Have you seen the new Old Spice campaign? The commercials feature a shirtless man making fun of himself and the brand by placing himself in startling and romantic situations, scenes include riding a horse, diving into a hot tube only to have the tub collapse and reveal he is sitting on a motorcycle.
The ads have won acclaim, and now the new social media campaign is the talk of twitterville.
Using YouTube videos Old Spice is shooting daily if not hourly videos of the Old Spice actor conducting a video dialogue with people on blogs, twitter and facebook. Often targeting celebrities and social media pundits, the same writing team from the commercials is scripting mini ads for each interaction with people who connect with the character.
The social media campaign reminds me of the Nokia N90 blogger relations campaign from 2005, one of the first very successful product review campaigns conducted on blogs, the feature of the campaign was that what ever was written about the product or campaign was commented upon, and typically linked to from the Nokia campaign blog, good, bad or in different, any comments were welcome, and received a response.
The effort paid off, one because the product campaign drew some flak from bloggers, but other bloggers came to the rescue of Nokia and argued with the critics on their own blogs. To the extent that largely negative criticism was drowned out.
We live in different time five years later where such campaigns are commonplace, but a high level of engagement is still rare. The engagement coupled with good writing and a funny character makes the campaign.
However, the campaign also raises the question of fake characters in social media, there have been many critics of fake characters in social media, because the critics don't like the lack of transparency and how unauthentic talking to a character can be.
The Old Spice campaign is satire pure and simple, the actor playing the character makes fun of his own genre by hamming up his actions and words in every commercial. The writing is over the top, and because it is over the top, the Old Spice character is unauthentic and that's what make the joke. approachable and fun for the audience.
Taking the ads to social media, and being completely transparent about how unauthentic the Old Spice character is was a brilliant stoke of public relations strategy. The social media campaign lets the character engage the audience using the same over the top writing, props and abs we see in the commercials.
The Nokia N90 blogger relations campaign succeeded because it was transparently authentic, the Old Spice YouTube videos succeed because they are transparently unauthentic.
My personal favorite is the video featuring a marriage proposal.
Update 7/15/09 9:15am: Last video from the Old Spice guy.