Mad World: I'm on a Motorcycle

Kelsey Wallace
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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?

OH_Logo.jpgThis 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.

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13 Comments Have Been Posted

I don't think the ads

I don't think the ads perpetuate any stereotypes. It takes stereotypes that already exist and make us see how ridiculous they are, sort of like those ads Kotex had out for the U by Kotex line. Old Spice is more thorough with the humor than Kotex was, I think, so thorough that it does sort of make us forget that we're watching an actual commercial for an actual product. :)

I think if you feel guilty for watching these commercials, it'll probably be because you've subscribed to one of the stereotypes being lampooned here. It's not just masculinity being made fun of here, but I see the stereotype of super-sexualized black men being lampooned a little here too. Other than the risk to Old Spice that people may be more into the commercial than they are into their product, I don't think there's any harm being done. The Terry Crews ones was a little more worrisome to me, to be honest.


<em>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.</em>

You've summed it up with this statement; this anti-advertising tactic isn't at all new. As we discussed this spring on (I think) one of your posts as well as one by Holly Grigg-Spall's, this strategy of telling consumers they're too smart to fall for advertisements is currently on display in the new ad series for U by Kotex (YOU.BUY.KOTEX), but has a long history. It goes back to Sprite's 1995 "Image is Nothing, Obey Your Thirst" campaign featuring famous athletes.

oh, yes

I am 100% in favor of this campaign continuing because I like looking at this gentleman. If that makes me a horrible man-objectifying bitch, well, I can live with that -- and so can he, all the way to the bank.

What I really like this

What I really like this campaign is really so much about what it not is rather than what it is. I saw the first one in the series at the Super Bowl. There were a ton of male targeted products with the message "You are a MAN and you are WHIPPED so by our products and NOT be whipped because those bitches are keeping you down with their COOTIES". Basically, the Dodge Charger and those little portable TV ads. This is a refreshing change. It's intelligent, funny, and best of all, lady friendly. The Old Spice ad campaign is pretty much the only campaign for men's products that doesn't vilify or objectify women.

In addition, it's funny and clever as hell.

two sides of an ad agency?

I find it interesting that both the Dodge Charger spot and the Old Spice spots were created by the same ad agency: Wieden + Kennedy.

The first time I watched the

The first time I watched the commercial I looked down when he says to look down and I haven't stopped laughing since. It's a funny commercial. I'm too in love with Dr. Bronners to buy the stuff for my partner but I appreciate the different approach.


While I enjoy Isaiah's delivery and the one-shot slick tricks of both ads, the "don't smell like a lady" emphasis in the earlier one rubbed me the wrong way. So I like this one better. But I find body wash environmentally unfriendly and only necessitated by over-the-top gender & hygiene stereotypes. So I find the product more offensive than the ad. As short entertainment, the ad makes me chuckle.

Since when is "love of

Since when is "love of baking" a stereotypically masculine trait?

Good point!


You caught me out on my awkward phrasing! What I meant was, more than traditionally masculine stereotypes being reinforced here, the ad reinforces stereotypes regarding what women want in a romantic partner. I think the love of baking fits into that, and kind of goes along with the <i><a href=" for Women</i></a> book series in implying that what really turns women on is a man's (because we all want to be with men, right?) ability to do domestic chores.

Kelsey Wallace, Web Editor

<i>Ask me about our <a href="">Comments Policy</a>!</i>

Speaking of advertising ploys...

I noticed some teensy-weensy text in the corner of Jezebel's post on the new commercial that reads "Sponsored Post." And while there's not media analysis, there is a second Old Spice commercial after the "post."

signed Kjerstin "this is not a sponsored comment" Johnson

Did someone say "<a href="/comments-policy">Comments Policy</a>"?

The humor is rather meta.

The joke is the over the top masculinity, and the mocking of other commercials. Though if you are going to compare this commercial to others you really should compare it to the others in the same product line which somehow puts it up against the likes of Axe Body Wash which, if commercials are to be accepted, will instantly change all the women around me into powerless love machines who will literally chase me down due to sheer sex appeal.

Compare that to the slight irksome nature of "lady scented body washes" which doesn't actually suggest that there's anything wrong with that. And the direct message we're offered is that men can't look like <spokesperson> but they could smell like this. Comparing that to messages that if you do this that or the other, you will end up looking like a supermodel and if you fail to that's your own fault that are frequently found in media, it seems like a refreshing breath of air.

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