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New and Old Spice

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Gayatri Shrikhande, writer and brand ideator, chlorophyll brand and communications consultancy.

Gayatri Shrikhande, writer and brand ideator, chlorophyll brand and communications consultancy.

Milind Soman is everywhere right now, marathon running aside. It’s impossible to miss him in India’s version of the Old Spice commercial, telling us a real man plays Carnatic music, makes a mean Malabar fish curry and uses Old Spice. He’s not just about impressive karate moves.

Simultaneously on air is the Park Avenue Beer Shampoo commercial. An overly macho, exaggerated, high-testosterone film about a man using a shampoo for men, not women. He fights bears and chops up wood like it’s paper.

Both commercials are about masculinity and how to ‘be a man’. And they both come across as spoofs of the original Old Spice ad. Whether it’s Milind Soman’s ridiculously ornate throne and mansion or Andrew B Smith lifting gigantic dumbbells without batting an eyelid.

So what’s the difference? The Park Avenue commercial is an evident exaggeration. And it makes you laugh. The Old Spice one, in spite of its preening women and over-the-top sets, leaves one wondering whether Milind Soman is supposed to be an Indian Isaiah Mustafa or not.

Isaiah Mustafa’s effortless humour, cheeky dialogue, and cannot-help-but-make-you-break-into-a-smile demeanor was a one-hit wonder. Replicating it is hard, parodying it, much easier.

Which is why Milind Soman’s good looks only take him so far in the Indian version. While the acting and dialogue is getting better with the third film in the series, it doesn’t come across as effortless as the original did. Interest and curiosity however, has led to more than 21 lakh views of the commercial on YouTube. For those who haven’t seen the original, this version has no comparison and will be a refreshing break from the cookie cutter formula of all men’s advertising.

Recreating iconic advertising isn’t an easy task. Old Spice has tried it, as far as being relevant to the Indian audience, it appears to have succeeded.

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