Hello Oedipus, Old Spice Made Some Ads For You

4 years ago

I need your help. I think I need everyone's help in understanding how the new creeptastic Oedipus Spice Sprays commercials will compel anyone to buy Old Spice anything. I just don't understand unless they have a target audience of one: poor ol' Oedipus.

In the  commercial series, frumpy moms hide behind curtains, in trees and beneath the sand, singing dirges about their sons becoming men. This fact of life is really sad to these creepy, stalker moms, and they blame Old Spice. They blame Old Spice, and they want to watch.

The spots are aiming for cringetastic humor and a few moments (like the Big Lebowski Bowling Alley Mom) succeed. But mostly, they are just plain gross. It's like the mom with the ladder from I Love You Forever met other boundary-less moms in the worst support group ever and they formed a horrible band and this is their music video/cry for help.

I am the mother of two young adult men. I love funny, viral things as much as you,  but I do not understand how these commercials will sell sprays to me or to young men.  Why do they feel more creepy than funny? Here are the things I did to try to figure it out. 

Watched Them

Cringe. These moms are from horror film central casting and the spots play with tons of thriller tropes.  There's a Margo Martindale-looking mom and fuzzy redhead who looks like Piper Laurie playing the mom from the original Carrie. There's a Chucky-Faced Janitor-Masked mom. A Sand Monster Mom. They wash up like whales and slither out of couches and fall to the ground playing violins. The moms crying like witches in the trees? That isn't funny. That just makes the tree in Poltergeist or the "Angry Molesting Tree" option in Cabin in the Woods look like a piece of cake. 

They are boundary-less witches, they don't want their sons to grow up, and they are willing to tag after the car like the hook-handed guy in the urban legend in order to watch their sons during their sexytime dates. It's American Horror Story: The Coven lite. Um, no, still doesn't make me want to buy this stuff.

Considered the Lyrics

As the central spot opens, the mom hides in her son's room while he dresses (hot naked torso and all), she sings:

Now I didn't see it coming

But it came in a can

Now my sweet son's sprayed into a man

Yeah, really. They said "came in a can."  They said "sprayed." I am really glad that mom didn't see that. We know it happens, sock, cans, whatever. And as a mom I can promise you we do everything in our power to avoid seeing that. Or smelling it. Or thinking about it. Until now. 

Old Spice, made a man of my son,

Now he smells like a man

And they treat him like one

That's the point of the song. The moms are mad at Old Spice. There's some stuff about little fingers and a smashed cake and it's really sick in there, I wouldn't stare at it too long.  Old Spice sprayed their boys into smanhood, and I'm more sure than ever that these songs are meant to be that moment, the red flag that comes up in horror movies, where kids just had sex and the creepy watching person-monster is not happy, and now someone is going to die so we want to yell at the kids to get out of the house/woods/car. NOW!

You need to talk to your therapist, Old Spice people.  Or get an order of protection from Stephen King. 

Got My Son's Point of View

So sex jokes, gag smells and psycho archetypes. Launched during NFL programming. Clearly I'm not the target audience for this particular campaign. 

I forwarded one commercial to my son and asked him what he thought. His response:


That's it, that's all. He gave it a view. Done. 

I asked if it made him want to try Old Spice and he's like, yeah, no. 

Analyzed the Tagline

"Smellcome to Manhood."  Yes, they did in fact go for it, for that elusive "it" of young manly smells, by making sure the word "come" was in there with a portmanteau that brings up "smell" and "smegma."

It is now clear that this spot isn't meant to make guys think: huh, if I smell good I will get laid. It tells them: you stink now and we all know why, and mom is still smelling your boxers,  so cover up your funk with some spray so she doesn't wig out.

I now want to hurl. Old Spice will not help this feeling. This Oedipal Complex has gone viral, alert the CDC.

Looked on Facebook and Twitter

That was no help. Just people saying this these commercials are weird/terrifying/gross/funny, you've got to see them.

Which, of course, is the only point. Clickbait. Weird sex references + sicko moms + shock value = it's a story because it's a story. 

We're talking about the ads, feeding the clickbait trolls, but does it translate into sales? At point are clicks bad branding? Are clicky ads like this akin to nocturnal emissions, a big bang that you launder away immediately? Can shock value clicks possibly turn into profits nine months later? These are all the things I still don't understand. 

To understand how to cope with this messy new world of marketing I might have to turn to Freud.  I've already recommended that the Team Old Spice people consult their therapists. The rest of us can go straight to the source. In the Greek myth of Oedipus, when Oedipus realized he had fulfilled prophesy by killing his father and marrying his mother, he grabbed two pins from her dress and gouged his eyes out.

I think that's the solution the next time clickbaity weirdness about men's Smellcomeness makes a play for our pageviews.  Gouge out my eyes.  And someone open a window, please. We need some fresh air in here. 

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