Five Questions With W+K, the Ad Agency Behind the Old Spice Ads


You’ve likely now seen those incredibly charming Old Spice body wash commercials (and the “custom vial video” campaign accompanying them) that have taken over the Internet/everything! Well, lots of people have talked to the commercial’s star, Isaiah Mustafa, but we wanted to talk to the agency behind it all — Wieden+Kennedy — last week to get some answers.

They emailed us back on Monday, and since then, the Old Spice story has developed! That’s really no excuse to hold out on this interview, but honestly, it just wasn’t a priority. Also, it’s about an ad campaign we’re not even getting paid to run.* Anyway: Interview Time! Presenting questions answered via email by Jason Bagley and Eric Baldwin, the two W+K Creative Directors behind the Old Spice campaign:

1. Who’s the person responsible for the initial idea? Has he or she been given some extra vacation time?

The initial Smell Like a Man, Man idea came from Craig Allen and Eric Kallman. They established the Old Spice guy voice and came up with the two spots, “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” and “Questions.” They have not been given any extra vacation time as we decided to shoot 186 response videos in three days.

2. How’d you guys find [Old Spice advertising star Isaiah Mustafa]?

Through a traditional casting, supplemented by burnt offerings to the God of pec muscles.

3. What’s the most outlandish reaction you guys have had to it?

Well, Isaiah and the campaign have been featured on Oprah and Ellen, among others. And during the social media response videos, a guy asked the Old Spice man to propose to his girlfriend for him. She said yes. The response overall has been nuts. Apparently we’re now the #1 most popular sponsored YouTube channel in history, more popular than “Twilight.” That’s saying a lot.

4. What’s the most challenging part of making these ads?

The most challenging part was the follow-up to the first spot. The entire team was feeling the pressure. We didn’t want to let people down and we didn’t want to repeat ourselves. It was tough to find a way to make it as surprising as the first, but Kallman and Allen came up with question/answer technique, which we liked because it felt consistent with the character but also new and surprising.

5. How do they do the thing where Isaiah ends up in jeans at the end of the “SWAN DIVE” ad? Because that is magical. Do not do the thing where you don’t tell us because it’s magical. We want answers.

Isaiah puts his pants on one leg at a time, like everyone else. He is just a man. An incredibly handsome and talented man.

UGH! Ad people! Always so crafty with their crafty answers and “creatives” and “creative concepts” or whatever they’re working on to charm us into buying things. These guys could sell their way into getting handjobs under the papal robes. We didn’t do a very good job pressing them with this interview, especially because there’s obviously some trick to the pants thing they’re not going to answer. Sorry. But: If you do know, please tell us, so I can write a post headlined “BLOW ME, ADVERTISING GUYS: This Is How the Old Spice Guy Puts His Pants On.” In the meantime, all of this makes selling out and going into advertising sound very appealing, and it’s not like it hasn’t been done before. Just saying.