Old Spice, the brand that previously brought you “muscle music” and “the man your man could smell like,” is back with a new and equally viral ad campaign — though how this heap of creepiness will sell body spray, only its marketers know.
The ads, which premiered during the NFL’s Wild Card Weekend and have since sloshed around the social web, look like some cross between “The Exorcist” and a bad episode of “Glee.” Distraught mothers, each of them frumpier than the last, spy as their sons lay on the Old Spice and consequently enter the land of “men.” There are walks on the beach, long drives in convertibles, some cafeteria hand-holding — each scene with its background chorus of ghoulish moms, singing off-key.
Marketing body spray as a means of adolescent liberation is not, of course, particularly original. The whole male hygiene/beauty category depends on the conceit that using male hygiene/beauty products makes the user more “masculine.”
But think about who typically buys this stuff for, say, 13-year-old boys. It’s probably … their mothers. (Remember the amazing Slate essay, “What happens when a grown woman wears Axe body spray for a week”?)
Old Spice is very aware of the fact that male hygiene products are frequently bought by women — the whole “The man your man could smell like” campaign spoke directly to women, promising them a boyfriend/husband/significant other who did everything from bake cakes to ride motorcycles, provided he wore Old Spice. This campaign takes such a radically different tact, casting moms as jealous, smothering, helicopter nags. It’s hard to see who would buy it. Cool moms who want to liberate their sons? Teenage football fans with some spare change in their mom-laundered jean pockets? People with zanier senses of humor than me? Perhaps this campaign is just lampooning our collective stereotypes of moms and their sons, like the “man your man” campaign parodied stereotypes of masculinity.
In either case, I don’t get it. Please bring Isaiah Mustafa back.