Our very first post in this series was a discussion of the "I'm on a horse" Old Spice commercial. Some of us loved it and felt guilty about it, some of us loved it and felt great about it, and some of us just loved to hate it. Whichever camp you're in, you might be interested to know that Old Spice just released a follow up:
Again, as in the last ad starring the charming-yet-previously-unknown Isaiah Mustafa, there is a lot to love here. This spot continues the one-shot style of the previous installment, which is impressive to say the least. In fact, this one takes it further by having our hero jump off of something onto something else (a motorcycle). Fun! On the other hand, this ad continues—in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, but still—to perpetuate stereotypes about what makes a "real man." These stereotypes include: love of adventure, ability to build a kitchen with his bare hands, love of baking, motorcycles, etc.. In addition, the ad assumes that a man with these qualities would be a dream come true for all "ladies." Sure, this ad is making fun of those notions to a certain extent, but does that excuse the essentialism taking place here? Something that is especially interesting to me is that this is an ad campaign about ad campaigns. It references ads, makes jokes about ads, and glorifies in being an ad. It isn't about Old Spice at all, really. (In fact, a friend of mine who works at the ad agency that produced these spots told me they were having trouble in focus groups because no one could remember what the ads were for, they only remembered the main dude.) The charisma of the main character drives the campaign, and viewers look forward to the next installment because of the clever camerawork and Mustafa's over-the-top line delivery—not because they want to hear more about Old Spice body wash. So what do you think? Are you glad this campaign is continuing, or do you want it to just fade away? What should we make of ad campaigns that take on lives of their own, separate from the products they promote?
This project was made possible in part by a grant from Oregon Humanities (OH), a statewide nonprofit organization and an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, which funds OH's grant program. Any views, findings, and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Oregon Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.