This May Not Be The Ad Your Ad Could Smell Like

Writing on BNET Media Blog, Catharine Taylor issues a warning for all the folks looking to re-create the Old Spice sensation.

It takes a special brand of marketer and ad agency to pull such a thing off, and, as anyone in the ad industry will tell you, that’s much easier said than done.
It’s no surprise, really, that the agency which finally broke through the online viral landscape in the biggest way ever is Wieden + Kennedy, the Portland, Oreg.-based shop that is best known for its decades of brilliance for Nike. Even before there was a World Wide Web, Wieden’s work often went viral the old-fashioned way — Its Nike campaigns such as “Bo Knows” starring Bo Jackson and Bo Diddley, or the Mars Blackmon campaign featuring Spike Lee (“It’s gotta be the shoes”) sparked word-of-mouth without the aid of Twitter. Other agencies have been trying to create campaigns equally as talked about ever since. And almost everyone single one has failed.
But it’s not just the quality of the ads, or — in the case of Old Spice Man — the dozens upon dozens of YouTube videos. This isn’t just about the content. It’s about the agency’s ingenious use of the channels the campaign was going to appear in. There are only so many times you can leverage Ashton Kutcher, and his 5.2 million followers, and expect him to actually become engaged in your marketing effort. The way the largely unimaginative advertising world works, a certain outgrowth of the Old Spice Man campaign will be tireless efforts on the part of other marketers to do the same thing. But next time, don’t expect Kutcher to be so amused, or for Alyssa Milano to shoot a video response, wrapped only in two towels.

She’s got a point. I’ll bet reams of clients and agencies are thinking: “We need to do something like that.” But they’re going to have a difficult time getting on that same horse. It’s like the local homebuilder client I once had who said, “We want to be like Target” wIthout having any real context about what that meant or what creating a brand like that involved. Everyone wants to copy success, and few people want to be original.



About Dan Goldgeier

Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. Dan is also a columnist for and the author of View From The Cheap Seats and Killer Executions and Scrubbed Decks.