Old Spice Social Media Buzz Doesn’t Equal Sales

For the love of God, put your shirt on.

For the longest time I used to think that PR agencies didn’t get social media. “Give me impressions!” was the public relations mantra because it meant that they could easily transfer their knowledge of publication circulation multipliers into the emerging field called “social media”. Screw the long tail, screw review web sites, screw message boards and all of the other “unimportant” groups online because “they don’t have reach”.

“We want to take on the ad agencies head on!” was the PR agency rallying cry, and even though most ad agencies are going down the wrong route, and no matter how many decks you presented to them that this gimmick marketing was the wrong approach, they continued to push to ignore the long tail, ignore communities and ignore what actually drives sales. What’s come full circle is that the coveted social media reach play online that ad agencies have been great at have one thing in common: they don’t work.

We all know the outcomes of the failed social media “superstar” lineup: sales went down. First it was Subservient Chicken, then Evian Rollerskating Babies, now Old Spice’s half naked dude. I mean, how could a half naked man possibly not be attractive to men looking to buy a body wash? Let’s break down why this “successful” campaign didn’t play out at the register:

1. Wrong target

Most of the people that the Old Spice guy responded to? Not in the target audience. In fact, those that had videos made for them were done for reach purposes only, not because they are the target, speak to the target, reach the target or have any influence on the target. I know the brand wanted to take a risk and “get out there”, but this was the equivalent of shotgun marketing 2.0. Also, there are rumors that the actor in the ads may appear at BlogHer in an few weeks. Huh. That’s like going to a WWE match to sell tampons. Sure, having a 44DD bikini model handing out samples will get you some looks, but it’s not going to move product.

2. Wrong vehicle

I think the use of YouTube to respond was dead on. It’s where the Old Spice target is and where they look for entertainment. And that’s where it ends. Talking to “influential” Twitterers for the sake of a reach play was a complete miss in my opinion. While the media loves to shove Twitter down our throats, it’s not where the cool kids are getting their showering habit advice. Also? The average YouTuber is looking for entertainment, so by addressing people on Twitter they’ve never heard of completely missed the mark.

3. Wrong messenger

I understand that the ads may have resonated on TV. And I’m sure dude is a nice enough guy. But please don’t try and appeal to my wife to get to me, or better yet, Allysa Milano, who consequently tried to bilk P&G out of $100,000 for her favorite charity. Again, you go into someone else’s domain and use their name to shill your product for a short term reach play and now you’re sucked into a discussion about donating money to their charity. Smooth move, Ex-Lax.

Beyond all of this, the place they were driving people to was their @oldspice Twitter account, where their advertising character is the face of it. Huh? This makes sense how? We ripped Captain Morgan for having a mascot Captain as their “voice” several years ago and this is different how? The Twittersphere that got sucked in on this campaign showed that they’re so desperate for attention and notoriety that they completely missed the fact that this campaign, even with all of their “GENIUS!” tweets, was a complete flub.

Ultimately the only numbers that matter (sales) show that this sort of stunt marketing using web 2.0 tools doesn’t pay off. It should – SHOULD – be an obvious warning that things need to change if agencies are going to help their clients move forward in social media. Otherwise, it might be time for the brands to move forward with another agency.