Old Spice has stuck with traditional, if wordy, slogans over the past few years. “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” and “Smell Is Power” have consumed the airwaves along with, as the slogans hint, grandiose images of jet skis, diamonds and white horses.
But those commercials were apparently too elitist, too progressive, too 21st century for the deodorant maker. With their latest ad campaign, they’ve shirked all modern innovations and slunk back to a time long past – a time where, evidently, dictionaries didn’t exist.
The new campaign is called “Believe in Your Smellf.” And their first ad takes us back to a time when male grooming was simpler, the early 1980s. With their made-up words, they’ve invoked all the cultural touchstones of the era: wood paneling abounds, a Walkman provides the soundtracks, and there’s even a gull-wing Delorean, quizzically made entirely out of sand.
The ad spot is narrated by an inspirational self-help oratory – in cassette form, of course. It’s clear he needs a bit of help, because if this guy already had the right answers, he’d realize that cornrows aren’t the right look – only Kenny Powers from Eastbound & Down can manage that.
The campaign has been dreamt up for Old Spice’s new Champion scent, and it’s still meant to be as empowering and inspirational as the previous ads starring ex-NFLers Isaiah Mustafa and Terry Crews. This time, though, we meet a more accessible role model, an antihero of sorts. Indeed, he has none of Crews’ ratcheted-up pectoral muscles and is lacking the suaveness of Mustafa – our newest Old Spice hawker heeds the inexplicable advice from his self-help tape to break up with his girlfriend, none other than actress Heather Graham. That just reeks of a poor decision.
It’s not common that ad writers turn to made-up words – but it seems to have worked in Snickers’ recent advertisements that combine delicious words into one, like “peanutopolis” and “nougatocity”. They even invented a language around it: snacklish. Sure, we’re not all speaking Snickers-style these days, but it’s an innovative way to get a double-take when stumbling across an ad.
Can Old Spice make “smellf” happen? We don’t expect to adopt this word into our vocabulary, but it might draw a slight chuckle each time we hear it. At least the ad’s protagonist really does believe in his “smellf,” even if his fashion judgment may be highly clouded. We wish we had his gusto.