How to (And How Not to) Imitate the Old Spice Campaign

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Where there’s an incredibly successful advertising campaign, there are the unavoidable imitators. As amazing as last month’s Old Spice social media domination was, I know I wasn’t the only one dreading the inevitable parodies of the Isaiah Mustafa ads that would result — especially since it’s a rare rare thing when the copy is as good as the original.

The latest example of someone’s lack of imagination is this minute-long ad featuring Democrat Daniel Freilich, who’s challenging the incumbent Patrick Leahy for the Vermont Senate seat. (Hat tip to The Daily What.)


You probably don’t need someone to tell you what’s wrong with this ad, but I’m gonna go ahead and do it anyways. Oh, but where to start? Let’s start with the comically bad greenscreening, which could have been done better by a 10th grader. Hell, by a 10-year-old with some After Effects proficiency. And then there’s Freilich’s poor attempt to mimic Mustafa’s mannerisms — while wearing a shirt, which proves to be a major handicap.

Essentially, this ad is everything that the original Old Spice campaign was not — derivative, uninspired and poorly executed. Swapping a cow for a horse at the end does not mean that you’ve come up with a fresh and original take on a previously existing concept.

Cisco tried a similar campaign in late July, with its only redeeming value being a tacit acknowledgment Wieden + Kennedy’s hard work, and accordingly its own quasi-plagiarism. Social Times already did a great job of breaking down the Ted from Accounting campaign’s many failures. But it’s worth mentioning this — if you’re going to give GigaOM’s new news editor a unsolicited congratulations on her recent promotion, you might try not being so lame about it.


Am I saying that there is no way for those in the advertising world to use the Old Spice campaign as inspiration, to learn from its many moments of genius? Of course not. And to prove it, here’s “Gregor,” the new spokesperson for DirecTV.


First off, whoever figured out that LOLspeak bore a distinct similarity to the broken English of a Russian mobster — take a bow. The Opulence, I has it intro video, which has over 700,000 views and also runs on broadcast television, has an understated cleverness to it, the crowning touch being the tiny adorable giraffe at the end. It’s well-produced and fun, very much an ad of its time while simultaneously managing to have a unique voice.

Gregor is arguably a more distinct personality than the Man Your Man Could Smell Like (though a bit one-note in his obsession with wealth and shy about showing off his abs) and while there’s only one video featuring him so far, he’s been kept alive thanks to “the Facingbook.” The character has been posting every few days on DirecTV’s Facebook account (less recently on Twitter), asking questions of his now approximately 85,000 fans and replying to their comments.

Just some of his greater moments discussing the diverse television world with Facebook fans:

  • “This Lady Gaga – she sound like my type, no?”
  • “Alex, Topgear sounds like is tops…and therefore Opulent.”
  • “Look at zee peoples all Entourage happy! I should watches these men?”
  • Now, Justified is show about Kentucky law officers? I have gold cowboy hat made for me.

Gregor’s been quiet for a few days now, which might mean the campaign has run its course. But depending on what else is planned it could be a strong successor to what’s already been achieved by Old Spice. Because the important thing to learn from Wieden+Kennedy and Old Spice is that combining a clever point of view with strong social marketing skills will engage online audiences. And you don’t need to be in a bathroom or on a horse to do so.

Related GigaOm Pro Content (subscription required):The Dos and Don’ts of Social Media Marketing