After flirting with other manly pitchmen for most of 2011, Old Spice has brought back the original "Old Spice Guy," Isaiah Mustafa, for a holiday campaign - and this time he's crossing platforms.
The centerpiece of the campaign - entitled MANta Claus - includes short online videos in which Old Spice Guy bestows "gifts" on all the people of the world; one city, country, or ravenous fan at a time.
But unlike the Old Spice video response campaign from summer 2010, the viral sensation in which Old Spice Guy engaged in rapid interactions with everyone from Ellen DeGeneres to Alyssa Milano (and racked up more than 36 million views in the process), the current campaign deftly incorporates local TV commercials, newspaper ads, and at least one billboard.
The ad team, led by Wieden+Kennedy, wanted to "give the campaign and character a little more depth and extend the fiction, if you will," said Jason Bagley, creative director at W+K. "We saw a little of that in first response campaign, where he sent flowers to Alyssa Milano and a few other small things. With this one, in many of the cases his gifts are actual physical items or things that happened in the real world with real media platforms."
Among the "gifts" that Old Spice Guy, also known as The Man Your Man Could Smell Like, has so far bestowed are a billboard in Montana telling the state's residents how wonderful they are, a personalized late-night TV ad on a Fox affiliate in Alaska, and an ad in The Baltimore Sun imploring the city's bosses to give everyone a promotion.
"This gift is for the hard-working citizens of Baltimore," said Mustafa in a video uploaded on Monday. "A letter to your bosses inside tomorrow's Sun newspaper encouraging them to give you that big promotion that you so clearly deserve." True to his word, Tuesday's Baltimore Sun carried a full-page ad from Old Spice suggesting just that.
Since being uploaded on Monday, the first video in the new campaign - in which Old Spice Guy gifted a pair of shoes made from necklaces to a beauty blogger (and fan) from Los Angeles - has been viewed about 290,000 times. The other videos in the series each has less than 100,000 so far.
While the cross-platform nature required this campaign to be "a little more thought out" than Old Spice's previous video effort, said Bagley, the production of the videos still happens "pretty much on the fly." While he declined to go into detail, Bagley said the W+K team was more or less sticking to the production template it set last year, which consisted of writers passing laptops between themselves as directors and Mustafa, each taking turns making the actual videos.
As for why the brand decided to bring back Mustafa after focusing on well-received campaigns featuring other male heartthrobs - most notably Fabio - throughout the year, Bagley said that Mustafa was the Old Spice character that most often proved "delighting to fans."
"He felt like the most appropriate character for the holidays because he's just a generous character and he makes everyone happy," he said.
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Douglas Quenqua is a journalist based in Brooklyn, NY who writes about culture and technology. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired, The New York Observer, and Fortune.
March 19, 2014