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Case Study: Old Spice Response Campaign

Agency: Wieden+Kennedy Portland
Client: Old Spice
Award: Yellow Pencil/ Writing for Advertising / Writing for Film Advertising, 2011

In February 2010, Wieden+Kennedy launched a new Old Spice advertising campaign, Smell Like a Man, Man'.  

The first commercial, “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like,” was an overnight success and quickly became a cultural phenomenon, generating significant word-of-mouth buzz online and off-line, and getting referenced by many celebrity fans.

How could Old Spice follow up their "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like" campaign? Watch the original here.

Another spot, “Questions,” debuted in June 2010 and featured the same character, played by actor Isaiah Mustafa. Shortly after the debut of this spot, W+K developed an interactive digital campaign capitalising on the popularity of the “Old Spice Guy.” The result was the Old Spice Response Campaign - an experiment in real-time branding featuring the Old Spice Guy posting personal video responses to fans online.

In the end, 186 personal video messages responding to fans’ comments on social sites Facebook, Twitter and others were scripted, filmed and then posted online in just over two and a half days of production, with many of the videos churned out from start to finish in just 10 to 15 minutes. The work went on to record more than 65 million views, making it one of the fastest-growing and most popular online interactive advertising campaigns in history. 

The Story

Old Spice introduced its body wash for men in 2003. As the category grew, however, so did the competition. By 2006 Old Spice was losing ground, so it appointed a new advertising agency, Wieden+Kennedy, to turn things around.

'Questions' saw the glorious return of "The Old Spice Guy" in June 2010, watch it here.

"A big question for us at the time was the name and whether the brand could be relevant to young men moving forward. An early and key decision was to turn this perceived weakness into a strength. With its 70-year brand heritage Old Spice was ‘experienced’ and well positioned to be an expert on masculinity and being a man."

Jess Monsey
Account Director

Another key insight the team uncovered was that women were responsible for more than 50 percent of body wash purchases. 'The Man Your Man Could Smell Like' ad was the best articulation of this strategy when it aired in 2010, kicking off the new campaign conceived to speak to both men and women simultaneously—a first.

The challenge was how to get couples to have a conversation about body wash—a low involvement product category—and persuade women to stop buying their men women’s products, W+K Planner Britton Taylor said. The answer was a humorous monologue during which the Old Spice Guy explains: 'Anything is possible when your man smells like Old Spice and not a lady.'

Launching online several days prior to the Super Bowl in February 2010 and premiering on television the day after the big game, the ad helped the brand capture 75 percent of all conversations in this category.

"It quickly became a cultural phenomenon. We successfully found an execution that appealed to our core target (guys), but one that also allowed the brand to appeal for the first time to a female audience. We needed to keep that momentum going."

Britton Taylor

The idea for what became the Response Campaign came about through informal conversations about where to go next.

“With any young target audience you have to find new and interesting ways to engage with them, and with young men that means digital has to be part of your portfolio,” said Monsey. 

"It's always our goal to engage our consumers in a way that’s not only entertaining but also relevant, humorous in our own Old Spice tone and worthy of their attention. Digital is perfect because you can quickly gauge the reaction as people are very open to providing feedback to the advertising."

James Moorhead
Brand Manager
Old Spice

A key lesson from the digital work the agency had already done for Old Spice was the importance of tapping into existing behaviours online rather than trying to create new ones. Many fans of the first ad had viewed it on YouTube and posted enthusiastic comments online—behaviour the agency expected for the second ad and was keen to exploit.

'The idea to have Isaiah respond to fans comments came quickly—its strength was the elevator-pitch quality of it: it was really very simple,' said W+K Creative Director Jason Bagley.

'Actually doing it, however, was anything but.'

What did the 'Response campaign' require of 'The Old Spice Guy'? Watch this video to see how the key aims were achieved.

The Strategy

The idea was simple: the Old Spice Guy would personally respond to fans’ messages and comments posted across a variety of social media, including Facebook and Twitter, through a series of video messages accessed via YouTube. The question was: how?

'We knew right away it was a huge idea,' says Moorhead. 'The entire team was blown away with it as no one had ever seen anything like it and we weren’t sure how it could be pulled off. We felt W+K could solve the creative challenges. Our challenge was to ensure word got out that the Old Spice Guy was responding to people with videos.' No one could be sure how it would work online, Taylor admitted.

'But on consideration the potential rewards outweighed the possible risks . . . the biggest cost, producing the video content, would be significantly less than for a traditional TV shoot.' The decision to use video rather than simply have the Old Spice Guy respond via Twitter was critical. 'It had to be video otherwise it would not have been worth doing because of the added entertainment factor and the deeper engagement that the immediacy of doing it in near real time would create,' added Monsey.

Though Old Spice fans had viewed the first ad on YouTube, W+K decided to embrace a wider range of social networking sites and online communities for the Response Campaign. YouTube was chosen to host the video because of its robust commenting system and Old Spice’s established 65,000 fan base, said Taylor. However, fans’ comments—the starting point for each script—would come from a variety of online communities.

