US & World

Hello Ladies: Old Spice's Wildly Successful Ad Model

The recent media campaign took social media marketing to an entirely new level. The YouTube videos -- featuring a sultry-voiced, over-the-top ladies man -- managed to attract more online views in 24 hours than Susan Boyle's singing and President Obama's victory speech.

A YouTube social media campaign rocked the Internet with over 34 million views in less than a week. And Lady Gaga had nothing to do with it.

Old Spice took its popular television ad campaign featuring a bare-chested, sultry-voiced, over-the-top ladies man and brought it to YouTube. Here's the gimmick: Fans of the ads used social networks like Twitter to ask questions of the "Old Spice Guy." And in 186 cases, he responded personally with short, off-the-wall videos.

In fact, one of the first personalized YouTube videos the "Old Spice Guy" -- played by Isaiah Mustafa -- did was for our pop culture blogger Linda Holmes.

"It was exhilarating, to tell you the truth," Mustafa tells NPR's Robert Siegel about his experience filming the videos. "We were going pretty quick, so there wasn't much time for any messing up or flubbing of lines. So, each response really only had one take ... give or take a few that we really wanted to take our time with."

Indeed, each video was produced in an average of seven minutes, says Marshall Kirkpatrick, who wrote about the videos in ReadWriteWeb, the technology blog he co-edits.

A Landmark Marketing Campaign

Advertisers and social media experts are buzzing after the campaign's success. The response videos are being hailed as the fastest-growing viral video campaign of any product in history.

"There's something about the potential that you could be spoken to directly that I think is very, very captivating," Kirkpatrick says.

Kirkpatrick says he thinks the Old Spice campaign has changed the marketing landscape.

"I'm working on a story right now about a big concert with a world-famous rock band in New York City coming up sponsored by a major financial service," Kirkpatrick says. "And everyone asks, 'Can that effort be as successful as a guy in a bath towel?'"

He says that, while Old Spice hasn't disclosed sales numbers, it says it has seen a clear increase in sales as a result of the campaign.

What's Next For Old Spice Guy?

Before the success of the Old Spice commercials Mustafa was a pro football player and struggling actor. But playing the "Old Spice Guy" has led to many opportunities, he says. He says he just signed a deal with NBC, and he's about to a start a William Shatner film called Free Enterprise 2.

But Mustafa says he isn't worried about his career being restricted by his Old Spice commercials.

"When I was on the couch about a year ago, worrying about where my rent was going to come from -- that's a real worry," Mustafa says. "So if I have to be worrying whether my acting career is going to be contained by Old Spice -- is a problem that I'd like to have." Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit