Old Spice “Man”: Short-Term Laughs, Long-Term Pain?


By now, most have seen at least one of the ads in Old Spice’s hilarious Cannes Lions Grand Prix-winning “Smell like a man, man” campaign. No? Well, above and after the jump are several of the best. Watch them, laugh, and then ponder the question, “Is this good for the brand in the long term?”[more]

These ads have been huge viral hits, as well as receiving numerous industry accolades. Besides the Cannes honor, the “Man Your Man Could Smell Like” Super Bowl 2010 spot was named commercial of the year by the Association of Independent Commercial Producers. Today the spot was nominated for a 2010 primetime Emmy award. So Old Spice will certainly move more product and a short-term boost in sales is certainly nothing to be ashamed of.

However, in the long term, is Isaiah Mustafa, the ad’s star whose exposure has landed him a production deal with NBC, the only real beneficiary? Worse yet, is Old Spice, by laughing at itself, hurting its brand? Is Old Spice making the age-old advertising mistake of confusing making consumers laugh at your brand with engaging consumers with your brand?

Years ago, during Old Spice’s heyday, the brand was more Sean Connery than Jim Carrey. The brand’s messaging was sincere, moody and engaging (below).

Would Old Spice be better served by leveraging its legacy to gain respect? The demand for brand authenticity is increasing, and Old Spice seems perfectly positioned to exploit its heritage to the brand’s advantage.

For inspiration, the brand could look to the exploding popularity of the Sailor Jerry brand or the intriguing recent campaign (below) from Canadian Club simply titled “Damn Right Your Dad Drank It.” [Editor’s note: Share your thoughts on Abe’s column in our debate forum; we’re inviting Old Spice and its agency, W+K, to weigh in too.]