Home > Commercials, Media > Why Old Spice Earned My Loyalty (And Miller Lite Hasn’t)

Why Old Spice Earned My Loyalty (And Miller Lite Hasn’t)

Not too long ago on my Facebook I updated a status lauding the merits of the “Old Spice Guy.”  I had expected the overwhelming response from my friends to be negative, namely for being such a sucker for a simple advertisement. Much to my surprise, most of my friends agreed with me.  Some acquaintances I haven’t even spoken to for some time came out of the woodwork to “Like” the post.  This led me to wonder: what is it about the Old Spice Guy that gets people going?

It should come as no surprise that the standard definition of masculinity has come under fire; long gone are the days where James Bond models the only accepted form of masculinity.  The extrapolation of the results of AskMen.com’s recent survey of men provides a telling insight into the way men now perceive themselves as a part of society.  To provide some quick highlights of their results: women, who are beginning to outnumber and out-earn men in academic and professional environments, are not perceived as a threat.  Men overwhelmingly appear to value their friendships and morality.  Family is valued over career as the ultimate achievement for men.  Men even reported that they enjoy cooking and “only a paltry 5% claimed that cooking is ‘women’s work’.”  This redefinition is, perhaps, what makes the Old Spice Guy so interesting.

Why the Old Spice Guy Works

If you haven’t seen the commercials yet, take a look at one of my favorite commercials featuring the Old Spice Guy: “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like”.

As a follow-up, Old Spice then released this commercial, also featuring the Old Spice Guy.

Take a minute to soak in what just happened in those commercials.  The first time I witnessed “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” I was awe-struck.  The commercial moves quickly, and so much happens that if you blink you miss exactly what makes that commercial (and the follow-up ad) so particularly enthralling.

For the entirety of the commercial the Old Spice Guy stands (and sits) in white pants, no shirt, and a tied-off button-down around his neck. He is physically fit, but not overwhelmingly buff.  He is a kind of idealized every-man, dressed in clothing that a well pieced together man would wear when he wants to have some time off.  This certainly is in Old Spice’s best interest—they wouldn’t want to portray an overweight, slovenly dressed man while trying to convince you to use their body wash.

Yet, every word he utters is centered on seducing women with the time-worn tricks: tickets (to that thing you like), boats, diamonds, and even a horse.   Perhaps the horse is a bit much, but the boat, diamonds and tickets all portray a man who is well-off and rugged, yet sensitive enough to know that sometimes women want to go to that thing they like instead of getting dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings. In deconstructing the second ad I find the most interest moments to be from :14-:18 in the clip.  The implication that a man who smells like the Old Spice Guy will be rugged enough to do some serious carpentry, yet sensitive enough to bake you a beautiful cake.  Eventually, he’ll end up on a motorcycle.

What Old Spice has done with the creation of the Old Spice Guy is engage this new masculinity. They have created a man who is well put together and sensitive enough to know what women really want (a nod to the metrosexuals, perhaps?). It does this all while never straying away from an intangibly rugged masculinity.  He treats you well, but only after he’s engaged his bad boy side.  (Interestingly enough, Axe engaged this same aesthetic, significantly less effectively, in their commercial for Axe Twist.)

Why Miller Lite Doesn’t

Miller Lite provides a great example of what happens when you take those attempts to use masculinity to drive sales a bit too far.  There are plenty examples in this wave of advertisements, but I’ve chose one that serves as the best example. The real conundrum is how this ad gets it so horribly wrong while the Old Spice ads get it right.

I feel as though the answer here is pretty simple.  Without going so far as to accuse the ad of homophobia, it certainly does seem to have some fear of the sensitive man.  The man’s “purse” does, quite honestly, appear to be a messenger bag.  But that’s beside the point.  Why does the beer the man drinks have anything to do with his perceived masculinity?  And what is this ad saying by having an attractive woman accusing him of, essentially, not being a man?  What the ad is doing is less implying than smacking you in the face.  There is little subtlety to the man being called out by an attractive model of femininity.

What Exactly Old Spice Did Right

The most beautiful part of the Old Spice ads is their tone.  At no point do the Old Spice commercials take themselves seriously.  Old Spice isn’t saying if you use their body wash you become Old Spice Guy.  No, you just smell like him.  If you choose to make the logical leap that smelling like him is to be him, that’s your choice.  For Old Spice, the tongue-in-cheek nature and over-the-top effects of the ads are the icing on the cake that the Old Spice Guy baked for you.  It’s just enough to let them say “we aren’t serious, we’re doing this ironically!”  And perhaps, for once, someone is doing something both ironically and well.

Unlike the Old Spice Guy ads, the Miller commercial takes itself seriously.  When Miller Lite airs this, they’re actually expecting you to buy into the belief that you have to be a certain “type” of man at a certain level of masculinity to drink their beer.  Where Old Spice doesn’t even imply you’ll be like the Old Spice Guy, the Miller Lite ad leaves you no choice:  if you’re not drinking Miller, you may as well carry a purse.  The difference is that the former believes you can sort things out for yourself, while the latter thinks you’re too stupid (or drunk) to think differently.

This is why Old Spice earned my loyalty and Miller Lite hasn’t.

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Categories: Commercials, Media
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