Just mention the words, "Look at your man…now back to me," and most people in this country will know what you're talking about. The absurdly funny spot from Old Spice featuring a studly, shirtless man on a white horse has managed to seduce millions of women (and men) and become a pop-culture phenomenon. As a result, the actor, Isaiah Mustafa, a former NFL wide receiver, has appeared on Ellen, The CBS Early Show and in countless newspapers and magazines. He's even started doling out relationship advice per his suave persona. Alas, the same cannot be said of the creative team of Eric Kallman and Craig Allen from Wieden+Kennedy, who are the real stars of the campaign, but that's advertising. We spoke with Kallman and Allen about the hilarious spot and found out more about how their character came to be and how he ended up on that white horse.
What was the brief and how did the idea develop? ERIC: The brief was to do an Old Spice spot and campaign in the tone that we normally do, but what was unique about it was that this time we were trying to approach females as well as our usual male demographic since females do a large amount of the body wash purchasing for households.
CRAIG: Usually we just talk to guys, and since this time we had to talk to women, we started at a different place—we couldn't just do the usual "man jokes." So we sat down and thought that if you want to talk to women, usually the guys would be OK with it as long as it's still kind of manly. So we approached it differently because we were talking to both males and females.
ERIC: That's probably where the beginnings of the actual creative idea for the TV spots came along. We were talking about how we're approaching women directly, and Craig started saying, "Hello, ladies." And then it kind of went from there.
What is it about this spot that people can't get enough of? ERIC: When we write, we try our best to answer the brief in a way that we think people will like and that we like as well. You never know when something's going to catch on like this one did.
CRAIG: I would say it's because [the actor is] talking to the camera, he's got some kind of a quality that cuts through. But most Old Spice spots have people talking to the camera, so a lot of credit goes to Isaiah.
How difficult was the shoot? I heard it was all done in one take. CRAIG: The part with the diamonds and the product coming out of his hand was obviously something that we shot separately and put into post, but as far as everything else, it was one take. And it was one take that we did many, many dozens of times for three days straight and finally got right.
ERIC: It was nerve-wracking for a while. We actually had two days to shoot it and around lunchtime on the second day it started raining, and we lucked out because we didn't have it yet and that afforded us a third day. So thank goodness we had that third day, and I remember we had all been so nervous throughout the whole process that after lunch on the third day everyone had finally made peace with the fact that well, I hope we get it in the last couple hours of shooting, and it was in those last couple hours that we lucked out and got that take where everything worked out.
CRAIG: I don't know if you heard this but on the second day we almost killed Isaiah accidentally. We had a big crane picking up the bathroom set and I don't know how this happened, but the safety failed and the set came flying down and luckily Isaiah stepped out of the way and it hit the boat and crushed a bunch of things. But he was two inches away from disaster.
ERIC: I was talking to the guys later and they said that the three-walled set of the bathroom was 1,900 pounds and it free-fell about 40 feet and crashed through the deck of the boat. And Isaiah said he heard the noise of the wire giving away and so he turned a little bit and it missed him by a couple of inches. It was the scariest thing I've ever seen on a set.
CRAIG: Luckily Isaiah used to play football so he's quite nimble and knows how to get out of the way. I would have been really shaken but he was like, "That was really close. So how long is the reset?" He played it very cool, which was great.
Why did you want to do it in one take? CRAIG: It came out of working with Tom [Kuntz]. But I think part of the reason why people like it so much is because it's very honest. We're not hiding anything between takes, it's almost like a magician and you're right there with him. I think that people trust him more and like him because they can tell it's real.
ERIC: If we had a bunch of cut points in there, all the ladies and some of the men would become un-mesmerized by Isaiah's stare. Keeping that constant throughout is a big part of why people like it so much.
Where did Isaiah come from? ERIC: Isaiah came from heaven, because we were casting this thing on December 23rd and the 24th or something like that and I think we had a 20 percent turnout because of the holidays. We literally had no one and then Isaiah showed up in callbacks and it was a Christmas miracle.
Why does it end on a horse? CRAIG: We needed an ending and we liked the randomness of it. It just came out and we thought it was pretty funny, and then it was just a question of, how are we going to get him on a horse?
How did you get him on that horse? ERIC: Where he sat down on the boat, there was a little mechanical rig that was like a long metal pole. And there were three guys who basically rolled him with this little rig smoothly from the boat onto the horse's saddle.
It's pretty oddball humor but it works. How do you know where that fine line is between clever and stupid? CRAIG: We try and keep things lighthearted and try to be clever I guess. We try to walk that line and we don't get too stupid because then people will just write it off. But it also has to be a little stupid or else people will think we're trying to be too clever.
ERIC: A lot of times when we think of something that we both really laugh hard at when we're concepting and say, that's stupid, stupid is almost a positive to us. Being clever and stupid in a good way is kind of the goal.
How long did this spot take to make? ERIC: It came up as something that was briefed in and the creative process happened to be really fast on this one. We were given about a week to write it.
CRAIG: And I think that was a blessing because we weren't able to overthink it, and the client wasn't able to overthink it. And we give the client a lot of credit for approving something so quickly. A lot of times a script can just sit there and it slowly gets worse over time as people think about it and start questioning it too much. But we didn't have time to think about it, it kind of went from writing to production and the next thing we knew, we were starting the shoot the day after Christmas, which was really awesome for our families. But I don't know if it would've been as good if we had the normal advertising timeline to think about every syllable and whether we're saying this enough or not enough or whatever.