Is Old Spice the best social media campaign ever?

Digital Strategy, Social Media11 Comments

When the Old Spice videos started showing up on social media a couple of weeks ago, I was amongst those who promptly declared it “the best social media campaign ever.

Now that the dust has settled, I thought it was time to revisit my original assertion (I was wrong) and see what impact, if any, the campaign had and we as marketers can learn from it.

It began with traditional media

LOLing at the hundred or so YouTube videos that were created, it’s easy for international audiences especially to forget that the Old Spice campaign first took shape as a very traditional TV ad. Not just any ad, the spot earned top prize at this year’s Cannes Film Lions Grand Prix and went viral.

For this reason it’s a misnomer to call it a pure social media campaign. Without the mainstream awareness and equity built by traditional media, it’s doubtful that we would have cared as much as we did when Old Spice started creating personalised videos responding to Twitter celebs.

Where’s the ROI?

Cynics were quick to point out that despite the attention, the Old Spice ads had failed to translate to sales.

Turns out they were wrong as well with Procter & Gamble (Old Spice’s parent company) recently announcing a 55% increase in sales of Old Spice over the last 3 months and a 107% increase in the last month alone.

The bottom line is the campaign worked and based on the massive growth over the last month, and while we can’t say for sure social media played a role in this.

Extending the brand with social

So if the Old Spice ads as a whole did what they were supposed to and drive sales growth, what did Weiden + Kennedy (the Portland agency behind the campaign) get right with social?

Based on the overwhelmingly positive feedback towards the TV ads and the affinity the public felt towards the Old Spice guy, they identified an opportunity to move the campaign beyond traditional media and bring the character to life with social media.

The idea was deliciously simple and surprisingly low-tech considering the buzz it generated. Essentially, it leveraged on a very simple concept “make a series of 30 sec spots” and used social media to make it relevant to the audience. Read Write Web wrote a terrific piece about how the videos were made.

We should be doing this

Well actually, no.

While it’s a foregone conclusion that client’s will soon be asking their agencies for copycat campaigns (Cisco already tried and failed with Cisco Guy), without spending big bucks to build brand equity and a campaign concept that resonates with customers, it’s doubtful that Old Spice’s success can be replicated.

Even then, for social media marketers, the Old Spice campaign failed to leverage all the good stuff inherent in social media: conversation, community, engagement. As great and as innovative as the campaign is, it remains a brilliant traditional media idea that was very smartly repurposed and repackaged for social media.

Hat-tip to Mitch Joel and Joseph Jaffe who I just found out covered this topic in the latest episode of Six Pixels of Separation. I only realised this last night while listening to the podcast and well after this post had been written. If you want to hear their thoughts, you can listen here.


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