Old Spice and The Power of Absurdist Comedy!

The Brand Your Brand Wants To Be Like

Weird, wacky, and wonderful – people never forget an advertisement that leaves them bewildered, or maybe even a bit uncomfortable. The type of video that you talk about over the water cooler or share on social media because it feels impossible not to.

There’s no surefire way to create these, and Old Spice definitely struck gold with their “Smell Like A Man” campaign.

These clever, often weird ads utilize tons of mixed media, motion graphics, live shooting, and tightly constructed scripts that are both quotable and effective in stimulating action.

Yet, despite their zaniness, they have a sense of class – they appeal to both men and women, and Old Spice has gone a step further and created a series of response videos to individuals to further create organic virality.

Even more audacious than this campaign is the sister (or bigger brother) campaign for Old Spice’s body spray starring Terry Crews.

This series of spots are directed by none other than Tim and Eric – a comedy duo that has produced Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, Brules Rules, and many other absurdly colorful and sometimes cringeworthy tv shows and shorts.

The Terry Crews ads are peak absurdity in terms of how ads can go – body splicing, freeze-framing, bulging eyeballs – they’ve become their own formula for hundreds of Old Spice ads and for varying products too:

To top it all off, the success of the Terry Crews ad campaign(s) has created such a well known brand recognition that Old Spice has been able to combine both the old and new campaigns together into a commercial love child campaign:

So what if I want to get in on this?

The triumph of the Old Spice ads aren’t just random, or luck – and they shouldn’t be seen as a surefire formula for any brand. The agency behind the brand, Wieden+Kennedy, did extensive research into Old Spice before embarking on the project.

One of the pathways to creating these ads was the ability to experiment:

“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, W+K

This is an awesome example of taking the trust you’ve built up in a brand and using it to motivate your story. Old Spice ran with the idea of having a figurehead address camera, a personal aside, from something like a mentor, and injecting it with humor and a fast-pace to enhance the experience.

In fact, in a follow-up campaign to the originals, the Old Spice ‘Response campaign’, dozens of videos were made to illustrate this point – The Old Spice Guy answered fans questions and addressed them personally, creating a sense of community as well.

Overall, research was critical in the success of these pieces – it wasn’t absurdist comedy without motivation, but rather, a pandora’s box gifted to old and new generations of Old Spice users firmly rooted on a trust that no matter how it is achieved, Old Spice will work – whether on a horse, in a canoe, or on a volcano.

Or on Terry Crews’ pecs.