A Foul-Smelling Disgrace: Old Spice Embarrasses Itself
What in hell has Old Spice done?
They had me. Just a few months back I finally caved in to what millions had already figured out: Old Spice was cool again. Somehow, Old Spice’s moronic (but insanely confident) pitchmen eventually did the trick and won me over to their ludicrous campaign. I admit that I did come to smile whenever “Danger Zone” guy did his thing and even chuckled along at “original real man” Isaiah Mustafa showcasing his chiselled torso and smirking, cheesy grin. I was, at last, a believer.
Then they went and hired Fabio.
Whaaat? Fabio? What in the ding-dong is Fabio doing turning up in an Old Spice campaign? The ads are atrocious. The first I saw was called “hair” and they only got worse. Hair featured Fabio holding a spyglass and shouting “Tropical breeeeeeeeeeeeze!” as the camera pans along his fluttering, unending mane of hair only to catch him on the other end, sipping awkwardly from a drink (held by his hair) and listening to a ukulele, also held (and played) by his hair. He was introduced as the “New Old Spice Guy” and we were directed to a website called newoldspiceguyfabio.com featuring all things Fabio and Old Spice. Whaaaat?
How did they manage to miss the entire point of their own ad campaign? Isn’t this the kind of thing big shot execs sort out in creative meetings? Stuff like, oh I don’t know, how their invented characters resonate and relate to actual, living people? Old Spice Guy, as stupid as he is, was ultimately embraced not because he was real but because he wasn’t. He was a fantasy, a (humorous) ideal, a creation that the public could imbue with their own ideas and feelings, thus making it okay to once again purchase (and douse) themselves in an Old Spice sailor scent that went out of style in the Eighties. Somehow, they had managed to pick the lock and free Old Spice from the prison for “once cool things” that is still home to Polo and Drakkar Noir. It would seem the jailbreak was in reality an accident.
Look, I like Fabio but only in certain places. For “I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter” he was perfect, and that brand was mental to let him go. But cologne? No dude wants to conjure images of Fabio when he splashes on scent or rubs his pits. A sandwich, okay maybe, but certainly not anything even remotely connected to an actual, male ego. These Old Spice spots with poor Fabs were awful. They had him reading lines he couldn’t say and doing schtick that was just dumb. He was completely unintelligible and looked foolish as a result. The ads were actually quite mocking - and painfully so. The whole exercise was disconcerting and confusing. What were they doing?
Well, if Old Spice is to be believed, it was all Fabio’s fault. Somehow HE ALONE decided to co-opt the role of Old Spice Man and they couldn’t stop him. Luckily, the real one – Isaiah – came back to reclaim his throne from the sad pretender, culminating in an unbelievably bizarre and slightly trippy YouTube spot where Fabio us exiled to another planet. Apparently, we’re supposed to believe that this whole Fabio thing was some sort of master plan to re-invigorate the true “Old Spice Real Man.” Well, I’m gonna have to call Bull$#*t on that one.
No way did Old Spice plan this. The embarrassing video featuring Fabio and Isaiah proves it. If I had to lay odds I would guess they tried to dump Isaiah because he was demanding too much money or something. The big brains huddled and some flop-sweat idiot suggested Fabio was the way to go. The fact that Fabs might be willing to work cheap only sealed it around the table and a New Coke-ish type fiasco was born. Honestly, could this have happened any other way?
The brass Old Spice displays by trying to ram a “do-over” on everyone is something to behold. To act like this abomination was some sort of master-planned, pre-ordained promotion designed from the outset to be a joke is ambitious, but still tacky. The fact is they screwed up royally. And now that the masses have spoken and Old Spice has been forced back to their original (and, by this point, even more expensive) creation they are praying folks will forget the whole thing ever happened so none of the finger-sniffing brand execs gets pink-slipped over it. Honestly, ain’t it a thing of beauty when an imaginary mascot can so successfully take over a company? If only Fabio had realized his power and triangulated on that goofy margarine spread when he had the chance. He could have lived forever.