“Hello ladies.”  He’s back for Old Spice.

“Hello ladies.” He’s back for Old Spice.

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This ad can be thought of as the shark bite of commercials. We worry a lot more about dying from shark bite than from falling airplane part even though dying from falling airplane part is 30 times more likely.   We worry more about shark bite because shark bite is vivid, exciting, colorful, and attention-getting—just like this ad. The ad helps the brand pop into mind whenever we thinking about men’s toiletries. It gives the brand what psychologists would call mental availability.

The ad also creates a striking impression of users of Old Spice. People infer the qualities of the product by learning about the people who use the product. In fact, what people infer about a product from their impression of the product’s users can be more compelling and more believable than anything the brand might claim about itself. Viewers learn that users of Timber fragrance Old Spice are smooth, sophisticated, great looking, and very masculine and users of Bear Glove fragrance Old Spice are active, aggressive, and very masculine. Viewers effortlessly imagine the sort of product such users would demand.

Fast moving hyperbole holds viewers’ attention throughout. No one takes the spokespeople, their actions, or the ad seriously. Viewers participate in the message and automatically replace the exaggerations with what they believe the ad is really saying. Viewers might doubt an ad’s claims, but when viewers tell themselves what the ad is saying, the source is unimpeachable.

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