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This article was published on July 14, 2010

How Old Spice showed us what a social media campaign is all about.

How Old Spice showed us what a social media campaign is all about.

Has there ever been a more dramatic example of the right and wrong of how to do social media campaigns than what we’ve seen in the last week?

Two campaigns, one great, one not so much

First we had Fast Company’s “Influence Project”, which has been nearly unanimously panned as exactly the wrong way to “measure influence”, which was of course, the entire aim of the campaign.

Then yesterday, we broke open the story about a social media campaign that will very likely go down as one of the best ever (results directly from the agency behind the campaign below)– the shirtless Old Spice guy responding hilariously to just about anybody through a personalized video. Both very well known brands; one doing social media oh so wrong, the other oh so right.

We’re not going to focus on the negative here (i.e. The Influence Project), first of all, because a number of high quality articles have already been written about it, and second, because negative is boring. To make a long story short, it was done nearly entirely wrong, and it completely backfired into a very negative meme for Fast Company. If you’d like to disagree with this, please let us know in the comments and we can have a debate.

So let’s talk about this amazing Old Spice campaign.

Old Spice TV campaign set the stage

Old Spice has been of course running its very popular television commercials with the new Shirtless Old Spice Guy for a few months now, and had been doing their marketing due diligence of putting up the commercials on YouTube and running a Twitter account and Facebook Page. Many people (including a few celebrities) tweeted out and/or left comments on sites like Reddit about their appreciation for the commercials. Nothing groundbreaking there. Then came yesterday.

What no one outside of the team running the social media campaign knew, was that they had been collecting people’s – and especially celebrities’ – questions and responses across a wide range of social media sites, including Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, even Yahoo Answers, and were preparing for yesterday’s all-day-video-shoot where Shirtless Old Spice Guy would answer these and new incoming comments. It was such a simple idea that we imagine PR and marketing folks around the world slapping themselves on the forehead thinking, “It’s so simple! Why didn’t I think of that?!”

If you still haven’t watched the videos at this point, stop reading and at the very least go and watch our list of the best celebrity videos. There are many more too on Old Spice’s YouTube channel. When you’ve stopped laughing, please continue reading this post.

How this was SO right

So what made this (ongoing we hope) campaign so successful yesterday? Here’s a quick list:

  1. The campaign GAVE something great to people and didn’t ask anything in return. This was the most important aspect of the campaign, and really the exact opposite of what the Influence Project did.
  2. Old Spice got an attractive actor to talk into the camera all day without his shirt on. This certainly helped.
  3. They responded to a few celebrities, and then other celebrities starting lining up to get in on the act, and each of them told their millions of Twitter followers all about it. Brilliant.
  4. Nearly every video was drop-dead funny – and under a minute in length, which was also key.
  5. They obviously did their homework before launching this campaign, as evidenced by the celebrity tweets they referenced, so of which were two weeks old.
  6. They let it grow organically – there were no press releases or conferences. Just good old fashioned word of mouth.

Not enough proof for you? Well…

The results speak for themselves.

We have been in touch with Wieden+Kennedy the PR firm that put together this campaign (we’d say Wieden+Kennedy will most likely win all kinds of awards for this) for some impressive results from the first day of the campaign:

  • Top of Digg
  • Top of Reddit
  • Trending topic on Twitter
  • Inventor of Twitter tweets it
  • Marriage proposal carried out, AND ACCEPTED
  • @Alyssa_Milano’s home address acquired
  • Coverage in mainstream news / tech news / industry news (we’re now in the Times of India, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Guardian and Metro in the UK).
  • Twitter followers multiplied by 10

So there you have it, one campaign that asked for a lot and didn’t really offer anything in return, and one that gave a lot and didn’t really ask for anything in return. Is it really any surprise which one was panned and which one was praised?