Behind the Curtain of Old Spice's Viral Video Mega Hit

by Jason Keath on Jul 21, 2010

At 9am EST last Tuesday, July 13th Old Spice kicked off what has easily been the biggest short term social media successes to date. And probably the manliest too.

We sat down with Dean McBeth (@evilspinmeister), Digital Strategist at Wieden + Kennedy, to do a video interview and talk about some of the marketing and business insights behind this manly campaign. Dean is also the official Community Manager for Old Spice (a P&G company).

We enjoyed the videos, but we also wanted to dive into how they executed the strategy behind the videos and how this all works back into actually selling more Old Spice. The final verdict will not be known for a while, but McBeth gives us some great insights as to where things stand today.

Watch the video of our talk with McBeth below. We have also outlined some of the key takeaways from the interview, so if you don’t have 30 minutes to listen to the whole thing you can still skim the rest of this article for the high points. Thanks again to McBeth and Wieden + Kennedy.

How Did You Convince Old Spice?

Trust was built up over time between W+K and Old Spice starting with the success of the TV commercials and then later, online, as those videos saw new lift on Youtube. “They knew the sentiment would be great” said McBeth. The campaign would not have been possible if the videos had not already taken on a life of their own online. Old Spice was just tapping into an existing adoration of the character.

W+K worked with another PR agency and plenty of P&G representatives, including legal, on where the limits of the campaign would be before they got started. “Everyone knew where the lines were that we could not cross” said McBeth.

An interesting point by McBeth, is that to reproduce this campaign, he feels another brand would really need a personality that could compel the audience. He guesses there are really only a few out there that could have pulled it off in one capacity or another with varying potential for success:

  • Flow from Progressive
  • The most interesting man in the world from Dos Equis
  • Cro-Mags from Geico
  • And, maybe the King from Burger King

How Did You Do It?

  • Iain Tait (@iaintait), Global Interactive Creative Director at W+K, is credited with the original idea of actually having the Old Spice guy reply to consumers on Youtube (we can now all refer to Iain as “the guy who did those Old Spice videos”).
  • 4 copywriters were behind most of the creative and worked as directors for each video. One copywriter worked on one reply at a time, but collaborated with other writers and social media strategists present on set to make sure they understood who they were talking to.
  • W+K built a monitoring system to pull in comments on Old Spice from around the web, this is what they used exclusively to filter potential comments for replies.
  • “In the room there [were] two social media guys and a tech guy who built a system pulling in comments from around the web all together in real time,” Tait says on ReadWriteWeb.com.
  • No replies were sent to anyone that had not first commented or written about Old Spice, the one exception being the replies to questions from Yahoo Answers. Whether they were talking to Ellen or Ashton, they waited to be noticed by them first.
  • The first few videos “were very strategic smart bombs — fully customized, personal and things that people wanted to share” said McBeth.
  • Most of the videos were sent to non-influencers, but they were very cognizant of making sure they replied to influencers to give the campaign a larger push. McBeth estimated 70% of the videos were sent to fans or commenters that would not be labeled as influencers.
  • A summer intern at W+K was tasked with scouring Yahoo Answers for the most manly questions (not a bad gig).
  • 40-45 videos were shot on Monday, July 12th to give them a good stockpile of video replies to launch with on Tuesday morning. These initial videos were very strategically chosen to both give the campaign a strong push out of the gate and to thank some of the more loyal fans of the brand.
  • After the first day of filming, before the launch of the campaign, W+K did two more days of replies on-the-fly, with no pre-written scripts. And only a table full of great props at their disposal.
  • There was a strong focus on making people ask “How are they doing these so fast?” and a big part of producing that effect was having so many videos ready to release, when they wanted, throughout each day of the campaign.
  • “[We] wanted to make it seem real time” said McBeth.
  • W+K purchased a promoted trend on Twitter that launched at 7:30am as “insurance” to make sure the campaign went viral. “You can never guarantee something will go viral” said McBeth.
  • W+K “pretty much knew within the first 2 hours that they had a success on their hands,” but even they were not sure of how big it would get.

