Monday, July 26, 2010

The trouble with advertising

There are few that would argue that the Old Spice commercials featuring Isaiah Mustafa are the most entertaining and memorable spots on TV right now. The viral sensation that was created by the video answers to tweets and emails generated over 43 million views. The references to "the Old Spice guy" are everywhere in pop culture and there's even a television show in development featuring Mr. Mustafa.

If advertising is about creating buzz. This campaign is wildly successful.

But advertising is about more than that. It's about generating sales. And by that measure, while still a success, it raises the age-old debate. Does award-winning advertising sell products?

Over the four-week period starting June 13, when Old Spice was promoting heavily – with the drop of a high value coupon and a TV schedule that made missing Mr. Mustafa impossible – sales were up 106%. Not bad, considering the category was up just over 7%.

But Gillette body wash, which started the period with similar sales to Old Spice, has an ad campaign that frankly I can't even recall yet was up 277% during the same period. Notably they were offering a buy one/get one coupon at the time.

I'd argue that Old Spice would not have seen the bump it got when it dropped that coupon without the new campaign and its revitalized image. I just can't prove it. This is just one more example of how hard it is to measure the impact of a great campaign. 

To quote the Talking Heads, "Same as it ever was."


  1. The issue is having steak to back up the sizzle. Old Spice was a moribund brand because its core product is made to a drug-store price point. Mr Mustafa could offer to drop by and personally massage it in for me and I still wouldn't buy the stuff.

  2. I've gone over the top on this Old Spice deal.

    Just downloaded the "Old Spice Theme" (in complete whistled splendor) on my iPhone.