Old Spice Man ROI Will Be Measured For Years to Come

I am not normally one to defend someone else’s work, particularly when it’s getting rave reviews in most circles. Yet some recent unfounded criticism that caught my eye warrants further discussion. When I saw the campaign in question, my first reaction was more along the lines of “I wish I had done that” as opposed to “Who polished that turd?” I am not alone in this fondness either, however—it seems like 20% of the Internet might agree with me also.

Yes, I’m talking about “that” campaign. The one with the spokesperson that we just refer to as the Old Spice Guy. On the bandwagon so far we have several heavy hitters. The Cannes Lions judges awarded it the Grand Prix earlier this summer, making this the industry’s pick as the most groundbreaking work in 2010. Oprah liked it so much she had the star of the ads, Isaiah Mustafa, on her show as a guest. And, the Old Spice YouTube channel is now also the most viewed sponsored channel in YouTube history.

My creative instinct motivated me to write this after I saw opinions that panned the campaign as an over-indulgent art piece without a true sales message. I then subsequently read some similar articles on Bnet and Yahoo, and I felt that this couldn’t be further from the truth. The ads themselves are transforming a category, and helping to convert many males from traditional bar soap to liquid shower gels that many have oft-perceived as being too feminine. The campaign uses an ingenious mix of masculinity, thanks to the use of an ex-NFL wide receiver and “manly” activities such as carpentry, horseback riding, and motorcycling. It also has feminine appeal with a well spoken, rugged, and handsome spokesperson. It’s positioning Old Spice as the product that guys will like, and women will want their guys to have. It’s definitely not my grandfather’s product anymore.

In my world, we are challenged every day with trying to take our clients’ budgets and leverage the hell out of them to gain every possible competitive advantage available to us (Chuck Porter refers to this as making your clients Famous). PR, viral video views, and social media chatter are channels that can be influenced, but not purchased outright. You need to have ingenuity, timing, and of course entertainment factor in order to be successful.

Speaking of successful, I generally hear that getting a million views on YouTube is pretty good for a viral campaign. When a campaign hits 100 million views such as Old Spice has, then we should really sit back and think about the significance of that. For example, I live in Canada, a technically advanced, industrialized nation. The population of Canada is approximately 33.3 million people. By that math, the Old Spice Man has been viewed by the equivalent of every man, woman and child in our entire freakin’ country three times each. Staggering.

Now, I know, I know, that’s all really great but it doesn’t mean that it was a good investment. Advertising is intended to sell product after all, not entertain people, right?

Well, to that I say “yes” we are here to sell products, but if we could sell people something AND provide consumers with a bit of an emotional connection, like say a smile or a laugh at the same time, wouldn’t we be building a better long-term relationship? All too often initial sales numbers get skewed by promotional activities such as coupons or price cuts. Promotions are great, and highly necessary, but we can’t let short-term numbers cloud the long-term success of a deeply seeded viral campaign. Whereas traditional marketing campaign results could be reasonably measured in blocking charts of weeks and months, a viral campaign with 100,000,000 (and growing) followers could take decades to effectively measure as it is so deeply rooted in Internet culture that it will continue to bounce around the “Interwebs” long after the media budget is pulled and the last SKU for that fiscal is measured.

Campaigns with the level of viral reach achieved by the Old Spice Man have already proved that they are effective at drawing viewers. Lots of them. The fact that those videos will continue to propagate is a given. What’s not yet understood is the long term ROI around such an online following.

Before anyone starts throwing sales numbers around, and I have read decent articles covering some campaign metrics here, and here. I’d also like to remind any naysayers that body wash is a product with a relatively long shelf life. Depending on how you purchase it (single bottle vs. multi-packs for example) you could go anywhere from two to six months between purchases. That would dictate that even a highly successful brand campaign is going to take a while to show results at the cash register. And, as I suggested earlier, a campaign like this will likely be providing huge volumes of highly valuable brand impressions for years to come as the viral momentum is simply too great to fade away anytime soon.

So, for anyone out there with a bad case of creative-phobia, hear this: you cannot measure the ROI of a successful viral campaign in weeks or months. This isn’t a TV campaign that has an off switch. Using traditional media measurements to map out the ROI of a viral campaign is like comparing an airplane to a spaceship. In traditional media (the airplane) you only got carried as far as your budget could take you and then you came in for a landing. In the online world (spaceship) you need enough budget to break the stratosphere, and seed the campaign in the community—once you do that, your concept is free from the gravitational pulls of a traditional budget, and it starts to build its own momentum.

Facebook is widely lauded as one of the most successful websites of our time. It has approximately 500,000,000 stated users. For a campaign to reach an estimated 20% of those people online in under a year is amazing. To do it for a campaign selling soap is even more amazing. My hat is off to the team at W+K and the Old Spice Man for the amazing job they’ve done to date. Keep it up.

