Creepy or brilliant? Depends on the target, and that’s the problem…



“This commercial is just creepy”

“Bizarre, but funny”


“Over the top. Was the creative team on acid?”

“Horrifying, dumb, disturbing.”

“The funniest commercial I have ever seen”

“I would never buy Old Spice”

“Bring back Mustafa”

“Solid gold. Give Old Spice all the awards”

Those are just some of the comments I encountered when I asked a number of people I know what they thought of the recent Old Spice commercial “Mom Song”

as part of their “Smellcome to Manhood” campaign. As you can see, they’re dramatically to one side or the other. There’s not much neutral opinion. View it here if you haven’t seen it yet:



My 15-year-old son loves it. His cell phone ringer is the Old Spice jingle. My students at a local university where I teach marketing, also generally gave it the thumbs up. The guys loved it, but their female classmates were less enthusiastic, finding it weird. However, it was many of my friends, the “over 40 Moms,” admittedly the object of the satirical portrayal, that were most vocal in their dislike, dismissing the Moms in the spot as creepy, pathetic, unattractive and sad. Let’s face it, while there’s been a plethora of commercials making men look stupid, very few if any, have taken a run at Mom. They pointed out astutely, that in many cases, it’s Moms who are buying these products for their 13-24yr old sons who still live at home. While the target user may love it, Old Spice may have actually offended the buyer. And that’s worth thinking about.

If you’re a student of branding, you’ll note that Old Spice has been repositioned recently. It used to be your Dad’s or your Grandpa’s brand. Initially that repositioning took them younger, likely early-mid 30s, but skewed to those in relationships. Witness the hunky Mustafa delivering the line, “Ladies look at your man, now back to me, now look at your man. Sadly he isn’t me, but he could smell like me if he stopped using that lady scented body wash and switched to Old Spice.”

View that spot here if you need a refresher:



These spots were clever since with Mustafa as champion, they were man enough to appeal to men, but they also acknowledged women as likely purchasers on their behalf. It was dual targeting done well.

However with the body wash category heating up, and men care products in general becoming more competitive with products such as Axe essentially promising guys a flock of women if they use the product, the stakes have been raised. It appears Old Spice has shifted younger and with this recent ad are poking fun directly at the age- old elephant in the room: Mom’s who can’t let go, and natural teenage rebellion. On that level it’s brilliant.

But it’s the janitor double, a Jason without the mask and receding Weird Al hair that would haunt me if I saw a bottle of Old Spice in the shower now. However, my husband astutely pointed out, “Mary you have an abnormal frame of reference on middle age women. You and your friends are all active, attractive and successful women. That commercial holds up a mirror, and you don’t see yourself in it. It’s just meant to be funny.” Perhaps he has a point.

On the creative side I think it’s brilliant. It’s bizarre, memorable and shareable. It taps Freudian attachment theory and societal shifts as boys live at home longer. The music jingle is an earworm. And the primary target market appears to love it. It’s that secondary market, the Mom’s, often the purchasers that I’m not so sure about. How many young men living in bedrooms and basements will go out and buy it on their own?

This will be an interesting one to watch unfold from a sales perspective. And potentially there are some consumer behaviour lessons in there for others. Is the user of your product or service the purchaser? Who might influence that purchase along the way? While you will certainly want to appeal to all parties in some way, you should be especially careful to not inadvertently offend one, while communicating with the others.

As always, hit reply and tell me what you think. I love getting feedback when a topic provokes a response.




Mary Charleson

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