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The Old Spice Guy celebrates its 10th anniversary—as an embarrassing Old Spice Dad

A decade after he first said, “Hello Ladies,” Isaiah Mustafa is back in a different world.

The Old Spice Guy celebrates its 10th anniversary—as an embarrassing Old Spice Dad
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To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the original Old Spice Guy campaign launch, the brand has brought back Isaiah Mustafa as its iconic spokesman, now a doting-yet-impeccably-scented dad to a Gen Z son.

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Meet The Dad Your Dad Could Smell Like.

The new ad is a tad ironic, given that part of the original campaign’s goals was to rid Old Spice of its stodgy image as your dad and grandpa’s aftershave.

First, it enlisted Bruce Campbell to reposition the brand from “old” to experienced. This gave its agency Wieden+Kennedy its start in introducing a new personality and sense of humor for the brand, one that enthusiastically embraced the ridiculous. Sales had already begun to grow, making it the perfect kindling for the eventual blaze of popularity that would get sparked once Mustafa stared down that camera lens during the 2010 Super Bowl and said, “Hello Ladies.”

That led to inevitable follow-up ads, and eventually the award-winning “Responses” work in which Old Spice guy sent 186 individual Twitter and YouTube response videos to more than 2,000 questions and requests from fans and celebrities. More people viewed the “Responses” videos in one day than watched President Obama’s 2008 election-night acceptance speech. Sales of Old Spice doubled that year, but more importantly for longevity, after growing over those previous few years, Old Spice Guy was the viral hit that firmly cemented the brand’s iconic pop-culture status. It was so notable that it ranks No. 4 on AdAge’s Top 15 Campaigns of the 21st Century.

Old Spice Guy’s legacy is one that illustrates the potential for brands to break into pop culture by combining good ol’ fashioned TV commercials with the agility and viral potential of the internet.

However, looking back over the 1o years since it launched, it’s also clear how rare such instances actually are. It’s not as easy as “I’m on a horse.” More than a decade since either was introduced, both Mustafa and Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Man would still be on anyone’s list of most renowned commercial characters. More recently, both brands have rolled out replacement attempts. Old Spice has a long-running, perfectly funny, and serviceable campaign with Terry Crews. Meanwhile, Dos Equis has tried and failed to replace its original with a newer model. Neither have reached the heights of the originals.

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Watching Mustafa become Embarrassing Old Spice Dad only highlights that fact.

Like this golden age of TV, despite us all watching more than we ever have before, we’re a fragmented audience. You’re watching Mrs. Maisel. I’m watching Watchmen. That guy’s watching the new season of Curb Your Enthusiasm. That girl’s watching season three of Friends. Even compared with 2010, we’re less of a cohesive unit known as “The Audience.” That’s not to say that it’s impossible to create something that captures the collective attention of the culture, but with the sheer amount of noise—combined with that fragmentation—it’s monumentally tougher than ever before.

Modern meme culture seems to usher in new winners of Old Spice Guy-levels of popularity every couple of months, whether there’s a brand attached or not. The appeal is fleeting, though: viral one minute, swiped away the next.

In 2020, The Man Your Man Could Smell Like is an attention-seeking exhibitionist. Just like every other TikTok dad.

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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