Every once in a while, a commercial is so unique, in-your-face, humorous or just plane out there that it moves beyond simply shilling a product and heads straight into the pop culture zeitgeist.

Now, joining the likes of Clara “Where’s the Beef” Peller, David “Joe Isuzu” Leisure — and more recently, the Geico Cavemen — is thesp Isaiah Mustafa. He’s the star of Old Spice’s new “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” commercial, which got wide exposure during the Super Bowl (and can now be found all over television).

The Old Spice ad could be the first big commercial phenom of the Twitter era — yes, I just went there. If you currently type “Old Spice” into the Twitter search function, you’ll find hundreds (more likely, thousands) of people talking up the brand and those ads. (Mustafa himself is on Twitter and talking up the ads.)

If that’s not enough, the ad has now been viewed more than 2 million times on YouTube. Old Spice can monetize that, by the way — not a bad way to amortize the cost of the ad in the first place.

So what’s causing the frenzy? The L.A. Times’ Ministry of Gossip blog talked to Mustafa, and got the background on how the ad (and more importantly, his over-the-top performance) came to be:

The night before (the audition), he called a college buddy, quarterback Jake Plummer, most recently of the NFL’s Denver Broncos, to shoot the breeze. Jake wasn’t home, but Jake’s answering machine was — so Isaiah, schooled in improvisation, did an over-the-top mini performance of the script he had in hand.

Mustafa decided to try the performance out at his audition — and quickly scored the part as The Man Your Man Could Smell Like. The actor has so far just booked bit guest roles on shows like “Castle,” “Eli Stone” and “NCIS: Los Angeles.” But it looks like his stock is already rising, as he captures media attention from the likes of People magazine. And of course, On the Air.

Below, Leo LaPorte interviews Craig Allen and Eric Kallman of Portland-based ad firm Wieden + Kennedy, which holds the Old Spice account, on how the ad came to be:

You can check out more of Wieden + Kennedy’s work here.

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