and CNN running stories on the campaign over the weekend, that figure looks set to keep rising.
According to Eric Baldwin, Bagley's fellow creative director who worked alongside him on the project, the key to the campaign's success was ensuring the quality of the content while carefully selecting which users to respond to.
"We prioritized our responses mostly on the basis of what we could pull from them in terms of humor, but we also had [members of the team] pulling comments that were relevant to certain online communities, and we prioritized those to help it spread," said Baldwin.
For example, the team generated a get well video for Digg founder Kevin Rose, who was apparently ill at the time, and also replied to questions from a host of celebrities including Perez Hilton, Ellen Degeneres, and Alyssa Milano. "We didn't do much promotion at all, we wanted it to spread organically," Baldwin said.
So besides the fact the W+K team took great care over how and where they seeded the content, why did the videos themselves capture the imaginations of users so effectively? Bagley gave the Old Spice Guy himself, actor Isaiah Mustafa, much of the credit, alongside the team that created the concept for original TV ads from which the online campaign derived. "People just want to engage with such a great character - they're hungry for Isaiah!" he said.
Mustafa's delivery undoubtedly carried the pieces, but his performance was underpinned by some quality writing under intense time constraints from W+K's four-strong team of writers, comprising Bagley and Baldwin, and two other members of the creative team; Eric Kallman and Craig Allen.
"At any given time there would be three of us sitting at a table writing responses furiously while the other directed. We'd each write a response and then pass our laptops around to read, edit, and add jokes to each other's copy, then Isaiah would read through the clip about once and we'd film it," Bagley explained. Following the creative process, the raw video was then passed to a second team for editing and posting, with the whole process being carried out in as little as 5 minutes in some cases. Overall, a team of around 35 was present on set, working from 7am until 6pm over the three-day period, Bagley said.
In terms of campaign management, Bagley and Baldwin said they didn't work closely on that side of the campaign, but that the agency's team of digital strategists would conduct a "thorough post-mortem" following its completion. "What we do know," Bagley said, "is how many positive comments we've been getting through various channels." For a brand manager the thought of handing over complete creative control to a team of agency creatives could be a daunting one, but Baldwin described Old Spice parent Procter & Gamble as one of the best clients he's worked with. "They're really collaborative and they trust us implicitly. When we approached them with the idea they just wanted to jump in feet first," he said.
Having accumulated hours of video footage during the campaign, one wonders what might be next for the Old Spice Guy - perhaps a montage-based TV ad of his best online responses? W+K says it currently has no plans for the next installment of the campaign or its towel-clad front man. However, Baldwin did say the agency was "extremely excited" about the prospects, and that it was already thinking about what to do next.
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Jack Marshall was a staff writer and stats editor for ClickZ News from 2007 until August 2011.
December 12, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT