If you haven't been following the antics of OldSpice on youtube, I think you've been missing history in the making. Not the broad sweep of empire and ideology, no, but something about the whole enterprise of advertising is going to change.
To frame this discussion, I thought I would look to my preferred authority on ad culture; one Terry O'Reilly (of O'Reilly on Advertising and The Age of Pursuasion on CBC radio.) There's nothing on his blog as yet about Old Spice specifically, but just yesterday he posted "HOW TO MARKET TO MEN IN 2010". Let's see what he says:
"Men are really two men: The man they are, and the man they want to be."
"The Man Your Man Could Smell Like" truly does embody this sentiment. Here is - as ELI said this morning - the Form of Man. And here he is selling you a deodorant that will let you smell just like him. It's just the right blend of irony, absurdity, and hubris.
"Men search out answers on the internet and have no problem seeking answers to important life questions from people they don't know. The web is a big provider of comfort to men."
Well, ok it's not "real" advice that Old Spice Man dispenses. But as a man I think I'm qualified to say that men sometimes just need affirmation, ego stroking; assurance. Failing that, we should be able to laugh at our problems and ourselves. That, or we really do wish we could solve our problems by wrestling sharks.
"At the end of the day, the question most marketers should be asking themselves is
- how do I get bookmarked?
What do I have to offer men to ensure I am one of the 10 websites they surf more often than any others.
All websites should be conversations.
A-HA! Here you have it, folks! Viral marketing is nothing new, but creating an actual conversation with the audience IS. Viral marketing has suffered in the past from what I'll call an "authenticity problem": savvy customers eventually catch on to the marketing schemes that advertisers try to camouflage as "grassroots", thinking we'll respond favourably. Inevitably, though, the consumer gets a little jaded. It isn't really fun when the "new" advertising is still just a Man in a suit telling you what to think. Heck, now it's worse because he's lying to you to begin with. It should be self-evident that such attempted subterfuge is about the worst strategy for building a bond of trust between you and your prospective customers. Successful viral marketing campaigns, on the other hand, often take the form of a puzzle game, where the audience has to solve a series of clues which are often obliquely related to the theme of the product. No lies, but it gets people talking and it gets them engaged. I think it's important that if Old Spice guy is lying to you it's ludicrous exaggeration and not subterfuge. He does not pretend not to be a company spokesperson. He doesn't claim to be just one of us. He DOES, however, talk to you if you post a comment and you're lucky. It's honest in the right ways, and engaging in the right ways. Not a puzzle, but a game nonetheless. And as Mr. O'Reilly would say, part of the covenant between advertisers and consumers is that the advertiser should provide you with (among other things) entertainment value in exchange for your time and attention.
So, every other ad agency on the planet: your move.