An oral history of the Old Spice ads

First launched in 2010, Wieden + Kennedy Portland’s shirtless one-shot ads for P&G brand Old Spice turned heads and spawned a cascade of spinoffs. We retrace how the ads were made with the creatives as well as The Man himself, Isaiah Mustafa

‘Look at your man. Now back to me. Now back at your man. Now back to me.’

In February 2010, Old Spice introduced the world to The Man Your Man Could Smell Like. The formula for the ad – a hilarious monologue delivered straight down the lens by a shirtless Isaiah Mustafa on why the man in your life could be improved if you bought him Old Spice body wash – was a knockout.

It was the brainchild of Wieden + Kennedy creative team Craig Allen (now co-founder of W+K-backed agency Callen) and Eric Kallman, under creative directors Eric Baldwin (now W+K ECD) and Jason Bagley. The initial ads were directed by Tom Kuntz, who upped the ante by shooting in a single take.

The unexpected script, direct tone, practical tricks requiring minimal CGI, and of course Mustafa’s turn, amounted to an instant hit that resonated at Cannes and beyond, doubling sales of Old Spice in a matter of months and cementing the brand in pop culture. It laid the foundations for follow-up spots and online stunts, including live videos responding to Twitter posts, prank websites scorning questionable consumer behaviour, and the later introduction of Terry Crews’ character.

We caught up with Allen, Baldwin and Mustafa to hear about the process behind the ads, which was nothing short of a surreal experience.