My favourite ads of the decade, number 2: Old Spice.

My thirteen-year-old son thinks Old Spice is cool. He’s too young to remember the old days when it was a cheesy joke. He just knows it as that body spray stuff with the really, really, really funny ads:

So many classics, and they’re all part of why I love this campaign, but I’m mainly talking about The Man Your Man Could Smell Like:

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen that ad, but like Skittles Touch and Guinness Surfer, it’s one I could happily watch again and again. Maybe it’s the writing; I’d never heard anyone put English words together like that before, and I still haven’t. Maybe it’s the performance; listen to the way he says ‘The tickets are now diamonds!’. Funny every time. But it’s probably the in-camera special effects; even though I know how they’re done, I still can’t quite grasp them:

OK, so it’s funny and endlessly rewatchable, but look at what it did: in 30-seconds it took a pathetic, laughable, dead old brand, and made it strong, cool and alive. There’s nothing logical about body spray ads – they’re offering a smell, and you can’t smell through the TV. And even when you go to shops and take a sniff, one person’s Old Spice is another person’s Lynx/Axe Apollo. The scent doesn’t really matter. You just need to be able to justify your choice if someone asks what that smell is, or sees a can in your bathroom. This ad made that easy.

And it’s Proctor and Gamble. I know they’ve done some great stuff recently (see It’s A Tide Ad), but before TMYMCSL that entire company was known for scientifically making the worst, dullest, most detestable ads on the planet. I once did two days freelancing at Grey London (before it was cool), where I learned of the P&G formula for ad structure. It was fucking depressing.

So this is a perfect example of the power of advertising. It showed us what great creativity could do for a nothing product. It showed a massive, boring company how to resurrect a massive, boring brand. It showed our industry that there were no bad briefs; only bad answers to them. And it showed us all, that in the midsts of the digital confusion that began to grow around our feet like weeds, that a 30-second piece of brilliance was capable of making something famous, successful and, yes: cool.

It’s what we’re all supposed to be aiming for, every day.

They hit the bullseye.