Monday, January 13, 2014

Surreal Mums and Old Spice Rejuvenated for the 21st Century: The Mom Song Commercial is Brilliant

"Now he smells like a man and they treat him like one.". There in a nutshell you have everything you ever wanted to know about the appeal of the Old Spice products. Old Spice is manly and it makes women treat you like a man. A man, not a boy. Yes, dear reader, we're putting the scalpel on the newest goofy Old Spice commercial which has surreal, frumpy and constantly hovering mums lamenting -in song!- how their little boys have changed gears and are on the way to hell on a handbasket because they changed into Old Spice which draws feminine attention in a way not yet dreamed of. "I didn't see it coming, but it came in a can". Indeed!

Affectionately referred to as "the mom song" the new Old Spice commercial is in my opinion doing everything it sets out to do (which makes it a success): namely drawing the attention span of young males into seeing an old standby with fresh eyes. And it has such a weird, goofy, upping the ante factor cleverly built in that it can't help becoming viral.

As my perceptive reader who sent me the clip, Cacio, puts it: "Old spice was, quintessentially, grampa, certainly not something that could appeal to teens. In recent years they've been trying to reposition themselves to capture the vast male teen bodyspray market (where Axe seems to dominate). Hence a series of funny, zingy, parodistic ads, like the cult machoman ad* of a few years back which managed to be both ironic and convince males that it was after all ok to wear scents. Now this one in an even more surreal type of humor, explicitly directed at teens."

 It's unfortunate that the commercial has generated such grumpiness at dedicated fragrance groups (such as on Basenotes) who worked themselves up because -really- the target audience isn't the repeat buyers of the Old Spice in the familiar white bottle with the little ship on it and the tiny conical stopper, but the teenagers and college frat boys who buy the big spray cans sitting next to Axe/Lynx at the drugstore and the supermarket shelves. Where I'm disagreeing, sorta, with Cacio above is that Old Spice is not repositioning themselves. They have already repositioned. The commercials are the optical affirmation and seal on this repositioning. The old grampas are, alas, dying away and a new market is emerging. Instead of lamenting the "loss" of one, let's rejoice in the harvesting of another. Old Spice still smells quite good. In fact much much better than the various variants of Axe do and many, many boys' mothers online and in real life are thankful for this. Aren't you?

*Those have become modern classics and deservedly so.


  1. Now of course I have to go and try the whole line. And make a point of buying something, just because. What could lionpride smell of? They appear to have added a couple of flankers to the cologne as well, the bottle has the same shape, but there's no funny stopper, just a spray as usual.


  2. At the holidays I always see the gift sets and am tempted to buy
    some, just for the memories...but I must have the special 'dabber.'
    The commercial is great. I know it will win prizes, and win an increased share of the market...No other product fits the niche.

  3. annemariec08:39

    I had quite a laugh when I first saw the ad, although I thought the production qualities let it down a bit - the sound is not great and nor is the diction in the vocal line.

    On the one hand I'm cross that the ad portrays middle-aged women as frumps. (As if we don't have enough of that to contend with!) On the other, I do acknowledge that most teenage boys - and I have one - probably see their mothers that way anyway, and of course the boys are the target market, not their mothers.

    But on the whole I'm still cross that the ad seems to give license to boys to think of their mothers as frumps. The implied denigration of women bothers me. Wouldn't it be better if boys felt PROUD of their mothers for the smart, hardworking, sassy, successful, wise women many of us actually are?

    Or am I reading too much into all this?

  4. Mary-Karen13:09

    I find the commercials a little bit creepy but I used to love Old Spice. In the 90's, I was changing careers and went back to school, so I couldn't afford luxuries like expensive perfume, but the idea of being without fragrance was not one I wanted to contemplate. I started using Old Spice and got compliments galore. No- one ever twigged to the fact that I was wearing a man's fragrance (unless I told them, which I often did, just to see the surprise.) I think I want to go out and get a bottle, one with the funny little stopper, just to see if it is as yummy as I remember.

  5. My father used Bay Rum, but Old Spice is cracking me up. I have some grown up sons I may need to forward your commentary on it to.
    Thanks! jean

  6. Anonymous19:58

    My almost thirteen year old, who likes to use Old Spice shower wash and deodorants, was down right astounded when I told him that Old Spice has been around as a men's cologne since the 1930s. He thought that was "hilarious" and then wanted to know how old was Axe :)!


  7. Anonymous22:14

    hahaha. so creepy and yet so catchy. great tune. the snaking mom at the end is horror-movie-worthy!

    memorable, that's for sure!


  8. Anonymous23:23

    My 13-year-old uses Old Spice Fiji (sunshine, palm trees and freedom, is what it claims), in the form of deodorant and body wash. And I am very thankful that he prefers it to Axe!


  9. Old Spice = Old Man here.
    No young boys would ever buy it here Helg.

  10. Anonymous08:41

    Hilarious, Old Spice step in, like a group of male elders in a cave, to help young men individuate from their parents, but specifically from their Mums, those pesky old bags (or that's how they're depicted).

    I'm not sure about massive advertising companies taking on this delicate Jungian psychological role! Mind you at least they're not presenting it as a killing weapon - Axe (Lynx in the UK)!

  11. M,

    from what I recall there were already 2 flankers in the early 1990s. One was green (and was based on vetiver and was very fetchy), the other was blue (and was more "aquatic" but still not screechy, softer than the later tirade). Those came in the exact same bottle with the exact same stopper, only in diaphanous glass to showcase the hue of the juice inside.
    I suppose they're defunct now? I have no idea what the cans smell like, we don't get them here, though we do get a steady supply of the classic standby.