And hey, @oldspice, feel free to drop us a line at @HotTomali. Canadians like body wash too.


  1. Posted 2010.07.26 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    What do feelings have to do with this? (“I felt that this couldn’t be further from the truth”) :)

    Keeping the campaign going in the face of (maybe) short terms sales declines is only a business decision: do you have the financial stamina to keep the media buy going in the face of sales declines (or flat liner results) with the promise of an eventual uptick or do you bail out?

    This decision isn’t unlike a decision to dump a stock you buy and which declines shortly after: do you believe it will come back or don’t you.

  2. Posted 2010.07.26 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Hi Raquel,

    You asked what we thought was the best direction for a brand in troubled economic times (entertainment or direct sales messages), and I think Old Spice nailed it with the entertainment factor. The body wash category has grown 51% in 5 years (largely due to campaigns like Old Spice Man), and is now worth over three quarters of a billion dollars—that’s worth the investment.

    It’s too early to measure the full results of Old Spice Man, and I’m sure when they do, the results will be very impressive. You don’t get 100 million views on YouTube and not attain a lift in brand affinity and sales. At least not with creative that is simply that good. As the CMO I would be thrilled with the fact that my campaign is rewriting the record book for sponsored online videos. Talk about rock star results.

    It’s worth noting that Old Spice isn’t suffering from “short term sales declines.” In the wake of negative sales reports, Weiden + Kennedy is reporting that the campaign is doing a lot better than speculated. They report a 107 percent increase in sales on body wash, although one product in their line up, Red Zone After Hours was declining: http://bit.ly/aVidpK

    All too often I see great creative get dismissed because people simply can’t believe that entertainment can induce sales. As a creative director I’ve spent years researching that very topic, in great detail, as I want to ensure that I’m always presenting my clients with the best value for our services. Time and time again innovative viral campaigns like Old Spice Man or Dove Evolution (Ogilvy and Mather, Toronto) or Subservient Chicken (CP+B, Miami), blow away the competition in terms of ROI because the consumer embraces it and takes it to heights that retail sales messages would never achieve.

    It used to be that award-winning creative was slammed for not embracing digital. I think it’s very refreshing to see traditional ad shops do such a wonderful job of working on the social media landscape. These are exciting times for marketers on both the creative and analytical sides.

  3. Posted 2010.07.26 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Hey – don’t get me wrong! I *love* those commercials. I find them entertaining and engaging. I am glad they were produced and doubly glad they went viral (I don’t watch much TV, so I had missed them live).

    AdAge weighed in here with some sales info: http://adage.com/article?article_id=145096


    The question is: How much Old Spice body wash has he sold? And the answer is a bit of a mystery.

    The bottom line: Mr. Mustafa and Wieden & Kennedy are clearly selling some body wash, but they may not be responsible for the bulk of Old Spice’s sales gain this year.

    How much of Old Spice’s recent gains — of that 106% bump measured by Symphony IRI in June, for example — come from Mr. Mustafa’s ads and how much from the coupons? “It’s impossible to know,” said P&G spokesman Mike Norton.

    Nor is it clear how much Old Spice’s 106% gain will disappear from P&G’s top line when coupon redemptions, which don’t figure into scanner data but do come off the company’s top line when financial results are reported next month, figure in.

  4. Posted 2010.07.26 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Not sure where the sales declines are in that article, but it does reinforce my point that we can’t measure the effectiveness of viral success with traditional marketing metrics.

    Swan Dive!

  5. Chris M
    Posted 2010.07.27 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    If you don’t think that the old spice campaign moved the needle, then the glue your sniffing must do wonders. Even on the off chance that a coupon campaign (which undercuts brand value) was responsible for Old Spice’s sales increase, I would guarantee you that Old Spice wouldn’t have sold anything had their brand not been refreshed. Prior to WK taking on the brand, Old Spice looked so dead people were ready to plant their crap smelling cologne in the ground. I used to be ashamed of using Old Spice deodorant, because it was a grandpa brand. But now I’m proud to wear a funny and engaging brand. That is what good advertising does. I have never seen a traditional coupon campaign that makes me proud to wear a brand.

  6. Chris M
    Posted 2010.07.27 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    And one more thing! I should proof my spelling and grammar before posting such an engaging and intellectual bit of commentary. Next time.

  7. Posted 2010.07.28 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    AdLand.tv weighs in on our conversation “Old Spice sales up 107% – take that, social media doubters”

One Trackback

  1. [...] Old Spice Man en Hottomali [...]

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *


Who We Are

Hot Tomali is an award-winning integrated marketing communications agency based in Vancouver, BC. We're guided by ideas–not mediums. Every project is approached individually to tailor innovative and thought-provoking marketing communications that are specific to your audience. Your needs are unique and every project is unique. Shouldn't every solution also be unique?