Craig Allen: one of the two writers of the Old Spice campaign, is here to tell us about its origins.
Old Spice Guy himself, Isaiah Mustafa, was supposed to be here but is currently busy using his biceps as a dam to prevent a flood from wiping out a small village, but has recorded a personal message for ROFLcon.
Craig worked at TBWA Chiat/ Day on Skittles, Starburst, Vodka, and other things that are bad for you. So he went to Wieden+Kennedy to work on Nike and Old Spice and drink free Coke. They have a terrifying collection of former Old Spice props.
The original storyboards show a white guy on horseback, before they casted Isaiah. There was a lot of debate about whether Old Spice Guy should have a girlfriend, and if so, should he have multiple girlfriends. Wieden+Kennedy disagreed with Procter and Gamble on this matter.
Craig has predicted our questions for us and prepared answers in advance.
Isaiah is currently single.
Also, they nearly killed him on every shoot. The studio bathroom is very heavy, and was built on top of a boat, and collapsed during one shoot, which fortunately, occurred before Isaiah was famous.
The first commercial required 63 takes over 3 days. Fortunately, Isaiah is flawless, which is good, because everything else that could go wrong did go wrong.
Like the rest of us, creative types at Wieden+Kennedy spend 99% of their day in pointless meetings. In his little concepting time, Craig plays around online at ESPN and celebrity sites. He says concepting is pretty depressing act of sitting in a room fighting over ideas and generally hating each other.
The perks of having come up with such a successful campaign are many: Craig gets to travel to cool places, ride rollercoasters, and get away with stranger ad campaigns. They got Grover to model in a spot, Smell Like a Monster.
He also got to ride motorcycles with Fabio. Fabio owns a LOT of motorcycles.
On the downside, they shoot spots over Christmas. “The only people making money off this are Procter & Gamble and Isaiah.
No, you can’t intentionally make something viral.
Isaiah Mustafa Skypes in!
Client approval on the live responses: The client wasn’t exactly thrilled about not having approval of the web videos before they went live. They gave a few simple rules: no dead animal jokes, no sex jokes. Then they’d call after watching a video that had gone live, because they were watching along at the same time as the public, and they’d say, “Hey, about that dead animal joke…that was very clearly prohibited.” And we’d say we had to run.
Is it Isaiah’s charm, or the script?
Isaiah: It’s all your writing, wordfather.
Craig: If I read the same script, no one would laugh. So let’s split it 50-50.
Has this changed Hollywood’s perception of you?
Isaiah, laughing: Well, there was no perception before, so it’s been positive for my career.
When’s the next commercial?
Craig: I legally can’t say.
We applaud Craig’s weird and extensive portfolio of Skittles commercials, including the one where the old man gets milked. “That one didn’t run as much.”
Can you turn these commercial characters into full-blown franchises? I’d like to see the Old Spice Guy team up with the Most Interesting Man in the World and explore the globe.
Apparently the Most Interesting Man in the World is super old, kind of a perv, and lives on a boat in Marina Del Ray.
Craig: People don’t mind being sold to if you’re truly entertaining them. That Jennifer Aniston thing that came out where she just drank water.
Did you actually sell more Old Spice to women?
Yes. I was astounded at the research. Apparently, we, as gentlemen, don’t buy our own body products. Especially when you’re married, your wife goes to the store, she smells the things, and she informs you how you’ll be swelling.
What scent do you wear?
Craig is a Denali man. Isaiah has to wear it or an alarm goes off. He has every flavor known to man.
What are the conceptual differences in copy written for men vs. women?
Women like to be complimented and told all of their finer qualities that we forget all too often. But guys wouldn’t watch that. So we disguised that in manly talk and jokes to get past guys’ radar. Isaiah is what women want their man to be, and men are happy to have him do it for them.
Things get personal and someone asks if Isaiah knows Craig’s wife (who’s fair game because we saw her sign into Skype). Craig tells the story of his wife having their baby while they were filming together.
What computer were you using in the Mantoclaus commercials?
It was like a box with orange buttons on it.
What are your favorite internet memes, beside yourself?
“I hide my wife and I hide my kids.”
[He's singing tonight at 7!]
Has a celebrity ever freaked out when meeting Isaiah?
It happened this one night where I got invited to an Oscar party by Madonna and Demi Moore, because I did a PSA for Ashton Kutcher. I show up not knowing anybody. Chris Evans, Captain America comes up to me, and he’s cool enough to let me tag along with him for a while. So I just start walking up to people. I walk up to Forrest Whittaker and introduce myself. He looks at me kind of strange, so I go, “I do those Old Spice commercials,” and he goes, “WHOA!” and they recount the action. I go over to Josh Groban and tell him I used his dad’s voice a little for the character, and he’s equally astounded. So I feel really good about myself, start to walk outside, and this guy goes, “Young man, come here.” I turn around, and it’s Tom Hanks. I could have died right then.
Do you feel as if being a black man as the face of a large American brand has impacted the world of advertising?
Maybe a little. People are people nowadays. Terry Crews literally kicked the door down for me.
We ask him to say some lines in character. The crowd demands his shirt off. He checks with the Princess Leia cardboard cutout behind him, she approves, the shirt comes off. He recites the original spot’s monologue without blinking. Raucous applause follows.