  12. Nadine,

    you should get some. It smells great on a woman!

    I think it's an inventive commercial with the right degree of controversy built in. ;-)

  13. AMC,

    ah, not having that luxury (yet) but being around young men/teenage boys due to work in the past I can vouchsafe that the young male mind thinks of older women in only two camps: frumps and f@cks. (You know the kind: the classmate's mother/aunt who is sporting tight jeans, boobs up to her tonsils, bright-colored hair in tossing and has an infectious laugh that can be heard coming into school and back all the way; all the boys want to do her ~I don't know if that is a seal of "value" one should aspire to for all the obvious reasons, obviously).
    With that in mind, I think it's pretty healthy that most boys ~no matter how they love, respect, admire and genuinely find their mothers cool~ view them a bit frumpy rather than f@ckable. (I may be shocking, if so I apologize for my filthy language).

    That said, the perpetuation of this stereotype (addressed to boys) is a bit annoying, I give you that, especially since youth is constantly touted as the "it" thing to the exclusion of all else. But it answers a market that won't change its mindset any time soon due to simple perspective. I'm much more interested in the shaping of young men's (above college) minds. And women's themselves. It's there we should focus.
    To a 16-year-old, 30 will always sound paleolithic, not to mention how a 45 or 50 year old sounds. It takes some maturity to recalibrate age perception and that usually happens after 20-22 or so. Then, then is the age where new concepts and new "eyes" should enter the equation.

  14. Mary Karen,

    what a delightful story, thank you!!
    It's not surprising really as it the scent really did start as a woman's fragrance. I think it smells delicious on women. Men too, of course. It's an all around good scent.

    It was high time teen boys were taught to distinguish a good scent instead of just what is "trendy". If that's what it takes….

  15. Jean,

    please do! (and I'm very looking forward to what they are going to say!)

    BTW< please drop me a line in the mail (use Contact) as I have something important to say to you conncering a previous draw.

  16. Ann,

    how funny!!

    I think in light of that you might refrain from further enlightening him that OS began as a women's scent too! ;_D
    Seriously, it's always funny how the really young ones think they are the coolest thing since sliced bread and that nothing existed before them. I suppose I sound equally funny to the generation of my parents. Ah, la vie….

  17. C,

    hi there, happy new year!

    Yup, memorable. That's for sure. I couldn't understand first time around why the mom was crawling like a snake at the end, but it made sense upon rewatching as she is the same one as the one starting the commercial. A cycle if you like and also to push this really hard into symbolist and Lacan-ian area a rebirth! (snake shedding its skin and all, OS becoming a "new" thing etc)

    I might be reading too much into it. :-D

  18. neisha,

    thanks for chiming in, I'm grateful for your sake as well. Ah, sunshine, palms and freedom. Magical tagline. How could they not sell with that?
    Sounds nice.
    Some of the Axe things are vile, I can't understand how boys hadn't objected to them for so long. Then again they had genius (and highly non PC) advertising that was super catchy! ;-)

  19. M,

    it's almost the same here too, M, but if the US ads and spray cans become the norm, I'm sure that will change. It might be time to, too! (tired of the Axe)

  20. Rose,

    it is exactly as you say.
    From several small hints (see above my commentary) I think they know exactly what they're doing and to a teenager their parents are "so uncool" (even when they're cool) that they can't stoop to think that this was around for so much longer than their biological age. They're nicely playing on all angles.

    Additional thought:
    Even the dads will be having a laugh and taking a can off the shelf for their sons when buying at the drugstore/supermakert, if it is to grab their sons off the maternal "tight" hug of the snake (see a pattern?) that suppresses their sons' "manhood".

  21. annemariec08:31

    Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I'm raking my memory of parent events at my son's high school to recall any f@cks, but just about all the mums seem the serious types, not surprising in a city dominated by universities and public service. So we are all frumps I guess, but at least the boys' lives are full of good role models, even if they are not aware of it yet!

    And of course, advertising is all about exploiting stereotypes. Sad but true.

  22. AMC,

    you're welcome.
    I perceive your situation as rather positive, since indeed the boys will grow up to appreciate the whole package instead of just the boobs. :-)

    As to advertising, it all has to do with playing with psychology. That can involve our animal instincts and our laziness, but it can also involve our higher brains. It all hinges on what percentage each is taking in each commercial or concept. ;-)

  23. Anonymous00:14

    Have you all seen this? Old Spice became popular with teenagers in the US (and started cutting into Axe's market share) when this ad came out during the Super Bowl. I think it's quite brilliant:


  24. Anonymous00:16

    Have you all seen this? Old Spice became popular again with teens in the US (and began cutting into Axe's market share) when this ad came out during the Super Bowl in 2010. I think it's quite brilliant:


  25. Anonymous00:18

    Thank you! Old Spice became popular again with teens in the US after the Super Bowl ad in 2010, with the handsome guy in the towel talking directly to wives and girlfriends, "Hello Ladies . . . I'm the man your man could smell like." It was quite brilliant, really!


  26. Anon,

    yes, thank you!
    I believe it's the one I have linked at the bottom "I'm on a horse" which is indeed brilliant stuff!

  27. I love Old Spice OS Signature, but haven't been able to find it in years. Oh, there are sites that want to gouge your wallet, but I'm looking for some reasonable prices.
    If someone can help me, that would be great.

  28. David,

    I hope someone sees this and replies to your quest.
    Thanks for commenting!


Type your comment in the box, choose the Profile option you prefer from the drop down menu, below text box (Anonymous is fine too!) and hit Publish.
And you're set!

This Month's Popular Posts on Perfume Shrine