The Old Spice Man by Kathleen Antonelli

We all know those guys, the ones at the gym with the barbells, the sweaty tank tops and the spandex shorts. Unless my nose has been misleading me all of this time, I would say those guys need a shower.  Next time I run into one of those naive young men, I would like to give him some advice: If you want to erase your rank bouquet, then get some soap. But if you want more bang for your bubbles, then lather up with Old Spice, because according to Procter and Gamble, you’ll be a mean, clean, man of women’s dreams, radiating machismo and animal magnetism, not to mention muscles that no off brand soap could ever deliver. These sweaty men at the gym that I’m talking about need to look around, and ask yourselves a simple question; Are you sexy, and seated astride a stunning white horse? If not, they could be.

People who believe ads know that Old Spice is more than musk. That’s because the spokes (macho) man shows us that Old Spice is a magical potion that makes taking a shower less about getting clean and more about getting noticed. And even though this product is intended for men, its commercials target women as well, suggesting to them through subliminal advertising and key rhetorical tactics that Old Spice, a product that is really just strongly scented soap, can turn p.u. into a whole new you.

People today are always looking for a quick fix: A new way to accomplish a lot without doing much of anything at all. Lucky for them, Old Spice seems to have the answer. In a 30 second clip, a stunningly handsome, perfectly proportioned young man holding a bottle of Old Spice describes, with cheeky swagger and steamy passion, everything a woman secretly wants in her man, and everything a man secretly wants to be, demonstrating expertly executed advertising ethos. The Old Spice man speaks with confidence in a clear attempt to persuade his audience, while leaping from stereotype to stereotype, one second on his yacht and the next fishing diamonds from the sea. This technique adds humor to the commercial, letting the audience in on the joke. The rhetorical use of humor is extremely important in this case. The Old Spice man is a poster-perfect example of superficiality, depicting the silliest, and most secret wants of men and women. If the Old Spice man were to deliver his lines in a serious manner, people would naturally get defensive, and deny that they want anything so shallow as a superior physique with which to attract the opposite sex. However, the humor allows the audience to act outwardly as if they find the whole thing amusing, while inwardly agreeing with what is being said, then going out to buy Old Spice as soon as possible.

The advertisers behind the Old Spice campaign are well-aware of what men and women of average sex-appeal want: more of it.  That’s why the ads use not only ethos, but pathos, and peoples’ own inner-longings as well, dangling the super-model existence carrot within reach.  The Old Spice ads provide nothing but empty promises that nonetheless evoke strong emotions of excitement and hope for a more brawny future in his less-than-well-endowed audience, inspiring those in the market for super-human soap to buy Old Spice with abandon.  The Old Spice man has everything from a knockout body, to an innate ability to cook, to a boat full of diamonds, all seemingly stemming from a little lather. These things are the reason that the men watching this commercial get up and go to work and to the gym everyday, and the idea that they could have all that just from a shower is an intoxicating concept to them. This also hooks women, because not only does the Old Spice man ask at the beginning for women to look at him, then back at their men, but women subconsciously want the man they are with to be able to provide all of the same things that the man in the commercial can. This is pathos in action, toying with the audience’s emotions in a different way than people usually think. The ad doesn’t mention anything sad or gut wrenching, it just simply highlights what men and women want, but can’t necessarily have. Advertisers understand the frustrating emotions that go along with this, and they don’t hesitate to suggest that where there’s a wash, there’s a way.

Obviously no one’s life style was ever drastically altered by a bar of soap, but the creators of the Old Spice ads suggest the idea nonetheless. This rhetorical tactic is key, and a good use of ethos and pathos. The Old Spice ads are able to get the audience to connect an image and an attitude with their brand, giving it credibility. They are also capitalizing on unspoken male vulnerabilities and female desires by suggesting that they have the answer. And thanks to their successful use of rhetoric, thousands of men are buying a product that promises, but can’t possibly deliver, perfection.