Opinion: Man, This Man Can Sell


Look away from the man your man could smell like. Look instead at Old Spice's Facebook page, where his ad has gotten more than 7,000 comments (and 13,000 or so "likes"). Look again, at YouTube, where it's been viewed more than 3 million times.

The commercial features the shirtless, magnetic presence of actor Isaiah Mustafa, a former NFL wide receiver who goes big -- very big -- here. "Hello, ladies," he thunders. "Look at your man. Now back at me. Now back at your man. Now back to me."

There's something infectious about taking crackpot orders ("Look down. Back up. Where are you? You're on a boat") from an over-the-top, half-naked dude who tells you how your man should smell.

Viewers seem to agree, as the Wieden + Kennedy spot has become a genuine viral media phenom in just a few weeks.

The humor is unexpected and random. (It ends with Mustafa saying, redundantly, "I'm on a horse.") And it's spawned parodies and consumer-generated videos. The best one was made by Emily and Matt, two middle-aged folksters who sing the copy, word for word, to the tune of John Denver's "You Fill Up My Senses" while accompanying themselves on guitar.

It's also fueled discussions on TV and radio talk shows. Internet tech guru Leo Laporte did a segment in which he mispronounced the agency's name (as "Weeden") and claimed to have seen the spot on the Super Bowl. (It wasn't.) He was also so sure the whole thing must have been done with CGI that he bet $100 on it. (It wasn't.)

One tiny bit was computer generated -- when the product pops up in the man's hand. But the rest -- the magnificent sweep from shower to boat to horse -- was all done in one camera take by director Tom Kuntz of MJZ.

And though it didn't air on the Super Bowl, some sly media doings made it seem like it did. The ad broke the day after the Super Bowl. It aired on American Idol, the Olympics and Lost. And the agency bought some keywords on search sites to attract people who, in the Super Bowl afterglow, were looking online for funny commercials.

The spot also hit cinemas on Valentine's Day weekend, playing before Valentine's Day the movie and Avatar.

Still, lots of big-budget TV ads appear on major shows and in theaters and fail to develop any Internet following at all. And given the explosion in personal-care categories for men, this kind of man-humor (the tagline is "Smell like a man, man") isn't exactly unique in advertising these days.

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