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.