Old Spice and the Doom of Advertising

“To you marketers, the greatest burden of your generation will be the Old Spice ads.”

This was proclaimed at a lunch and learn some time ago, with some guy I’ve forgotten, but I will remember his words. The brilliant idea propelling sales and reinvigorating the old man brand into a modern essential of the iconic bro culture was a catastrophe because of its success. 

Approaching us was a love for offbeat strings of incoherent nonsense, and sure enough advertising has become rampant with unimaginative randomness, building a new lowest common denominator for communication. An overwhelming noise begging, in fact screaming for attention like a spoiled supermarket child. It’s playing off of our short attention spans and ad-desensitized minds and offering the same over-packaged, under-delivering crap we’ve been fed for years. But look, it’s got new features and a funky new colour! I don’t care, and I would hope that most people don’t either.

It’s not necessarily the Old Spice Guy that bothers me as much as the shift in marketing. Like the messiah came forth and offered us a message that comedy and nonsense can be success. Everything from airline deals to hamburger ads have been diminished into this adolescent demand for attention through immaturity. As any good followers of the new messiah we partook in the cool aid, consumers and advertisers, playing it like fad worthy of pogs or tickle me Elmo. All I can do is await the next big shift in brilliant marketing trend that buries this trash within the landfill of ideas we occasionally sift through and reinvigorate.

The true pain I felt was the death of originality. Randomness is not originality, and to all the copying agencies and corporations playing the same tactics, you’re failing. Great ideas are inspiration for many new designs and developments, borrowing and learning, but taking the time to improve and be original. That’s what’s forgotten. People see a great meal of steak and potatoes, and rather than build a new exciting meal from the components, these follow up brands served the same steak and potatoes, except now it tasted like spam and cardboard. 

The concept of ad pollution which I thought was dying has instead been repackaged as a comedic journey, one they beckon us to join. Sadly these groups are themselves convinced that we’re buying in, even if the new car shine is so far gone there’s holes rusting through. This failure of imagination isn’t from an inability to create something great, rather a delusion that they’re delivering something great already, that home runs are coming at every bat. This arrogance agitates me, particularly as a participant in this industry. 

I’ve relinquished my hope that advertising becomes a deeply respected and appreciated profession, but that’s my perspective as a member of the copy and content ranks. It will still be some time before people move from mocking the ads to mocking the advertisers, as shrouded as we are behind our perceived piles of money and martini lunches.