How Old Spice Ruled the Real-Time Web

For a second act on the Web, Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign is turning into a command performance.
The popular TV effort from Wieden + Kennedy for the client’s Red Zone Body Wash spun out yesterday into a social media salvo that took its main character — the super-suave, Old Spice Guy, envied by men and adored by women — and plopped him smack in the middle of the real-time Web.
In two days, Isaiah Mustafa, the actor who plays the ever-shirtless Old Spice guy, has made about 200 short videos responding to comments and questions directed his way via Twitter, Facebook and social sites like Reddit. (UPDATE 7/15: The video parade has ended … for now.)
“The challenge is how to move from brand time to human time,” said Iain Tait, global interactive ecd at Wieden in Portland, Ore. “That’s the transition we need to make.”
The idea for the campaign began two months ago with a notion of the character responding to people about the TV commercials. The digital push coincides with the release of the second spot starring Mustafa. The TV campaign has won widespread praise, including a Film Grand Prix at Cannes, along with popularity on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.
Wieden decided to center the social media push around YouTube and Twitter. YouTube is hosting the videos, while Twitter is providing the bulk of the distribution.
The effort involves a team of writers, art directors, producers, editors and social media strategists. Tait is cagey on the exact numbers for competitive reasons. “It’s not a tiny production, but it’s not vast either,” he said.
The social media experts initially identified a crop of popular bloggers in key areas like entertainment (Perez Hilton), technology (4chan) and advertising (Adweek’s own AdFreak), as well as regular YouTube and Facebook commenters. Some videos were pre-shot, but Tait said Wieden has done the vast majority over the past 48 hours from a studio in Portland, writing and producing them on the fly.
The social media team scours the Web for comments related to the Old Spice campaign. They feed ones that are funny or from interesting sources to the creatives, who then determine which make good fodder for humorous videos.
“We don’t have the answers of who the real influencers are in the world right now,” he said. “We wanted to pick a cross-section where we could meet influencers in different areas.”
The campaign has shown the ability to keep up with the high metabolic rate of the Web, with several videos released per hour. They are typically shot in a take or two. In all, Wieden has been able to go from comment to video response in as little as 30 minutes, Tait said.
The resulting videos have included odes to Alyssa Milano and Demi Moore, as well as a marriage proposal. In one clip, Mustafa provides the audio a Reddit user requested to construct a do-it-yourself voicemail recording application. Traffic to the site caused outages Wednesday evening.

Thanks in part to a Twitter ad promotion that featured the push as a trending topic, Old Spice’s Twitter account has grown to 43,000. And the Old Spice YouTube channels have been viewed over 58 million times.
The effort proves that ad agencies can use the social media tools at their disposal to embed their work as deeply in digital culture as their offline ads are seeded in popular culture, according to Edward Boches, CCO at IPG ad agency Mullen.
“It was only a year ago that most social media agencies went around declaring that traditional ad agencies just didn’t get it,” he wrote in a blog post. “It was only a year ago that advertising creative teams would scream bloody murder if you expected them to generate creative within a couple of days, never mind hours or even minutes.”
Tait said the shift to real-time advertising requires both a brave client and creatives willing to churn out work on breakneck deadlines. The team behind the campaign is comfortable with the character, and Mustafa has nailed the performance, he said. And it doesn’t hurt that the team has greatly enjoyed the process, he added.
“What’s happening is, everyone is having such fun with this thing,” Tait said. “It transmits itself through to the Internet. People have a sense of something fun going on here.”
The campaign is likely to wrap up soon, but Tait won’t say when exactly. Mustafa does not appear to be wearing down from the grind.
“Of course, he’s not sweating,” Tait said.

See also:
The Top Film Winners From Cannes 2010