Old Spice’s social media sensation

Sorry, I'm behind the curve on this one: Old Spice showing how to harness the power of social media. Old Spice has created the most viewed sponsored YouTube channel ever. It has, wait for it, 155,529,143 video views. And the brand's Facebook page is about to break the million friend mark. A great example of how P&G are mastering the use of social media.

The campaign started with a highly entertaining TV ad for Old Spice bodywash aired during the Superbowl starring Old Spice Man. Click below to watch it on the blog.

The ad quickly became popular on YouTube and attracted lots of comments. This is where the awe inspiring second wave of social media amplification came in. The ad agency, W+K, produced a total of 180 mini films that responded to these comments. You can see the films here. In each film the person commenting was name checked.

Importantly, this is an example where the campaign appears to be building not just buzz, but the business as well, as shown by IRI data here.

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Here's what I take out from this story.

1. The basic rules of buzz have not changed

People have always talked about ads which entertain. Only before this happened in offices and pubs in small conversations. Social media have simplify amplified this effect. But the basic rules of buzz have not changed. Make us laugh, titillate us, shock us or amaze us and we will talk about your brand. Bore us and no matter how fancy the production, the buzz will fail to ignite. Even a flame-thrower can't light damp wood (at least I don't think it would). A good example of this is the behind the scenes footage of Martini's latest TV ad I posted on last week here.

2. You guessed it, sizzle AND sausage

Of course the entertainment value is what makes a film viral. But the best ones tell a product story. And this is the case with Old Spice, which we would expect from P&G. The ad is a good old fashioned product endorsement ad, with the body wash central to the story. "Your man can't be me, but he can smell like me" says the hero.

3. The craft of marketing is key

One of my top themes of the year is the importance of great execution in marketing success. Imagine the storyboard for the Old Spice ad. Then look at the final film. The casting, direction, lighting, set design and all the other bits of production are so important. The 30 second ad was shot without special effects and took 2.5 days to film. If you're a brand geek like me, you can watch a "making of" clip here. This clip alone has been watched almost 1.5 million times.

4. The investment model has changed

Linked to the point on craft is the way social media success are changing the investment model for brands. Before, a big brand might spend, say, $10million on media, and $500,000 on producing an ad. However, today content is king and media is free. In the Old Spice example YouTube generated 150million GRPs, for free. But the brand invested in shooting a total of 180 films.

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In conclusion, Old Spice shows how social media really can amplify your communication effectiveness. The basic rules of selling a product message with emotional sizzle remain the same. But a set-change in creative execution is needed. How many other brands come anywhere close to matching Old Spice's 180 personalised YouTube movies?

If you're interested in viral ads, the top 10 of all time as elected by The Times in 2007 are here.