Does Old Spice Still “Mean Quality”?
The message: men who are perfect – fit, studious, in touch with their “feminine side”, wealthy – don’t exist. Such traits within men only exist in cliche romance novels directed at women who have only vague, childish, fairy tale-derived ideas of how they could manifest in real life. The best way to accept the fact that these men don’t exist is to laugh at the implicit reminder that such men are actually narcissicistic (“… and now back to me“) or stupid (making up statistics, riding a horse backwards). Or, laugh at yourself for ever believing such things (“he was just on a boat and now he’s on a horse, he can eat the head of a golf club, of course he doesn’t exist”), and finally – most importantly – keep a small, tolerable bit of that view alive by having the smell of your man remind you of it. Take pride in it.
Of course, these “manmercials” are not directed at women. They’re directed at men. They one, allow men to momentarily absolve themselves of that feeling of self-contempt they have for not achieving virtuous traits (ie: they agree with women that such traits are unrealistic); two, a moment later, allow them to believe that they do have them and it’s just that the average non-exceptionally beautiful blonde woman can’t see them (ie: laugh at yourself for ever letting your woman’s constructive criticism matter to you); and finally – most importantly – keep a small, tolerable bit of these bad ideas alive by using Old Spice products. Take pride in it.
These commercials are directed at a certain kind of human weakness shared by both genders. It is just deftly disguised as “laughing with you” about it, rather than reminding you of it specifically to get you to feel inadequate, so that you’ll turn to their product as a way to quickly make that feeling go away. It’s a way of saying “we used to do that with our advertising decades ago, but we realize how wrong that was, and now we’re beyond it”, while still doing it.
The truth is that any person – man or woman – who finds these commercials funny is aware of the need for virtues, but cannot see them when they appear, because to see them means to see them completely, unflinchingly, unhesitatingly. And to do that requires possessing them yourself. To achieve them, and to achieve the ability to see them in others, is an heroic achievement. It’s no laughing matter. Old Spice wants to take advantage of the fact that people, on some level, understand that. First by giving away the opportunity to pretend that the achievement of virtue isn’t really important, and then by selling a physical object which serves not only as a cleanser, but also as a reminder of that conclusion, conveniently recreating it for the consumer whenever he needs it. This kind of psychological manipulation ensurs sales levels for Old Spice that far exceed what they would achieve were they advertise their products solely by their merits (since it’s so similar to it’s competitors products).