The Man Your Man Could Smell Like

If you can spice-up Old Spice what else  can you “spice-up”?

Saw an article yesterday about an ad that made an impression on me when I saw it a few months ago.   In the commercial a buffed man wearing only a towel is standing in a bathroom looking straight at the camera and says,

“Ladies, look at your man

Look at me

Now, back at your man

Now back at me


He isn’t me.”

By this time I’m already dying with laughter and the commercial gets better. I won’t spoil the rest of it for you if you haven’t seen it (it’s embedded below) but the ad was for Old Spice.

Old Spice (OS) was widely considered your grandfather’s cologne; very dated and irrelevant to the female buyers of the exotic European brands sold at the top department stores. Irrelevant until Wieden and Kennedy (advertising agency) casted former NFL player Isaiah Mustafa to play “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like.”

Why am I sharing these commercials here?

First because I live to laugh, (also to dine, drink, entertain, be entertained etc., etc.) and this commercial is funny.

The ad demonstrates the mechanism of language in creating meaning

Second, this is an example of how our attitudes and beliefs are shaped by language. Indeed our experience of reality as our truth is crafted in language. Hollywood and Madison Ave have always known this, but most people are blind to the profound nature of the mechanism of language, and it’s offspring: attitude, posture, gesture, expression, mood, story, posture, attitude, song, and poetry.

This old spice commercial demonstrates how we can be hooked by a conversation, either – as in the OS commerical – because it is new and confronting, or as is often the case because it is repeated over and over again as is done with many commercials or by news editorials. Some of these conversations are new but many are born into e.g. religion and patriotism.

The OS commercial is brilliant because it plays on many existing and parallel stories (e.g. fantasy and romance) and anchors them to OS in a way that makes the brand fresh and relevant to a new young audience.

The ad demonstrates all language components acting in concert

Third, these commercials demonstrate how all of the elements of language act in harmony to move you from one place to another, to create a new set of associations and meanings for something that was not important or relevant to your life before you saw it.

Remember listening to a presentation, speech, or someone answering questions in an interview and feeling less than convinced?Remember something being off?  Perhaps the person said all the right things, but his body language or attire didn’t match his words?  Perhaps the images in the presentation didn’t fit the bullet points they were supposed to support.

When trying to persuade, teach or explain all of the various spoken and unspoken elements of language must act in harmony to have your audience accept your interpretations, make the associations you wish and come to the meaning you are trying to convey.

More often than not, this doesn’t happen in our everyday experience of language and most of us can’t quite put our finger on exactly what is wrong.  We are only left saying things like,

“I don’t trust him.”

“I don’t buy that story”

“Something is off about that guy, but I don’t know what it is.”

In this Old Spice commercial, all of the elements work in concert to create an intended effect on us – the audience … and it works. We’re left with the new associations with Old Spice that the brand wants us to make; specifically we come to associate Old Spice with hip, playful, irreverent, seductive and sexy.

This my friends is how you want your speeches and presentations to work.  You want to have all elements of language working to achieve your objective.   (That only comes with education and practice.)

Here it is pay close attention to how it works on you because it is happening entirely in language (which includes what you see).

Note the following:

What he says

His words, lead the viewer (the target is mostly women) to make associations of Old Spice (on her man) with all of the fantasies of the man of her dreams. (The script is written below.)

How he says it

With confidence, and panache. The cadence of his speech goes from fast to faster and he emphasises certain words and phrases with deliberate intent. I’m not an expert in neuro-linguintic programming, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some nlp is happening in this ad.

The images used

This includes, Isaiah himself, what he’s wearing, how he holds his body, his expressions and gestures, the images around him (especially of him and the horse). They all support and re-enforce his words. Nothing is disconnected or in contradiction to the new meanings being conveyed in the ad.

What is your Old Spice?

If this can be done with Old Spice, it can be done with anything. Is there something, or someone in your life that can take on a completely new meaning for you?  Think. There must be some situation or some person that you have made up your mind about.  That person or situation is just the way he/it is (not good) and that’s not going to change.

The OS ad for me is a demonstration that it is possible to change your pre-existing attitude and belief about any situation, circumstance, person, crisis etc.  All that’s required is:

  1. that you be willing to let go of your old attitudes and beliefs (as you are with Old Spice), and,
  2. that you have an enrolling new “story” to step into.

Here is another equally fully installment of the same OS campaign, and below that is the script of the original spot.

Hats off to Eric Kallman and Craig Allen at Wieden and Kennedy who created this spot, and for recognizing Mustafa’s perfection for the role. Back in my advertising days we would always debate, yes it got great recall and persuasion scores, but will it move any product? My bet is that Old Spice is flying off the shelves because of this campaign.

Here’s another funny installment of the OS campaign:

The script for “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like”

“Hello Ladies

Look at your man,

now back to me

now back at your man, now back to me

Sadly, he isn’t me

but if he stopped using ladies scented body wash and switched to Old Spice he could smell like he’s me.

Look down, back up

Where are you

You’re on a boat

with the man, your man could smell like

What’s in your hand

Back at me

I am

It’s an Oyster with 2 tickets to that thing you love

Look again

The tickets are now diamonds

Anything is possible when your man smells like Old Spice and not a lady

I’m on a horse

Any thoughts? Contributions/acknowledgments welcome.