As the streaming giant gets set to launch the second season of “The Witcher” this week, Procter & Gamble’s Old Spice will debut a commercial that gives the series’ characters the chance to consider whether deodorant might cure some of their ills. The video features actor David Broughton Davies, who played a role in the fourth episode of the show’s first season, as he leads a tavern full of peasants in song about the smelliness of the world in which “The Witcher” takes place.
“No one can run / No one can hide / From the perils of B.O.,” they chant during one scene from the video, which clocks in at 75 seconds. The companies intend to run the piece in front of movie audiences, and on social media — with the expectation that fans will share it and pass it around to friends.
“We want our audiences to actually want to seek out our messages and communicate about them,” says Matt Krehbiel, vice president of Old Spice, in an interview. “Our hope is not that an ad is something that someone wants to skip past,” he adds, “but something that someone wants to share with their friends.”
As part of the initiative, Old Spice will work to generate conversation in places where “Witcher” fans are likely to congregate. Old Spice will play up the “Witcher” video on “Critical Role,” ’a livestreamed show focused on Dungeons & Dragons, and will launch a custom chatbot with a personality similar to that of Jaskier, the poet character in “Witcher,” for Reddit, where it can be found at R/SmellyBardBot. Fans can also enter a trivia contest at OldSpice.com/Witcher to try to win limited-edition Old Spice deodorants with scents based on Witcher themes, such as “Smell of Surprise” or “Yennefer’s Underarm.”
The ambitious marketing alliance helps solve a growing Madison Avenue problem. For decades, big advertisers attached their commercials to some of the most popular TV programs. Increasingly, however, those series are showing up in streaming venues that don’t accept ads and refuse to interrupt their shows with commercial breaks. Such partnerships also help outlets like Netflix, which need to get the word out about new content in an era when consumers are inundated with new streaming fare.
Other ad giants have taken big swings to pair their products with streaming favorites. In February of 2019, Anheuser-Busch InBev ran a Super Bowl ad that did the unthinkable — it left viewers thinking more about HBO’s “Game of Thrones” than about beer. The commercial showed a character from the HBO series defeating the Bud Knight in a joust and then killing him in no uncertain terms. Even so, the commercial gave Anheuser’s Bud Light a connection to viewers who at the time were eager to see the series’ final season.
Netflix has built a team that works to strike intriguing team-ups with advertisers willing to stretch their marketing muscles. In 2019, the company developed a partnership with Coca-Cola that paired the company’s flagship drink with “Stranger Things,” but spurred the beverage giant to temporarily revive New Coke, the much-scrutinized product that languished after its debut in 1985.
“We always try to find that creative interaction between the brand we might work with and the audience for a big piece of content,” says Magno Herran, head of marketing partnerships at Netflix, in an interview.
Executives had to work to sniff out elements for the proper alliance with Old Spice. Both sides found several references in “Witcher” to the way people smelled. Simply put, some characters had obvious body odor (and some smelled like lilacs).
Done properly, says Herran, the marketing alliances play upon themes that will interest fans of the series, and get them talking. “This speaks really uniquely to the audience,” he adds.
Old Spice and Netflix have been working for about six months “on getting the tone just right,” he said, and making sure the entire effort will seem “authentic” to fans of the series. No matter how funky things get with “Witcher” characters, the hope is that consumers won’t turn up their nose at this latest marketing pitch.