If you were watching the Grammy Awards on Sunday night, you saw an Old Spice ad that was very weird indeed, even for the notoriously quirky Procter & Gamble brand.
The 60-second spot was entirely in French, and there were no subtitles. This made the plot very cryptic for non-French speakers.
All we could tell was that a woman, after sniffing a red-sweatered man holding Captain body wash (part of the brand’s new Red Collection), suddenly became distraught and wandered around a picturesque seaside town yelling “Old Spice!” All her friends joined her in a desperate chorus, before she finally reconnected with Red Sweater guy and all seemed to be well again.
“We make scents for men,” said the onscreen copy.
The ad didn’t make sense, though. Luckily, we have the subtitled version below, which explains what was happening. And the story line turns out to be even more absurd than you might have imagined.
Even if you didn’t see the version that aired on the Grammy’s, you can imagine how confounding it was. (The subtitled version hit Old Spice’s social channels right after the TV spot aired, but the brand has no plans to post the one without subtitles online, preferring to keep it mysterious—if you saw it on Grammys, you experienced a fun and disorienting minute of weirdness that others won’t.)
It is, of course, a very bold move to use a pricey 60 seconds on a major award-show broadcast to tell a story most of your viewing audience won’t understand. But Old Spice was up for the stunt, from agency Wieden + Kennedy, hoping it would generate lots of curiosity and chatter on social media. (It also surely helped calm nerves that the brand name is uttered over and over in the spot.)
“It felt like the right time to do something bold and different for the brand,” Janine Miletic, Old Spice brand director at P&G, told us late last week. “When we first explored the idea for ‘Red Sweater,’ it was clearly the kind of spot that needed a moment like the Grammy Awards. We wanted to show up in a really unexpected way on a night when there’s already a lot of built-in conversation on social media channels.”
The spot was in French because it’s a parody of fancy fragrance ads.
“We have some of the world’s most renowned perfumers on our team, as evidenced by the new Red Collection,” says Miletic. “Old Spice is poking fun at some tropes found in cologne ads and shattering the belief that premium scents only come in fancy bottles with fancy price tags from fancy fragrance houses in France.”
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