This essay covers persuasive techniques used in the video commercial for Old Spice deodorant, as well as the messages that lie in the heart of the very commercial. The essay will try to explain the techniques and effects of persuasion on targeted audience, while at the same time referring to style and language. A great emphasis is put on humor, as it is the main technique of persuasion used in the very commercial. The commercial that is the subject of this work is Old Spice’s “The man your man could smell like” 33 second long video, which increased Old Spice sales as much as 106% at one point.
In order to explain and understand this phenomenon, attention should be drawn to persuasive techniques used by advertisers to subconsciously influence targeted audience, while analyzing main messages itself. First, let us take a look at the concept of the commercial itself. The product, Old Spice deodorant, is presented to the audience by a physically attractive, stereotypically masculine African American, the narrator and the only character in the commercial, stereotyped to the point of exaggeration. Presented image leaves us with the idea of a parody.
The main character is addressing the audience in second person, leading them through the commercial. One of the most interesting things about his narration is that, although the product itself is aimed at men, the commercial is not directly addressed to them. The narrator speaks to women, which is undoubtedly one of the factors of the popularity of this commercial, as it gives an unexpected twist to it, taking into consideration the well-known fact that most commercials of this type feature a stereotypical macho model, who addresses that men should aspire to look and act like him.
By looking at some of the commercials of the type, especially at the older Old Spice commercials, a common persistent pattern can be noticed, which is now made fun of, the reason being the company’s attempt to try and abandon their outdated image. The narrator is, as mentioned before, an exaggeratedly stereotypical masculine persona, overly confident and arrogant to the degree that makes his personality unrealistic and humorous. He is trying to sell the product by selling himself, stating that any ordinary man could come at least close to what he was, just by using the same deodorant.
The unintentional humor comes from his exaggerated personality and randomness of the commercial’s plot. First, we see the man in the bathroom, three seconds later he is on a boat, holding an oyster containing two tickets, which are soon replaced by diamonds and at the very end, he is on a horse. What makes this concept interesting and humorous is that he keeps eye contact with the audience through every second of the commercial, while describing everything that he is doing and everything that is seen on the screen, thus stating the obvious.
The advertisement is not saying anything about the actual product, and is instead focused on selling the commercial rather than the product, which in this case is understandable as Old Spice is an established and popular brand. Advertisers count on the sense of humor of both men and women, whilst using an attractive man to occupy women’s attention. Targeted audience, as aforementioned, is the younger population of heterosexual men and women who share a particular sense of humour.
By using mockery and a sort of parodying of the commercial, mixing it with sex appeal and personality, advertisers have created a persuasive and informative advertisement that is not aimed at a broader audience, as the above mentioned factors, do not appeal to older generations. Having a particular sense of humor is crucial to understanding this commercial, as it would otherwise face the risk of being labeled derogatory and sexist. Advertisers have applied the “sex sells” rule of advertising on this commercial, with the change of men being objectified rather than women, and mixed it with humor in order to create a desirable effect.
Before turning to analysis of other techniques, it is important to mention the use of language and sentences as well, which cannot really be seen as a persuasive technique but is a powerful tool in manipulating audience. Sentences in the commercial are brief and straight to the point. The narrator is confident and he knows what he is talking about- no stops in between the sentences, no improvisation and no commas, which, aside with random images, helps to create the desirable dynamic effect.
Dynamic commercial embodies the dynamic lifestyle led by the targeted audience, which consists of young people who are always on the move and trying to keep up with the modern world. As for the style and tone of the author, it is important to mention that the narrator states his point of view up-front, the language is forceful and persuasive, making the narrator sound arrogant and powerful, even superior to the audience he is talking to.
He is even making fun of the audience, which is, however, not to be taken seriously, taking into account that the parodying tone is present from the very beginning and it is clear that the intention is to make fun of the male and female stereotypes, rather than the audience. After analyzing the messages, style, tone, and use of humor, an emphasis should be put on persuasive techniques, in order to understand the effect this commercial has on the audience. The second persuasive technique that can be read is “repetition”.
Even by inattentive listening to the commercial it is clear that some of the words and sentences are repeated in order to reinforce the main point. At the very beginning, the narrator draws women’s attention by inviting them to compare their man with him, by repeating repeatedly “back at your man, now back to me”. This technique is used to state the obvious, and is meant to be a certain “wake up call” to all the women whose boyfriends and husbands are not as attractive, wealthy, confident and manly as the narrator is.
Apart from “humor” and “repetition”, one of the persuasive techniques used in this commercial is “beautiful people”, an extremely common technique in ads that uses good looking models to attract attention of the viewers by implying that they will look like them if they use the product. In this instance, Isaiah Mustafa, an American actor, is used to draw the attention of female audience, by promising that their “man” would look like him if they used the product.
Somewhat connected to the mentioned “beautiful people” technique, is “snob appeal”, another technique that uses beautiful, confident models to suggest that “the use of the product makes the customer part of an elite group with a luxurious and glamorous lifestyle”. Not only the narrator in this commercial is attractive and confident, but he is also well dressed, wealthy and powerful, owning a boat and having the power to turn an oyster into diamonds, and is again implying that the use of the advertised product, Old Spice deodorant, made all the mentioned things possible.
All of the mentioned techniques- humor, repetition, beautiful people and snob appeal, are just some of the well-known, common techniques used by advertisers in order to trick the targeted audience into buying the advertised product. Behind the effect and success of those techniques lays the complex human psychology and the role of the subconscious, which the advertisers understand very well.
Most people never pay attention to the manipulation they are subdued to every day by consuming media, but the crude truth is that the manipulation is ever present- in advertising, media and political speeches. The success of the Old Spice commercial lays behind the canny techniques of persuasion used by the advertisers, and although the parodying in this case is not accepted by everybody, and there are people who argue that the commercial is derogatory and shallow, advertisers undoubtedly got what they wanted- popularity and publicity.