Play It Forward, Chapter 3: The Key Reason the Old Spice Man Achieved Viral Dominance

Dennis Ryan, Chicago Advertising, Element 79By now, most everything that needs to be written has been written about Weiden + Kennedy’s groundbreaking viral video heavyweight “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like.” And unlike so many pop culture mayflies that swarm up and just as quickly disappear, this effort merits all those words and column inches.

But amidst all the celebration and analysis, I’ve never seen any article that calls out the reason why this ad and series, more so than any of the thousands of others trying to garner attention, fired the imagination of viewers. Beyond universal agreement around the genius of the creative idea, the production, the writing and Isaiah Mustafa’s note-perfect performance, no one’s mentioned the one thing that makes this–or any video–truly stand out…


In a media-saturated world, any video, any voice, any meme that surprises is remarkable.  And rare.  And so it stands out, head and shoulders above the rabble.

But the truly remarkable thing about the Old Spice work is that it doesn’t just surprise the audience once; every video functions as a continuous sequence of surprises.  It’s a surprise (“tickets to that thing you love”) then another surprise (“They’re diamonds!”) and then another and another and another (“I’m on a horse!”). Revealing a series of surprises makes it all the more amazing.  And forward-friendly.

The importance of surprise when engaging viewers is a simple concept to grasp. And a bear to actually accomplish. Try to keep that one on your To Do list…


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


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