Rashmi Menon

Old Spice: Manly act goes local

The men's grooming brand has infused a local flavour by adapting its international ad to an Indian setting. The video has already gone viral like its international counterpart.

After years of the metrosexual man dominating the communication strategy of men's brands, the overtly masculine image appears set for a comeback. Old Spice's latest campaign certainly seems to believe so.

Old Spice: Manly act goes local
Old Spice: Manly act goes local
Featuring Milind Soman, the '
Mantastic' campaign, created by Wieden+Kennedy (the brand's global agency), was launched on the digital medium on October 9. And, in just two days, the video has already recorded over 7 lakh views, in line with its international counterparts, which were also viral successes.

The brand's Indian ad is similar to its international counterpart in its message and treatment - a satirical take on masculinity. The Hindi ad is, perhaps, the first time the brand has adapted its communication to give it an Indian touch.

It begins with Soman baring his toned, muscular body, wearing a gold 'MAN' locket around his neck. Draped in a white towel and goggles, he sits on a throne and invites viewers to his "humble fort" (the set is a recreation of a palace room). He then narrates how he was under the (wrong) impression that gelled hair and well-maintained (read muscular) torso were signs of manhood. He then asks what it requires to become a true man; and reveals that to be a "Mantasic", refined man, all one needs is Old Spice.

While Soman is shown promoting Old Spice deodorant in the ad, he doesn't speak about any specific product from Old Spice. Apparently, the video will be aired on television. It is learnt that subsequent creatives will explore different aspects of what it means to be "Mantastic".

Old Spice began with this line of communication in 2010, when it launched 'Smell like a man, man' campaign in the USA. The campaign became viral and earned over 40 million views on YouTube. In fact, this campaign not only helped Old Spice gain ground in the category but also helped increase its sales, especially its body wash product (the video showed the protagonist promoting the product). Besides, it also made the ad's protagonist, American actor and former NFL player Isaiah Mustafa, famous.

Interestingly, when Old Spice launched its products in Australia and New Zealand last month, the brand carried out a local ad campaign but retained Mustafa.

Indian entry

Old Spice is part of Procter & Gamble's bouquet of global brands under the beauty and grooming category. The brand, with its distinct red product packaging and a yacht logo, was launched by Shulton Company in 1837. In 1993, P&G bought over Shulton and Old Spice came under its fold.

However, the brand made its foray in India much before P&G's acquisition. Goa-based Menezes Cosmetics, which took the license from Shulton, introduced Indian men to Old Spice at the start of 1960s. But after the acquisition, the marketing and distribution of Old Spice moved first to the Godrej group, then to Marico Industries, and finally, back to Menezes Cosmetics in 2002. Last year, the association ended a second time, with P&G deciding to market the brand on its own.

Known for its aftershave lotion, Old Spice was a popular name in the aftershave category three or four decades ago. In fact, in the 80s and early 90s, the brand's iconic international ad, aired in India as well, showed a man surfing the waves with the background music of 'O Fortuna' by Carl Orff. The ad made reference to masculinity with finesse. However, rise in competition and restricted distribution saw Old Spice fade away to the background for several years.

Today, Old Spice has an expanded portfolio offering products under antiperspirant, deodorants, body wash, body spray, bar soap, shave gel and fragrance segments.

Fragrant swing

The male grooming market, in recent years, has suddenly seen a spurt with several brands coming out with ad campaigns to promote their offerings to men. However, the aftershave lotion category has been witnessing a decline, with focus shifting to shaving creams, body creams, shampoos, hair gel and deodorants to woo the male consumers.

Meanwhile, some male grooming brands have been playing on the clichéd perception of 'masculinity'. Take for instance the recent Park Avenue campaign for its beer shampoo, which was similar to the present Old Spice ad in terms of treatment.

Comparison between women and men's grooming brands has also been explored with brands indicating how men should use products specifically created for them and not what the woman of the house uses.


Old Spice: Manly act goes local
Old Spice: Manly act goes local
Arun Raman, head of strategy, StrawberryFrog, believes that while the brand's strategy of playing on masculinity and manhood works in the West against metrosexuality in India, the parody of the metrosexual male is completely out of context. "Our culture, if any, has never adopted sissy-masculinity, so this strategy itself is wrongly directed," he states.

Although he acknowledges the growth in male grooming category, he's against this kind of communication the brands are indulging in to target the male consumer. "It's almost creating a new advertising archetype - the male bimbo. The female bimbo didn't work for women-targeting brands. Why would the male bimbo work for male-targeting ones?" Raman questions.

Vedobroto Roy, executive creative director, Dentsu Communications, agrees with Raman. Besides trying too hard to keep up with its international imagery, it fails to be as entertaining as its international counterpart and comes across as 'preachy', he adds. Roy says that by showing Soman wearing a MAN locket or sitting on a throne in a towel, isn't macho. "They could have done well to take a dig at the Indian concept of macho, instead of trying to be Dos Equis (the Mexican beer brand that launched 'The Most Interesting Man In The World' campaign) ," he opines.

Having said that, the ad does stand out because of Soman, he says. But whether his monologue convinces men to buy Old Spice is something to ponder about. As for the target audience, there is utter confusion. Raman says, "I dare say, I don't know whom the brand wants to target. Is it metrosexual men? Is it overtly macho men who hate metrosexual men? Is it girlfriends and wives of metrosexual men? There is some confusion in my mind and I do hope, for the sake of Old Spice, I am the only person confused by this," he states.

At the time of publishing this story, P&G was yet to get back with its comments.