It has been just over a year since Isaiah Mustafa’s Old Spice Man character moved from traditional advertising spaces and conquered the internet with the fantastic rolling campaign of YouTube ‘reply’ videos. I am a huge fan of that 2010 campaign and think it’s still one of the best examples of a dusty brand embracing participatory culture completely and reaping the rewards. This week, the next iteration in that social media campaign has kicked off, with cultural manhood cliché Fabio attempting to wrestle away Mustafa’s Old Spice man crown. Mustafa accepted the challenge and now a ‘battle’ rages ‘Live at Internet Stadium’ with the two both replying to challenges and comments from participants online.
Commentators have already jumped on this as an example of advertising embracing transmedia storytelling in what seems a quite meaningful way. For example, Hypervocal comments:
We don’t know how this will all play out today, but the Old Spice Guy campaign has now transcended mere advertising into the realm of long form digital storytelling. It’s fairly incredible what Old Spice and W+K have established. We’re seeing a full-on social media duel unfold across Twitter and YouTube that doubles as a quasi-advertising campaign (except that nobody cares about the Old Spice connection, they care about the characters and story) — people are being called out directly on both platforms, dates and times for the duel were announced, and tweets and videos will surely be published in a real-time, but coordinated, environment later today.
I agree that this has transcended traditional advertising, but in doing so it asks to be judged in terms of storytelling, not just advertising. Now perhaps I’m not the right person to ‘get’ this duel; I’ve never found Fabio a convincing character and just don’t find him funny. (Nor it seems does the internet; his challenge has more ‘dislikes’ than likes, but Mustafa’s reply is almost entirely ‘liked’.) However, for me, as a narrative experience, the Old Spice campaign has jumped the shark. The ‘duel’ doesn’t appear to be over yet, and perhaps I’ll be won over, but for now both the manly men vying for the Old Spice crown seem burdened by their roles, not excited by it. Fabio is a weary icon at best, and Mustafa’s lines just aren’t as funny as last year.
Update: Surprising no one, the Old Spice guy (Mustafa) won the ‘duel’, but the pathway there, through numerous odd videos, was a bizarre one, even by internet standards. Just watch the final showdown video to see odd things really got:
Update 2: YouTube have run the numbers, and the Old Spice Guy versus Fabio videos (over 100 of them) clocked up 22 million views in a week, with the viewing peaking with just over 5 million views in a single day.