Why Make Expensive Ads When You Can Have a Shirtless Man Talk to Your Customers?

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This week Old Spice — the makers of grampappy's favorite aftershave — embarked upon an ambitious experiment with ad agency Wieden + Kennedy. They hand-tailored an exhaustive string of ads featuring Isaiah Mustafa — the handsome shirtless man you've seen riding a horse
backwards
and logrolling in the company's amusingly nonsensical television ads — and responded to the tweets and blog posts of influential social-media users. Mustafa and a small team of writers and editors produced a whopping 87 videos in eleven hours (that's about an ad every seven minutes) on Tuesday and nearly as many on Wednesday. The short videos were directed at social-media stars like Demi Moore and Perez Hilton. They even dared, as Marshall Kirkpatrick put it, "to touch the wild beasts of 4chan and they lived to tell the tale."

It's a clever model: Use a team of funny writers, one charismatic actor, and some quick-and-dirty video production to send irresistible valentines to the people who are best suited to spread the word. The famously conservative suits at Procter & Gamble, owner of the Old Spice brand, let the W&K copywriters work without a net, since there was no time to get corporate approval of each video.

It was viral marketing on an unprecedented scale of aggression and openness. "Talk about us!" Old Spice howled. "We'll talk about you!" But the deadpan absurdity of the ads gave them cover enough not to offend the people they were hoping to take advantage of. If the ads weren't funny, no one would be talking about them.

Take this one, for example, directed at actress Alyssa Milano:

Or the one to Demi Moore:


Or the one to Ellen DeGeneres:



At midnight on Wednesday, after dozens and dozens of videos, even the invincible Mustafa — who at one point threatened the time-space continuum by responding to himself — looked tired:


Some critics, while lauding the effort, think it's not going to work. "Nice ads," writes Milo Yiannopoulos. "Shame about the smell." Old Spice, he argues, is simply regarded as too, well, old to catch on with the young and trendy. But even if that's the case, you must admit, they had plenty of fun trying.

Now brace yourself for the inevitable wave of mediocre imitators.


How Old Spice Won the Internet [ReadWriteWeb]