Late in July, Old Spice launched their most recent ad campaign. Their 2010 “The man your man could smell like” campaign undoubtedly resurrected the iconic men’s personal hygiene band, so there were high expectations around this latest campaign. And it is glorious! A series of three ads that carry the tag line, “don’t let your friends lose their swagger”.
Like mini blockbuster movies, these three ads are action-packed, testosterone-filled adventures with the prime goal being to save the hero’s mate from a life of lethargy and apathy. They have everything to turn them into Old Spice’s next cult ad campaign on steroids. And I love everything about them.
But, the basis for the campaign is a survey that the brand conducted which showed that 31% of men aged 18 – 34 spent more time working overtime, 28% spent more time binge watching TV and 28% spend more time playing their favourite video game than connecting with their friends.
In contrast to that only 13% of the men surveyed spend more time with their best male friend, despite 92% of men feeling it’s important to maintain their friendships. In the articles covering the launch of the ads, whilst reference is made to the survey and the stats it uncovered, the overall approach from Old Spice was from a brand perspective and how to better connect with their customers. They note that one insight was that guys were deprioritising their male friendships. The Old Spice Associate Brand Director at Proctor & Gamble even says that men are in a crisis, but then makes somewhat light of it.
Men are certainly in crisis at the moment. The latest suicide rates show that there has been a 10% increase in male suicides and, of the 3,128 people who took their own lives in 2017, 75% of them were men. More men die of suicide than in car crashes. To me, there is a significant correlation between the results of the Old Spice survey and the appalling situation our men find themselves in.
We’ve created a culture that has celebrated the macho and utterly downplayed the need for our men to seek support for those who care about them. We have created a culture where men are not supposed to feel, they’re just supposed to do. One of the most impotent aspects of support for men is from their male friends or from a male support group, where they can share how they feel without judgement.
Two recent examples of how powerful this are the Respectful Man pilot program from our clients, Interrelate, and The Man Walk, which started in Kiama in 2018. With over 10,000 followers and new groups springing up in other areas, this is a great example of how male support is becoming a new driver in both helping with a crisis and also in driving behavioural charge.
Perhaps Old Spice could have gone one step further and recognised that the statistics they uncovered are disturbing and need to be addressed. They could have established a fund to divert funds to men’s support groups, started a national campaign to take real action in supporting friends.
Imagine the impact they could have in helping to reduce this disturbing trend. Or, maybe their message is subliminal and humour is the best way to get people’s attention? After all, there are more ways than one to have an impact and, if this campaign encourages more men to spend time with their mates and start a conversation, they could help to bring those disturbing rates down simply because they’re talking to men in their language.
What are your thoughts on whether brands can effect change without having a clearly defined and communicated agenda?