Last year, the body wash industry was at an all-time high, making 757 billion dollars. This trend of increasing sales has been continuing steadily since the 1990’s. The reason for such a dramatic increase



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Emily Pia

Last year, the body wash industry was at an all-time high, making 757 billion dollars. This trend of increasing sales has been continuing steadily since the 1990’s. The reason for such a dramatic increase? Men’s body wash companies began directing their advertisements at women. A male body wash brand that is obviously focused on women is Old Spice, with their new spokesperson claiming that he is the “Man Your Man Could Smell Like”. The witty, comical, and sexy campaign increased Old Spice's sales by 107% after the new commercials starring Isaiah Mustafa aired.

The advertisements are not only effective in their choice of audience, but they are also effective rhetorically. Old Spice can attribute its advertising success primarily to its mastery of logos in that it mainly appeals to women. The campaign also is very effective, though, in the underlying appeals to the male audience. In relation to ethos, the commercial establishes the Old Spice brand credibility by debunking the standard advertising technique that is pure sex appeal. Lastly, Isaiah Mustafa’s quick imperative quips are analogous to the underlying message of the commercial, which is obviously, “Buy Old Spice.”

Old Spice changed the face of body wash advertising by appealing to women rather than men. In order for this to be successful, the brand had to make assumptions of the women watching the commercial and draw upon these preconceived notions. One assumption is that men do not care enough to buy their own body wash, so they use their girlfriend’s or wife’s body wash while showering, which may or may not irritate the women in their lives. Old Spice also had to assume that women make up the majority of the shopping demographic for household items such as toiletries, and that they care more about what they are buying than men do. The last assumption made is that deep down every woman wants a manly man that emulates Isaiah Mustafa’s character and poise, and that, at first glance, their man most likely does not match up to Mustafa. And so the commercial begins, “Hello, ladies.” Right off the bat, Old Spice commands the attention of women, in the incredibly charming voice of Isaiah Mustafa. He asks them to look at their man, and back to him, back at their man, then back to him. This allows women, whether they follow the foolish demands or not, to make some subconscious comparisons. And most likely, the comparisons did not favor their significant other. However, Mustafa offers a compromise. “Sadly, he’s not me. But if he stopped using lady-scented body wash and switched to Old Spice, he could smell like he’s me!” The commercial makes several more appeals to women in the remainder of the advertisement, including an offer of tickets to “that thing that you love” that then turn into diamonds. This draws upon the ideology that women love being showered with extravagant gifts. At the end of the commercial, Mustafa is pictured riding on a white horse on the beach into the sunset. In the eyes of a woman, this scenario is dream-like. An incredibly good-looking man riding a white stallion on a beach during a sunset showering her with diamonds and tickets to her favorite show, isn't that what every woman desires? Or at least what American ideologies tell women they should desire? All of these appeals to women and assumptions about what they want in life sway women towards Old Spice. In the very least, the men in their lives will keep their grubby hands off of their body wash the next time they take a shower, and hopefully, they’ll start smelling a little more like a manly!

Old Spice's appeals to men, however, are more subconscious. The commercial plants the ideas in the men’s heads that they need to take back their masculinity by stopping the use of "lady-scented" body wash. In turn, they will become better providers for the women in their lives, and they will be able to satisfy and pleasure them in the way that Mustafa is able to satisfy and pleasure women. They can be the chiseled, confident, suave, spontaneous, "ultimate man" that's presented in the advertisement. These subconscious ideas combined with the, "Look at me now!" "Where are we?" "What's in my hand" "I'm on a horse!" gimic make it appear as though anything is possible with Old Spice.

In its appeals to ethos, Old Spice first establishes the brand's credibility by using a recognizable face in the commercial. Isaiah Mustafa, a famous professional football player and actor, was casted as the smooth talking, scantily clad spokesperson for the manly-smelling body wash. The audience learns to trust both Mustafa and the Old Spice brand because neither take themselves seriously. Old Spice acknowledges the standard of masculine hygiene brands to use half-naked women to appeal to men. They recognize that other brands use sex to manipulate the audience into believing that their products will make them the man that every bodacious girl in a bikini on a beach wants. Old Spice, however, sets themselves apart by mocking the typical advertising technique and not using women in the commercial at all. Old Spice is not trying to deceive their male audience into believing that their product will improve their looks somewhere on the order of Greek god, they are only trying to improve the way you smell. To send this message, Old Spice uses a half-naked Isaiah Mustafa to sell their masculine body wash, which wouldn’t appeal, at least sexually, to most men. However, his extravagant performance that uses unrealistic magic tricks and a completely overdramatic dialogue further emphasize that Old Spice is not being completely serious, that there was meant to be an element of humor in this mockery. It’s as if they are saying, “We aren’t going to trick you into thinking you will actually look this good. We are just trying to tell you that you will smell this good.” And, even though you can’t actually smell the man in the commercial, the trust the commercial builds makes the audience believe that he does, in fact, smell totally like a man and nothing like a woman. Because Old Spice debunks typical advertising techniques by mocking the way that other brands advertise, the brand establishes its credibility with the audience.

The advertisement does, however, have some element of sex, even if it is made fun of. It would be nearly impossible for Old Spice to completely eliminate this cornerstone of advertising and still produce profits, so Mustafa serves as this element of sex appeal. Mustafa is undeniably sexy and epitomizes masculinity, or at least what American ideologies perceive masculinity to be. He is tall, dark, and handsome, with an exceptionally toned physique. His crisp, clean shave and perfect skin alludes to his superb grooming habits; he is both a manly man and takes care of his personal hygiene. His smooth way of speaking makes Mustafa sound confident and in control. The expensive looking pants and shirt draped around his neck on his private yacht indicates that Mustafa is successful. These deadly combinations make women swoon and make men aim to establish the same qualities. At one point, Mustafa even prompts the audience to look down, and then back up, in which he look at his, ahem, package. As aforementioned, this Old Spice commercial goes far beyond the sex factor, however, the audience can still make out its presence.



Watching the commercial, one notices that there are no statistics that describe the number of women who prefer the smell of Old Spice over the smell of, say, Axe. There aren’t even any real descriptions of what the product smells like. Instead, the entire script is comprised of short interrogatives and imperatives. What is the significance of the dialogue’s structure? Mustafa speaks in this commanding manner to exert his authority, to make the audience laugh at this over-dramatized authority, but more importantly to get the audience in the mindset to buy his product. "Look at me, now look away" "Look down, back up" "What's in your hand, back at me" "Look again". Buy Old Spice! The dialogue is short, quick, and to the point. Just like the underlying message.

Old Spice has been very successful in its new campaign because of the light atmosphere of the commercial and the use of comedy rather than pure sex appeal. In many other male body wash advertisements, sex is the primary appeal. Axe body wash even attacked Old Spice by making billboards with a picture of a bottle of Axe next to the slogan, “For men who’d rather be with a woman than on a horse.” However, it still remains to be seen that Old Spice has been more successful than Axe in its new line of advertising. Old Spice can contribute this success largely to the choice to advertise primarily to women, the mockery used to discredit standard sex-oriented advertising, and the short imperatives of the dialogue that both make the audience laugh and prompt them to buy their manly body wash.
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