Behind the Ad Music: Old Spice's Singing Stalker Moms

Walker Music and W&K Portland On The Making Of Viral Hit

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With its latest campaign for Old Spice, Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., has produced something unexpected yet again. In new spots for the brand's Re-fresh Body Sprays, the idea of young guys suddenly becoming girl-bait because of their deodorant (long utilized by the likes of Axe/Lynx) takes an unexpected twist -- it's seen from the viewpoint of Mom. The campaign, launched last week, features a chorus of middle-aged women, lamenting in song how their little boys have grown into men.

Old Spice's move away from beefcake such as Isaiah Mustafa comes essentially down to targeting. The market for its Re-fresh Body Spray (which is designed to enable one spray to last all day -- releasing bursts of scent throughout the day as guys sweat) is a wide range of guys from 12 to 24, as well as their moms, who might make the purchasing decisions. "We then set out to entertain both of them with this campaign," explained an Old Spice brand spokesman.

The anthem spot, directed by Steve Ayson through MJZ, stars a series of mothers stalking their teenage kids in increasingly disturbing ways (from posing as the school janitor to tunneling under a beach). The campaign is already a viral hit, with over three million YouTube views since it launched (although it has provoked some mixed reactions.)

Wieden & Kennedy Creative Director Jason Bagley said the agency wanted to find a "funny, exaggerated way" of portraying the fact that watching their little boys turn into men can be deeply sad for moms. As for the idea to do it in song: "Just about everything is funnier when you sing it," said Mr. Bagley. "If a cop tells you you're getting a ticket, it's not funny -- but if he sang to you that you're getting a ticket, it's pretty funny. We thought having moms sing about this universal heartache would be pretty entertaining."

Based on this, the agency commissioned Portland-based music agency Walker to write a "ridiculous mothers' lament," said Mr. Bagley.

According to Sara Matarazzo, executive producer at Walker, "Our first step was to find someone talented, funny and weird enough to collaborate with. Brad Neely was our guy."

W&K were already fans of Mr. Neely, a comedian, musician and artist whose work includes Cartoon Network/Adult Swim show "China, IL." Creativity also featured him in a past Creativity 50.

"Once we had scripts we liked, we collaborated with Brad to refine the lyrics and create the basic melody. Walker Music helped us turn it into a full musical masterpiece," said W&K Creative Director Craig Allen.

The agency wanted a song "that felt very sincere to juxtapose with the ridiculous lyrics," Mr. Allen said. The end result is an eclectic mix, with hints of rock ballad, soul and a little bit of country. Choosing what style to go with was "an exploratory process" according to Abbey Hickman, assistant producer at Walker. "At times, we were inspired by '80s romance rock ballads; at others, it was a huge gospel tune. The creatives wanted to convey that this was coming from the moms, that they were playing these instruments and singing from the heart. At the end of the day, simplicity was key."

Vocals were cast after the shoot -- and were sometimes deliberately chosen to surprise. "To have a woman look a certain way and then hear her voice and have it be nothing like you expect was a lot of fun," said Walker's Matarazzo. "There were many tears of laughter shed listening to those auditions,"

Walker worked with W&K to cast the voices, while the agency and Mr. Ayson selected the actresses. "We just wanted moms who felt real, but also had some comedic character to their look and performance." said Mr. Bagley. "Steve Ayson was great in this process and very helpful in finding interesting, likable, moms."

The shoot was not without its hiccups; a thunderstorm during the crying tree scene, and a freezing cold day while shooting the beach scene meant that some of the anguish on the Moms' faces may not have been just acting.

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