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Digital Suspicion and the Old Spice Man

By Greenfield/Belser
July 30, 2010
Digital Suspicion and the Old Spice Man

A great deal has been written about the overwhelming success of the Old Spice Man television and social media campaign. It has re-energized a flagging brand, pushed Old Spice ahead of Axe at the finish line and resulted in a staggering 107% increase in sales last month. But in terms of traditional markers of marketing success, it's tough to argue with 1 billion impressions.

But the campaign still suffers from skepticism: it's as if the sting of being digital and/or social negates the performance. Everyday I hear marketers' suspicions of digital metrics, and I have to wonder: why traditional media metrics (which, by the way, are nearly impossible to unearth without expensive awareness research) are so blindly accepted. In today's column on MediaPost, Catherine Taylor does an excellent job of calling marketers out on this point as well. She asserts: “Some part of the message usually seeps in, particularly after repeated exposure. Speaking of which, the Old Spice social media effort lent itself to multiple views. You got a problem with that? Then you've never seen a big-budget TV campaign, where frequency is part of the plan.”

I especially agree that digital suffers too greatly from the sting of frequency whereas broadcast and print do not. Is a print impression that cannot be captured all that more compelling than a digital one that is? Given the increased portion of digital day-part (that is, the time we spend consuming online media—it has been growing exponentially), doesn’t it also stand to reason that digital recall is increasing as well? The way we consume information and process visual stimuli is shrinking—we process faster as a result of being exposed to more digital stimuli (even us dinosaur Gen Xers, nevermind the Millenials).

The task at hand is to overcome the tsunami of digital and social skepticism, but the sheer volume of metrics simply isn’t enough (in fact, Google Analytics is avoided by most marketers for being too dense)—it also requires a shift in mindset. Marketers need to be open to digital metrics, willing to track and read the data and, at the very least, pilot campaigns in new channels.