You are now entering Ad Space, a realm of commercials, brought before us so we might examine how they work, and discuss why we both love and hate them so. So it is written …
Old Spice body wash
Buy Old Spice or be cuckolded.
Welp, once again I missed a week of Ad Space. Curse you, Morpheus, King of Sleep, for chaining me to my bed when there were Avocado posts to be written!
To make up for that un-make-up-forable lapse, this week we’re covering a commercial I’ve been keeping in my back pocket. A break-glass-in-case-of-Ad-Space-getting-stale selection, a commercial whose fame precedes it. Yes, it’s the debut of that Old Spice spokesman/mascot/living-meme, The Man Your Man Could Smell Like.
What’s interesting about this ad is that, despite Old Spice targeting its product at men, the commercial is ostensibly addressed at the women in the audience, encouraging them to buy Old Spice for their boyfriends or husbands, so that they might become as magnificent as this fine specimen of manhood. And maybe there’s a few women who got their significant others Old Spice because of this ad; it’s possible.
But despite Man Your Man Could Smell Like specifically addressing “Ladies”, it’s clearly the gentlemen watching that the message is meant for. And the message they’re getting is quite clear: “There are rich, handsome, shirtless, silky-voiced men pitching woo to your women. You need to get some Old Spice on you, or some of this fella is gonna get in her!“
That’s an unusually aggressive approach. Preying on fears of romantic and sexual inadequacy, sure, that’s par for the course. But ideally, you want to viewers to think positively of your product, to feel like it’s on their side, whereas this ad seems to position Old Spice as a rival, an impossible-to-match competitor for a lady friend’s favor.
That this ad not only gets away with this, but became one of the most popular commercials of the last couple decades? All down to the humor of the absurd.
A realistic version of The Man Your Man Could Smell Like would be a smarmy douche that you’d want to punch in the face … or, failing that, drive into bankruptcy by boycotting his crappy body wash. But this ad goes so far over the top that Mr. Could Smell Like doesn’t resemble any rival suitor you might have to worry about, but is more a physical manifestation of the “The Perfect Man” … and you could smell just like him!
And, on a personal note, I always laugh at: “It’s an oyster, with two tickets to That Thing You Love! Look again, the tickets are now diamonds!”