The Old Spice commercial “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” is selling Old Spice body wash. It begins and ends with the actor, Isaiah Mustafa, holding the body wash in his hand. The entire commercial is geared toward getting “your man” to smell like “the man your man could smell like,” i.e. Old Spice (Old Spice). The commercial is geared mostly toward women but also to men, and it empowers women, although it uses conventional advertising techniques such as sex appeal, guilt trip, deficiencies in the viewer, subversiveness, and magic/awe.
Ironically, the commercial is marketing a man’s product, but it is mostly geared toward women. The actor speaks to women as he begins with “Hello, ladies,” and proceeds to instruct women on how to get their men smelling good (Old Spice). The commercial even includes temptations for women such as tickets to some place the female viewer would like to go, as well as diamonds which “grow” Old Spice body wash. Traditionally men are the ones that purchase tickets and diamonds for the women. Thus, the commercial is hinting that if women purchase Old Spice body wash for their men, then their men will in turn buy them the desires of their heart, tickets and diamonds.
Interestingly enough, women are not treated as objects in this commercial. They are not even visible in the commercial, yet they are part of the commercial because they are in dialogue with the actor. He asks them questions, giving women the feeling that they are respected and given agency by the man in the commercial. They have the power to change their men if they buy them Old Spice body wash. The actor even tries to convince women that “anything is possible when your man smells like Old Spice and not a lady,” even though Old Spice will not force the man to buy his woman tickets or diamonds (Old Spice).
The commercial also fosters the belief that women should expect their men to smell high quality. While it never talks about Old Spice being high quality, the commercial implies this belief. Mustafa is constantly demanding that women viewers compare their men to him to have their men smell like him. He appears manly, exhibiting qualities admired by the American woman and pushed in much advertising: he is muscular, tall, and has a deep voice and good posture. If Mustafa is high quality in other areas, he must be right: Old Spice is the best body wash for men.
The Old Spice commercial uses several advertising tactics, among which are sex appeal, a lack or need of something due to inadequacy, and guilt appeal. The man in the commercial is sexy: he is muscular, tall, handsome, confident, and he has good posture. Even his voice is used seductively. At one point the actor tells the viewer to “look down” (Old Spice). If the viewers look down after presumably watching the speaker’s face and keep their eyes there, then their eyes fall toward the actor’s pelvic area. Shortly thereafter, the bath towel around his waist is stripped off; however, Mustafa is wearing shorts. This trick inspires thought toward sexiness beyond simple outside appearances. Albeit, the setting is changing, the idea is that if a man uses Old Spice body wash, then he will be sexier.
Additionally, the commercial is telling men that they do not smell as good or as sexy as they ought to smell. It tells women that their men are not quality if he does not wear Old Spice products. If men do not wear Old Spice, they do not smell good; therefore, they are not worthy of their women. The commercial tries to convince men that Old Spice body wash will provided their needed edge; “The men’s ‘double bind’ is that they must simultaneously work on and discipline their bodies while disavowing any (inappropriately ‘unmasculine’) interest in their own appearance” (Branston and Stafford 319). The commercial tells men and women that unless men use Old Spice, they do not smell as good. In this age, an effeminate-smelling man is not desirable, thus he fails. Even the slogan evident on the logo for the video author’s screen name indirectly touts this fact: “Smell Better than Yourself” (Old Spice). It implies that men do not smell good on their own and that they need Old Spice body wash in order to be acceptable-smelling.
While Mustafa speaks to women, the commercial is actually trying to get men to buy the product; it is subversive. The actor is telling women: don’t you want your man to smell like me? If perchance the man is watching the commercial with his wife or girlfriend, he might feel guilty and inadequate, like he should be like the man on TV. Like all other lifestyle advertisements, this commercial “[encourages] potential buyers to associate it with a whole desirable style of life, and to feel that not owning the product might lead to ‘personal failure’” (Branston and Stafford 318). The male viewer may feel guilty because he thinks he needs to live up to his woman’s standards, whose standards are suggested by the commercial. He must succeed with his woman, and if he does not use Old Spice body wash, he might not smell as good as she would like for him to smell. It fosters insecurity in the man convincing him that he needs to purchase the product.
Furthermore, the dreamlike qualities of the commercial enhance the appeal to women viewers. Disney conditions girls to look for a prince, to expect the best, and to believe in fairy tales and magic. This Old Spice commercial uses the same elements that women are taught to expect: dreams, magic, and wishes fulfilled by men. Mustafa moves magically between three different settings over the course of the commercial: a bathroom, a boat, then on a horse at the beach. A clam shell in his hand magically turns into diamonds, after which a bottle of body wash grows out of the diamonds. This illusion adds to the attention-capturing effects of the commercial and induces awe in the viewer, playing on the fantasy elements taught to women at a young age. It is as if the commercial is saying, “Old Spice will magically give you what you want, tickets, diamonds, and a sexy-smelling man.” As a side note, women are also traditionally the main shoppers of the family. Since women do most of the shopping, they are more likely to pick the brands that their families use. By this awe-inducing method, the commercial generates memorability in the viewer so that while shopping the viewer may remember the name of Old Spice over other brand names.
Just like any other commercial, this particular Old Spice commercial is selling a product using characteristic aspects of advertising. It uses the unique tactic of addressing women about a men’s product, while employing the typical advertising techniques of sexiness, indicating a need, guilt, and magic. The commercial empowers women by giving them agency, but it also seduces both them and their male counterparts to favor Old Spice body wash.
Branston, Gill, and Stafford, Roy. The Media Student’s Book. 5th ed. London: Routledge, 2010. Print.
Old Spice. YouTube. n.p., 04 Feb. 2010. Web. 29 Oct. 2011.