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Jul. 16 2010 - 1:57 pm | 488 views | 0 recommendations | 3 comments

Old Spice Rocks New Media, Masculinity

Every where I go on the internet, I see the ads for Old Spice. Even more impressive, people off the internet can’t stop talking about the “Old Spice Guy”. He is every where I look, and I don’t mind.

I see ads on College Humor, Hulu, and Huffington Post, and people talking about Isaiah Mustafa (the actor who plays the Old Spice Guy) on Digg, Reddit and  Twitter.  In case you’ve been living without a TV or internet since February, here is the link to the first Old Spice ad featuring Mr. Mustafa (that aired during the Super Bowl), and I’ve embedded the brand new commercial below. Please watch both commercials before continuing.

Each video has an insanely high view count for a commercial.  The original ad has over 13 million hits, and the newest commercial has over 6 million hits… in just two weeks. The commercials are fast-paced, outlandish, and center around a gorgeous man with a soothing baritone sounding off catchphrases left and right. The phrase “I’m on a horse” has become  popular, reminiscent of “I’m on a boat” . The Old Spice Guy even talks about baking cakes, an allusion to the internet meme perhaps?

These commercials don’t just harness phrases and ideas from the internet – Old Spice creates them.  Young males on and off the internet are saying  ”____  is NOW DIAMONDS” or “SWAN DIVE” or “I’M ON A HORSE”  but honestly, every single thing the Old Spice Guy says is worthy of being repeated again and again.

Not content with its current internet success, Old Spice took to Twitter on Tuesday (one day only),  fielding questions and making personalized videos for any interesting person that tweeted to him. Celebrities got personal videos (Alyssa Milano got 3, including flowers) as did strong internet personalities (like Kevin Rose) and the “average joe“.  Brennon Slattery at PC World wonders if this is the “most brilliant ad campaign ever”  and I say yes.

These Old Spice commercials appeal to a man’s sense of masculinity and coolness, like the Dos Equis “The Most Interesting Man in the World” ad campaign. Unlike the Dos Equis ad campaign and the key to its success, these Old Spice  commercials are also directed towards the ladies. Eric Baldwin, one of the creative directors behind the ad campaign, told the LA Times:

“This was more of an acknowledgement that a lot of times, it’s the girlfriend or significant others that are doing the purchasing. So we thought a dual message would be effective.”

via LA Times “Old Spice Talks to the Ladies, Man

I can’t be a warm-blooded woman and not be in love with the fantasy of the Old Spice Guy. I also appreciate these commercials for their satire and the sexy eye-candy just for ladies (no bikini clad women in these commercials, unlike Axe).  It’s not just women though- I have heard my male friends say repeatedly that they’d go gay for the Old Spice Guy.

These Old Spice commercials have a level of honesty unheard of: the Old Spice Guy knows the female viewer’s boyfriend can never be as good as him, so the closest sexual experience the female viewer can get to the Old Spice Guy is to buy the product for her man, and smell him while they have sex. Gentlemen, are you comfortable knowing your lady is thinking of Mr. Mustafa while you bone?

The Old Spice Guy is well groomed, fit, beautiful,  romantic but also highly capable of many magical things, like riding a horse, catching fish, manning a boat, and  baking a cake after building a kitchen with his bare hands.  The Old Spice Guy exudes a charm and chivalry quite unheard of today, and he is an unobtainable fantasy. Women are used to looking at ads featuring hyper-sexualized and idealized females and then feeling bad about themselves, but this is a new phenomenon for men.

Besides the Old Spice Guy, the only other recent fantasy male fawned over by women was Edward (and Jacob) from the Twilight series.  There was an uproar among men when the movies came out and men just couldn’t contain their hatred towards the teenage fantasy (and I kind of agree?) – a real man isn’t like that, they said. No man can ever be like that,  they say, completely forgetting Edward was created for teenage girls… (what did you males fantasize about when you were 15, huh?)

While younger men have embraced The Old Spice Guy (perhaps because they are okay with being sexualized?), John Kass over at the Chicago Tribune recently wrote:

our modern American culture really doesn’t like manly men much these days.

Currently, the so-called ideal man is smooth and hairless and shaves in all the wrong places.

via Chicago’s Manly Man vs. America’s Manliest City Survey

According to Kass, a real man is overweight, has hair in all the wrong places (or is balding), and has attitude in spades – no trace or “whiff of self-consciousness”. A real man doesn’t care how repulsive he is to the opposite sex. (If a female wrote a column like this, she would be ridiculed)

Twitter user OhDoctah has some beef with the Old Spice Guy, and something tells me John Kass would like him: OhDoctah is overweight, opinionated and confident. OhDoctah is offended by the Old Spice Guy’s beauty and popularity, saying women prefer to sleep on duvets (chubby men), not bricks (men with nice abs). OhDoctah understands the popularity of the Old Spice Guy is based off sex appeal, and offers an alternative viewpoint.

Youtube user  dehudson1230 also hates the Old Spice Guy, and recently posted a video titled “I Hate the old Spice Guy, He’s making my life Hell”. In the video, Charles doesn’t appreciate his wife asking him to bake her a cake or fix her kitchen, he just wants to rest when he comes home from work. His wife interjects and says if he did sit-ups he would have nice abs too.

Is there something wrong with wanting a man that takes care of himself? I personally don’t want to marry some dude only to have him die 30 years before me because of some heart disease related to high cholesterol/lack of exercise/obesity, leaving me a lonely widow in my feeble old age. What is wrong with asking for the same standards society applies to women, to men?

I also don’t understand all this male outrage against female fantasies. Based off the popularity of the Old Spice Guy, you’d think men would intuitively understand this ad campaign is about sex with a fantasy, not a threat to masculinity.

If women can accept the Old Spice Guy as a fantasy and not as a mandate on how all men should look, why can’t men do the same?

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  1. collapse expand

    I thought it was a sardonic send-up of masculinity and female fantasy, like the song “Barbie Girl” sort-of is for male fantasy and femininity. Something seems weird and disturbing to me about people actually taking it seriously, but I’m not sure what.. the idea of masculinity on display is clearly more innocuous than “Barbie Girl”’s empty-headed take on femininity.

    • collapse expand

      Watching it again, I think my problem with people taking it seriously is just that it makes me feel insecure. I’ve never been especially sympathetic towards women’s complaints about media making them feel insecure, so for consistency’s sake I shouldn’t complain too loudly.

      (sorry for posting twice in a row, I mean to edit any afterthoughts into the first post but T/S doesn’t seem to allow editing)

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    About Me

    When I am not gracing the front page of google news, I'm writing on one of my other blogs or doing research.

    I was born in Budapest, and escaped the evils of communism at a young age. When I was four, I jumped a fence, fought a guard, disarmed fifteen land mines, and swam across the Atlantic to New York City. Basically.

    I grew up on Roosevelt Island, where I buried a pet in a traffic circle, played street hockey, and never learned how to drive. I now reside in Albany Park, on the Northwest side of Chicago. I'm a former editor, avid animal lover, gamer, pauper, princess, and poet.

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