Old Spice gives exhausted young men a ‘pep talk’ with ads emphasizing confidence

Dive Brief:

  • Old Spice is promoting new fragrance products with a series of ads that attempt to instill confidence in young men who have been crestfallen by the economic and emotional turmoil of the past year, according to a news release.
  • Timed around the Super Bowl, the “Smell Ready for Anything” campaign gives viewers a “pep talk” with creative that shows men breaking out of a funk in humorous fashion. The effort leverages a mix of TV and digital ads, as well as partnerships with social media influencers and NFL athlete ambassadors.
  • The Procter & Gamble brand is promoting the rollout of its Dynasty, Royalty and Sea Spray grooming products, which come in deodorant, antiperspirant and body wash options. While Old Spice is addressing serious subject matter, the ads themselves preserve the off-beat approach for which the brand is known.

Dive Insight:

Old Spice is attempting to bring some levity to a real-world problem with ads that push young men to dismantle their inner critics and restore their self-confidence. The campaign acknowledges how a brutal year marked by a pandemic and economic downturn has created a fog of emotional exhaustion, while avoiding wallowing in negativity or overt references to current events.

In the press release, the brand cited a Pew Research report that found a majority of 18- to 29-year-olds in the U.S. are living with their parents, figures higher than during the Great Recession. Young men have been subject to job losses, pay cuts and other hardships, with 45% of the demographic saying their emotional and mental well-being has worsened as a result of the pandemic, according to research from the Cleveland Clinic.

Across three spots, “Smell Ready for Anything” emphasizes how Old Spice fragrance products can improve the situation with a focus on men “smelling up to their potential,” per the release. In the first video, “Winner,” a young man (actor Keiynan Lonsdale from “The Flash” and “Love, Simon”) grows despondent while hanging out in a basement playing video games with friends. Smelling the new Dynasty antiperspirant causes him to literally break out of his shell and transform into a race car driver who speeds off to a better future.

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Old Spice is pushing the creative around Super Bowl week, which could connect with young men who have continued to follow live sports as a form of escapism and entertainment amid the health crisis. A trio NFL players (Derrick Henry, Chase Young and George Kittle) will spread the campaign’s message around the big game, including through virtual appearances at the Super Bowl’s famed “Radio Row.” Meanwhile, Old Spice is assembling social media influencers, established spokespeople — which it calls Old Spice Guys — and athletes to share their own “MANifestations of Greatness.” A representative for Old Spice did not have additional details to share on the social program when contacted via email.

More male grooming marketers have pivoted in recent years to tackling serious subject matter like mental health and self-confidence. Axe, owned by P&G rival Unilever, has run several campaigns challenging traditional notions of masculinity, a stark break with its past advertising strategy.

As the pandemic wears on, consumers — particularly younger ones in Gen Z — have expressed a bigger appetite for ads with excitement and levity. Blending a lighthearted tone with creative that still recognizes the gravity of the moment could resonate with Old Spice’s target audience.

“Smell Ready for Anything” was developed with the brand’s longtime creative partner Wieden+Kennedy and executed with public relations agency Citizen Relations.

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