How the Music Company on Old Spice’s ‘Dadsong’ Got the Ad’s Twisted Genius Just Right

Scoring the sequel to 'Momsong'

Old Spice this week unveiled "Dadsong," its second lunatic 60-second musical via Wieden + Kennedy—the sequel to the award-winning "Momsong" from a year ago. Clearly, the music on a commercial like this isn't just an important component—it's the main component, around which everything revolves.

AdFreak caught up with Sara Matarazzo, owner of music company Walker, which coordinated the scoring and recording of the music, to ask how it all came together.

AdFreak: What was the brief for "Dadsong"?

Sara Matarazzo: We worked on the "Momsong" campaign, so the idea for this one was to create the second single off the "album." The challenge was to create a track as good as the first while keeping the campaign consistent and cohesive.

Sara Matarazzo

How is "Dadsong" different from "Momsong," creatively?

The key difference with "Dadsong" is that we introduced a new perspective to the story. We needed to juxtapose the moms' feelings with the dads' through the music. The main melody of "Momsong" was written in an unusually low female vocal range, which contributed to our purposefully homely performances. However, "Dadsong" utilizes a more traditional female range in order to allow the full male register to shine through. The new arrangement of voices helped accentuate that back and forth and allowed us to build the song up to a bigger climactic moment with voices hitting notes all over the pitch spectrum.

Walk us through the creative process.

We worked with Bret McKenzie and Mickey Petralia from Flight of the Conchords on board to compose the music. We have worked with Bret and Mickey on several ads over the years, so this was a nice reunion. We actually wanted to work with him on the first Old Spice spot but he was busy writing music for Muppets Most Wanted [following his Oscar-winning work on 2011's The Muppets]. I told him, "We have the perfect campaign for you," and he was available. Of course, he nailed it.

The process started with Bret and I going back and forth with the creatives at the agency to refine the music, melody, chords and arc. When we got to a place where the team was happy, Old Spice gave us the green light and production on the spot began in Prague with director Andreas Nilsson. Once we had rough picture, our music producer Abbey Hickman worked on [voice] casting with the agency to match our actors. Walker engineer Graeme Gibson oversaw working with our casting and creating demos to show all the possibilities and different directions our vocals could be, which helped to choose our favorite takes and piece together the elements. After the singers and musicians were selected, we went to Vancouver to direct and final record with them.

Musically, the spot feels a bit like the end of a big musical, when the entire cast does the last song. Is that something that was mentioned?

Yes, that was a reference. Mainstream musical theater nowadays is largely based off the past century of popular music (except for Stephen Sondheim and Jason Robert Brown musicals). Take Spring Awakening or Mama Mia, for instance. Both infuse contemporary rock and pop styles with dramatic content to be more relevant to the modern musical watcher … and sell more tickets. Furthermore, the most passionate songs in a musical are the numbers that bookend the acts and those songs usually utilize the entire cast. "Dadsong" is like the end of one of these musical numbers because it's passionate, dramatic, musically modern and features a large ensemble.

Which particular musical styles or genres is the spot based on?

Classic rock ballads and operatic recitative.

How is working on a project like this different from other ads you do?

These spots are special because we are involved not just in post but from the beginning of the job and throughout the process. You collaborate on ideas that end up in the campaign. Music can be subjective and go through many mutations, but with this campaign, the song and the spot are one and the same.