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15 July 2010
Old Spice Man as cultural artifact

How does a simple commercial for men’s soap become a cultural phenomenon? Random crown. When does a product’s “social media push” shift from being lame and contrived to being so self-awarely lame and contrived as to seem genuinely brilliant and spontaneous? Motorcycle chef. What happens when you lock up a fine-looking man and countless writers and art directors and camerapeople on a shower-set for two days with a twitter feed, an HD camera, and a YouTube account? Delicious cake. What can we learn about gender, race, and commerce from a tour de force of ironic masculinity? Chainsaw. And what other five questions might we ask about it all? Monacle smile.

—Nate Barksdale

1. What does Old Spice Man assume about the way the world is?

It assumes a media savvy world, building upon years (generations?) of previous advertising strategies.  Then it parodies those strategies in such a ridiculous way that whether you laugh or roll your eyes you’re paying attention, which is the desired result.  It’s the Lady Gaga approach to deodorant soap advertising.

Cliff Warner
2. What does Old Spice Man assume about the way the world should be?

That your man should smell like him. Sorry…couldn’t resist. :)

Mike Hickerson
3. What does Old Spice Man make possible?

It makes great parodies like this BYU library video possible:

Mike Hickerson
4. What does Old Spice Man make impossible (or at least a lot more difficult)?

He makes it much more difficult to watch other body wash/deodorant commercials with a straight face. The Old Spice ads say out loud all of the unsaid implications of other advertising - You’ll be handsome! Rich! Irresistible! Or at least smell like you are! - and reveal the inherent silliness of the genre.

Mike Hickerson
5. What new culture is created in response?

a funny culture