Christopher Bird has a post about this week’s big viral video event, the many direct-to-YouTube sequels to the Old Spice commercial starring former football player Isaiah Mustafa. In most of the videos, he responds to a question asked on social media (including one question he asked himself), while maintaining his deadpan demeanor and super-deep voice, and frequently holding up props to make a comedic point.
One thing about this campaign is that it’s taking advantage of the fact that, with today’s technology, it’s possible to make a super-quick commercial that looks just as good as a real commercial — maybe not a real current commercial, but the commercials many viewers still recall seeing on TV. Remember that George Steinbrenner/Billy Martin commercial? It was done in one take, with a static camera, and obviously little time for retakes (Martin slurs his speech at a couple of points). That’s the baseline for a successful commercial, as long as the material is reasonably funny and the pitchman doesn’t choke on-camera. So using the comic persona from the original commercial, Mustafa and Old Spice can spin off dozens of mini-commercials that still have a professional feel to them.
The original ad also reminds me of something George Cukor said about technique: he said that if you want dazzling displays of cinema technique you should look not to movies, but “to some of the commercials, which are real humdingers.” This ad uses technology(tm) to seamlessly change Mustafa’s clothes and location, and jump him off a cliff and into a hot tub, all without an apparent cut. Why should the surrounding TV programs even try competing with that kind of gimmickry?