Two Ad Characters. Five Shows. One Day. No Sweat For Old Spice (Well, Maybe a Little)

Rather than cutting away to commercials for deodorant and body wash, some of TV’s most popular programs on Thursday will try to make them seem part of the show.

To help draw attention to a new campaign for its Old Spice body wash, Procter & Gamble has negotiated with three different media companies for placement on four different networks for five special tie-ins in Thursday’s broadcasts of ABC’s “Good Morning America” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live”; “ESPN’s “SportsCenter”; NBC’s “The Good Place”; and TNT’s coverage of the Los Angeles Lakers taking on the Brooklyn Nets.

“Lining up broadcast, digital, and social properties linearly in a 24-hour rotation definitely took some magic,” says Matt Krehbiel, associate brand director of Old Spice, in an interview conducted by email.  But securing closer connections with TV programs is of more value than ever for advertisers, he suggests. “We are meeting consumers where they are, getting in the mix of their favorite shows in a relatable, organic way.”

The effort is designed to highlight the return of actor Isaiah Mustafa to Old Spice advertising – along with a new foil for the character. A decade ago Mustafa helped Procter revive Old Spice with a commercial about “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” that sparked outsize reaction on social media. In two new commercials, the “Man” is joined by his son, played by Keith Powers, who prefers different scents and products.

In the original spot, Mustafa’s muscled, towel-clad character goes from the shower to a boat to riding a horse, all in one seemingly uninterrupted take (“I’m on a horse,” he quips at the ad’s end). At the time, the commercial was aimed at trying to appeal to women, whom the company’s research showed played a large part in the grooming products purchased for husbands and significant others. In the new ads, the father comes on a little too strong for the son. Thankfully, a least for the purposes of advertising, that’s just the sort of problem Old Spice was made to solve.

P&G will kick off Thursday by having both actors appear on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” doing the weather in a live segment. At noon on ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” the duo will do a live, in-show commercial with Kenny Mayne, an ESPN stalwart who has been doing more on-air work with sponsors in recent months. Some time after 8 p.m. , NBC’s “The Good Place” will be accompanied by an ad tailored to the program, featuring William Jackson Harper, one of the stars of the series. After 10:30 p.m. eastern, one of the play-by-play announcers on TNT’s NBA coverage will do a live toss to one of the new Old Spice ads. And during “Jimmy Kimmel Live” after 11:30 p.m., Old Spice will be featured during one of the segments.

“I think we are starting to see a shift in the ways brands reach audiences, with attention spans ranging between three to six seconds, we recognize that we have to be immediately impactful, culturally relevant and authentic,” says Krehbiel.

Old Spice has tapped social-media influencers including Adam W., Jeff Wittek and Spice Adams to post their own versions of the original “Man” ad while the actors make their rounds. Digital-video partners for the campaign include Snapchat, Giphy, Pandora, Twitter Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

More advertisers are striking complex deals for what has long been known as “product placement,” attempting to coordinate appearances of specific messages across a particular time slot or in front of a well-defined niche of potential customers. ABC recently devised an agreement with Facebook to showcase its Portal mobile device in “Modern Family,” “GMA” and “Black-ish.” In 2017, pharmaceutical manufacturer Sanofi dispatched Nigel, an animated spokes-owl for the Xyzal allergy medication, to CBS’ “Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and have the product embedded in “Jimmy Kimmel Live” as well as “Conan.”

In a not-too-distant era, in-show placements were less ambitious. Perhaps Verizon could find a way to get its mobile phones in the hands of the characters on “Gossip Girl,” or Ford might have Jack Bauer drive one of its trucks on “24.” But the ongoing migration of viewers of scripted TV programs to streaming-video services has pushed Madison Avenue to seek new ways of making  commercial messages stick with audiences

Old Spice’s “Man” has accomplished just such a feat in the past. In 2010, “Old Spice urgently needed to boost relevance in the men’s grooming space,” says Krehbiel. The original campaign “not only achieved unprecedented social cache, it propelled Old Spice to become the number one brand of body wash and antiperspirant/deodorant in the US, with a 27% increase in body wash sales after launch.”

Adding a son gives Old Spice the chance to show off that it has products for all kinds of generations, says the executive. Putting that son on “GMA” and “SportsCenter,m” among other places, takes networking to a different level.

Update: A day after this story was posted, a spokesman for Old Spice said the deal to have the product mentioned during TNT’s basketball coverage on Thursday night had fallen apart in late stages of planning. As a result, there will be no call-out for the product during Thursday’s coverage.



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