Iconic Ads: Old Spice – Smell Like A Man, Man

It was a start in introducing a new personality and sense of humor for the brand, one that enthusiastically embraced the ridiculous

Procter & Gamble intended to use a Super Bowl commercial to promote Old Spice Red Zone After Hour’s body cleanser in 2010.

P&G tasked Wieden + Kennedy with creating an entertaining spot aimed towards women, as data revealed that they bought 60% of all men’s body wash.

Craig Allen and Eric Kallman of W+K’s creative team worked on it. When Kallman and Allen were writing the advertisement, they found themselves writing some sort of a radio script.

The Creative

They locked themselves in and sit in silence until they came up with a solution. Allen remembered he had a start and yelled it out loud, which made Eric giggle. They then continued to work on it until they believed they had something.

Because P&G had obtained this [Super Bowl] air time at the last minute, they only had approximately two days to get the TVC. They’d written a few ads for Old Spice earlier. And they’d all featured an attractive male talking to the camera, to guys—and they’d all been for deodorants. This was the first one for body wash and the wife or girlfriend of the guy who buys practically all body washes. As a result, they planned to compose a script for women. Craig typed “Hello ladies” as his first words, and they worked it out from there. It was almost as if I was listening to a radio script. They had the banter down pat, and they were enthralled.

It began in a bathroom since it was the most logical place to begin. They felt getting him from there to a boat would be a fun adjustment. They lacked a conclusion, a final line. One of the other scripts,—which wasn’t good,—had the man saying: “I’m a man. I’m awesome. I’m strong,” and at the end, he said, “I’m a horse.” They added from that script to the conclusion of the one they were using.

Craig and Eric presented to Jason Bagley and Eric Baldwin (strategy & creative directors). They weren’t convinced they nailed it because they hadn’t had much time to work on it. They showed a couple of scripts before saying they liked the last one but couldn’t figure out the visuals, so they assumed it was just a radio spot. The screenplay was read and the directors loved it right away, implying that the visuals might possibly be what the model man is talking about. That would normally be too see-and-say, but the script was so unique and full of dialogue that they thought it may work. The only thing the screenplay lacked was a satisfying conclusion, so they returned with “I’m on a horse,” and the rest is history.

P&G initially passed on the spot, opting for a different commercial instead. W+K still thought the shower, boat, and horse reeked of success.

The client chose the other script since it better marketed the product, and only did the W&K realise they had to sell the “The Man” script. So they hastily modified the script to make it with more emphasis on the product, then called the client the next day to explain that they had sold them the wrong script and that this was something truly unique.

The P&G team had already sold the other script all the way to P&G’s top executives, and everyone was enthused about it. They did an excellent job of going back through the ranks, unsold the older script, and selling the new one.

Choosing the Model

During callbacks, Isaiah Mustafa got lucky, and his last-minute change of acting method won the day.

Almost every casting agency had closed for the holidays. W&K understood the spot would fail if they didn’t locate an extremely charming, gorgeous, and yet amusing persona. The casting business went back for another round just when they believed they couldn’t find the appropriate talent, and that’s when Isaiah showed up.

They were having trouble finding the proper guy to play the lead. Because of his appearance, Isaiah was called back from the first round. There was an actor already at the callback, along with Kallman, Craig, and Tom Kuntz, the director. Because he was going to be the next one in, Isaiah was seated in a chair directly outside that room. The guy wasn’t particularly attractive or physically fit, but he was an Antonio Banderas type who was extremely amusing. He was a bit of a knucklehead. They kept him in there for quite some time. And Isaiah is waiting.

When Isaiah first auditioned, he wasn’t terrible, but he wasn’t terrific either. In the meantime, he came up with the voice he uses in the commercial—like it’s he’s a superhero. He liked it, but he wasn’t going to perform it at the callback since it’s usually said to do what got you there in the first place. But, after spending so much time on the on-deck chair, he realised that this other guy was almost certain to receive the job, so he said, “All right, I’ll just do it this new way.” We were like, “Thank God!” as he went through the script for the first time, and he executed it exactly as he does it on the spot. He was in charge of the entire deep voice “Hello, ladies. Look at your man. Now back at me.” It was perfect!

Director Tom Kuntz was no stranger to working with W+K on unusual advertisements. So he instantly chose to shoot the spot in one take, with as little computer trickery as possible.

Everything Isaiah performed had to be like a magic trick, rather than artificial-looking CG, to make the figure larger than life. It had to all happen in one continuous take, which was part of the magic trick. As a result, there was a massive cascade of things that could and did go wrong. If everything went well, but Isaiah messed up on his final line, the entire take would be wrecked.

The crew had to shoot in a half-boat on a completely desolate Malibu beach for more than 30 takes until everything came together. To make matters worse, the horse had an attitude

They didn’t have a single useable take after a two-day shoot, so they had to shoot an additional day. They still didn’t have one with one hour of daylight left on that final extra day of shooting. In the final 30 minutes, they finally obtained one usable take.

At first, P&G wanted to scrap the commercial, but W+K pushed back

P&G told W&K told it was not funny. And the W&K team didn’t know if they were correct because they were working so close to it.

That’s when the higher-ups started talking to them, and Wieden’s bigwigs went back and forth with them. They wanted to pull the ad rather than air it, and Wieden pushed to have it air. They took it out of the Super Bowl. But Wieden fought back and was able to get it back up and running soon after.

The Response

And once the ad caught on, the reaction came fast.

Says the brand manager Matt Krehbiel: As a new marketer at P&G at the time, I remember the mayhem surrounding the campaign when it launched. P&G halls were buzzing, especially after Oprah saw the spot and declared she was rushing out to get Old Spice, then Ellen had Isaiah on, and then The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He was literally everywhere. And the spoof videos of fans doing the “Hello ladies. Look at me, now look at your man, now back to me” bit was incredible. There was lots of spoofing going on at P&G, too. People were really excited and proud to be part of something so transformative—creatively, for the business and for the grooming category as a whole.

The rest, as they say, is history in the advertising world.

“The Man Your Man Could Smell Like,” which helped to boost Red Zone body-wash sales by 60% by May 2010. (the goal had been 15 per cent). The product’s sales had doubled by July.

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