What Were the Goals?

“We want to help young guys navigate the seas of manhood” quoted McBeth, saying it was their overarching mantra from the beginning.

The specific goals of the viral videos campaign, according to McBeth, were to “amplify the second video in this series [of commercials] and to push that story out there to the world. And second to thank all the consumers that have been apart of this Old Spice story.”

Increasing sales and increasing them with a younger demographic is the obvious overarching, long-term goal.

What Were the Results?

They scored their two main goals with awareness and PR impressions. PR impressions were estimated by McBeth, at the time of the interview, at 1-1.5 billion. They expect views and impressions to continue with more media coverage, possibly even doubling those numbers. When asked if the campaign is a success, McBeth said “Absolutely”.

The client is definitely happy according to McBeth. There will be a sales summary coming out soon by a major financial publication on the exact figures. Judging from the smiles we are seeing over at W+K, we assume there was a pretty substantial short term spike in Old Spice product sale.

The most viewed video was the final video, Re: Everyone. We Are Social has the best overall breakdown of total views across all the 183 videos, which at the time was over 11 million and climbing.

The platform growth numbers:

  • Facebook fans grew by 118%
  • YouTube subscribers grew 227%
  • Twitter followers saw the biggest bump at 2,800% growth

No word yet on if there has been any growth of manly questions on Yahoo Answers.

“We dropped a 35 lb weight into a bathtub” said McBeth. “We are part of communities that we never expected to be apart of, the Reddit community, Digg, and we have a huge following of librarians now.” They also touched the third rail that is the 4Chan community and survived. Referred to in the campaign as “Anonymous“, the 4chan community surprisingly embraced Old Spice and is even continuing to spread memes from the campaign, like “monocle smile.”

“The footprint has grown and we will be actively looking to grow the engagement in these communities moving forward. We need to figure out what the community is looking for,” said McBeth. And that community is considerably larger now.

While the campaign was viral, some say the fastest viral hit ever, it was not much of a conversation in the beginning. It looked much more like an ad campaign, pushing for buzz and impressions, than it did like a social media campaign to drive conversations.

This does set Old Spice up with a much larger and passionate community than they had before so it will be interesting to watch how they continue the conversation past this massive short term win.

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Post Author

CEO and founder of Social Fresh, the social media education company. Jason is a social media consultant, a social media speaker and industry analyst. He consults with corporations and agencies on social media strategy, building community, and influencer...

  • http://blog.acappellamedia.com/ John Hondroulis

    When you do a side-by-side compared to AXE, the results are REALLY amplified. W+K managed to make AXE look like my father's Oldsmobile in single social media swan dive. BRILLIANT, congrats, and on behalf of every digital marketing consultancy across the globe, thanks for making our jobs easier!

  • http://twitter.com/SuperRob Rob Stevens

    What you guys proved more than anything is that it's meticulous planning, flawless execution, and a deep UNDERSTANDING OF THE CONSUMER that made this work. It wasn't some sort of social networking “expertise”, or technology voodoo that made it work. It was good old fashioned MARKETING working in current marketing channels.

    Bravo!

  • Jessica Murray

    Really excellent interview Jason!

  • Eric Baldwin

    Damn, that is one sexy robot guy!

  • http://htto://socialfresh.com sofresh

    I like that John, “thanks for making our lives easier”. I hope campaigns
    like this will loosen the brand purse strings a little when social media
    gets mentioned in meetings.

  • http://blog.acappellamedia.com/ John Hondroulis

    Thanks. Not just purse strings, but the imagination strings too.

  • http://www.sayitsocial.com/ TyDowning

    Great summary Jason. Anytime you can generate 35 million video views in just seven
    days, you are doing something incredible. I think it's refreshing to see a brand “Listen” to it's consumers, and engage them. The return is they created thousands of “advocates” to infuse this campaign…brilliant!
    Also, has “Old Spice Guy” followed up on giving you an interview?? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16QayksWEJo

  • Jonathan-Kidder

    Great job! I love this campaign!

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