The Response campaign saw "The Old Spice Guy" answering fans questions, some more pressing than others. Watch it here.

Harnessing this multitude of social comments then producing and publishing video responses online within minutes was a major challenge. W+K built a digital system from scratch to manage this. The system pulled mentions of Old Spice from a variety of online sources in a way that allowed the team to quickly organize questions and comments by influence and creative potential. Creatives could select comments, write answers, which were then sent by the system to a teleprompter, filmed, and then once completed, posted online.

Another challenge was how to manage script approval. The sheer quantity of scripts and speed of production meant that getting legal clearance on each one would have made the campaign impossible. To overcome this, the client and agency worked together to develop guidelines that could be used to provide a field of play for the creative teams.

'We knew that each request would be unique, so we trusted the team at W+K to be true brand stewards and develop responses that would be relevant and engaging to our audience,' Moorhead explained. 'The entire brand and agency teams understand the brand and our target audience. One of the great attributes of the team is that we are not afraid to test new approaches and learn what works and what doesn’t.'

Some of these guidelines related to standard advertising guidelines, others to the brand’s desire not to disparage its rivals or be political. This meant during production, scripts were written and shot without client involvement. 

How did "The Old Spice Guy" become King of Latvia? Watch to find out.

"Without the trust on which our relationship with Old Spice is built this just wouldn't have worked."

Jess Monsey
Account Director

Then there was the question of how to best generate interest in participating in the campaign. In addition to introducing a carefully choreographed awareness campaign, W+K decided to spend the first few hours of the shoot responding to influencers such as Ellen DeGeneres and Perez Hilton, who had larger social followings, to accelerate spreading the word online, encouraging others to comment. Twitter and Facebook were also leveraged to maintain the momentum, letting fans follow a linear timeline as the campaign unfolded, as well as providing another channel for them to make comments or ask questions on.

Over two and a half days, W+K filmed 186 video responses to questions from fans and celebrities, then posted them on YouTube. These included lady-wooing tips for President Obama and flirting with actress Alyssa Milano.

There were four writers, three writing at any time and one directing, and we worked closely as a team refining each others’ work, making things tighter, funnier and ensuring the cultural references were broad enough to have a wide appeal, W+K Creative Director Eric Baldwin said. 'Even now, looking back, it’s hard to distinguish who exactly wrote what.'

Throughout the production, the pitch and tone of the character was key to the success of the response videos and something the Old Spice Guy—a man who is witty and charismatic, manly and athletic, but doesn’t take himself too seriously—had already established and made popular with fans. 'As the writers, it was very intense and hard to keep track of the response what we were doing was having,' Bagley added. 'It was very much a live event.'

A bittersweet farewell from "The Old Spice Guy", signing out for the last time as all good things must come to an end.

The Impact

In the first day alone, the Response Campaign generated 5.9 million YouTube views, more than Obama’s victory speech had achieved in its first 24 hours. On day two, Old Spice YouTube channel owned eight out of the 11 most popular videos on the web at that time. By day three, views had risen to more than 20 million, a figure that doubled within a week.

During this same period, Twitter followers of Old Spice increased 2,700 percent while Facebook fans rose 800 percent—from 500,000 to 800,000. Subscribers to the brand’s YouTube channel, meanwhile, more than doubled, from 65,000 to 150,000.

Sales were already on the rise following the launch of the first “Smell Like a Man, Man” ad. But the Response Campaign grew the brand further, and by the end of July 2010 sales were up 125 percent year on year. By the end of 2010, Old Spice had become the number one selling brand of body wash for men in the United States.

Today, Old Spice remains the number one brand channel on YouTube.

'The number of views and social media mentions were important measures of the campaign’s success, but the most significant measure for Old Spice and W+K, alike, was earned media because the Old Spice Guy was already widely liked and talked about. Ultimately, more than one billion unpaid impressions, a major metric,' Taylor said.

'What made the Response Campaign a success was the fact that it felt like a campaign for everyone. It wasn’t an exclusive idea but a wholly inclusive one. It was about moving from mass media TV, print and digital to engagement—still targeting the same audience, but deepening the communication and similarly the relationship.' Key to this was never underestimating how high the creative bar needs to be to persuade consumers to engage in a low-interest product category.

"When you are saying ‘Listen to us tell you about body wash and deodorant and we will entertain you,’ you’d better make sure that is exactly what you do: entertain the hell out of them."

Eric Baldwin
Creative Director

Also important, however, was tapping into existing behaviour, Bagley pointed out. People were already inclined to comment on the Old Spice ads online. Rather than try to drive an audience to a new online destination to encourage them to interact with something in a different way, the campaign tapped into something people were already doing.

"The biggest thing we learned overall was the importance of keeping your creative ideas simple,... Don't over-complicate things. That’s been pretty much the key to all of our great campaigns."

Eric Baldwin
Creative Director

The D&AD Professional Awards recognise world-class creativity in categories such as film craft, graphic design and identity. If you think you have a campaign worthy of a D&AD Pencil, you can enter into one of 27 different Professional Awards categories today.

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