Old Spice has released a new digital marketing campaign that, like most Old Spice digital campaigns, has quickly ‘gone viral’. Old Spice’s Internetervention campaign centres on a series of fake websites for a variety of less than compelling male-centric products (100% black leather sheets, soul patch powder, etc.). The curtain is eventually pulled back, and the website disappears to reveal Old Spice Guy Isaiah Mustafa, who chides the viewer for their poor taste and lack of manliness.

The campaign is another funny, well-executed example of the digital marketing form that Wieden+Kennedy have mastered. It’s also pretty much the same Old Spice commercial we’ve been watching for years.

Here’s how W+K’s Iain Tait describes Old Spice Guy : “we had this character who is not only loved by ladies, but equally loved by guys. A woman’s man that was okay for men to love.

Now watch this Old Spice commercial from the 80’s:

The current 21st Century Old Spice Guy is essentially a modern, self-aware version of his 1980’s predecessor. This is not a coincidence – W+K has an obviously strong grasp of the brand and has previously parodied Old Spice’s 80’s commercials perfectly. For ‘Old Spice Guy’ 2.0’, W+K has dipped the classic ‘women like men who like Old Spice’ message in a vat of post-modern irony, but its still there at the centre of the tootsie pop.

The essence of man - Old Spice

So if Old Spice Guy is Old News, what explains his explosive appeal? While the message remains the same, the execution is steeped in the lessons of Internet content, to dramatic effect.

In Contagious: Why Things Catch On, author Jonah Berger examines the conditions which lead to massively shared Internet content. One such factor is the content’s ability to create social currency. Here’s his explanation of social currency from an interview in the New Yorker :

Memes like LOLcats, I think, are a perfect example of social currency, an insider culture or handshake,” Berger told me. “Your ability to pass it on and riff on it shows that you understand. It’s the ultimate, subtle insider signal: I know without yelling that I know. When your mom sees an LOLcat, she has no idea what it is.”

Army of Darkness Old Spice 980x500

Other Old Spice spots use this concept of social currency, but with a more limited focus: relying upon an appreciation of Bruce Campbell or the non sequitur meta humour birthed from the loins of the Internet to resonate. The Old Spice Guy campaigns are a different animal, pairing Internet tropes and the brave new world of real-time engagement with a time-tested marketing message so there’s something for both the men of Generation Y and their moms. Everyone is in on the joke, so everyone shares.

W+K’s skill at integrating the two makes the process seem easy, but as I have written before, funny is dangerous because of the difficulty involved in delivering laughs. Rather than simply stitching Tay Zonday and the Double Rainbow guy onto their brand, W+K succeeds by taking lessons learned from half a decade of rickrolling (click at own risk) and integrating them into a campaign with a clear message.