When Old Spice won new accolades with its 2010 ad “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like,” the company’s newfound marketing success was only beginning.
Most people will remember it: “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like,” created by ad agency Wieden + Kennedy (W + K), features one man calmly coasting through a rapidly transforming set while consoling TV audiences with the fact that, though their “man” could never be as wonderful as he is, their man could at least smell as good as him with Old Spice.
Consumers and ad agencies immediately took note: the ad was a hit. Its hilarious copywriting and bold, new style of video execution created a spectacle that immediately went viral. Millions of views on YouTube, many stories on morning talk shows and news outlets, and media commentators worldwide contributed to an undeniable buzz of excitement over the ad. It ultimately won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival as well as a Primetime Emmy.
But Old Spice and W + K did not stop there.
Once such unique strategies were rewarded and recognized by critics and consumers alike, Wieden + Kennedy Portland continued to innovate. In 2012, they moved into the world of gameplay, enlisting the animation production studio Powerhouse Animation to create a game that was as much a gamechanger as “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like.”
By the end of 2012, Wieden + Kennedy Portland had figured out the new strategy: for the 4 ½ remaining weeks of 2012, a free online video game would be available in weekly installments online, using Flash Animation. Each week’s video game would incorporate the most popular news stories of the day, with an overall goal to avert world crisis.
With so much talk of the Mayan Calendar ending in 2012, and the possibility of apocalypse looming large in the popular imagination, this game came to exist in an immediately engaging universe that was quirky, surprising, and hilarious. Slate reviewer and staff writer Forrest Wickman encouraged people to play it, with his positive review on Slate calling it “surprisingly funny.”
The free internet game “Dikembe Mutombo’s 4 1/2 Weeks to Save the World” obviously relies on one standby in the marketing playbook: celebrity endorsements. Dikembe Mutombo is one of the world’s greatest basketball players, having been awarded NBA Defensive Player of the Year four times, and being named an NBA All-Star eight times. It’s only fitting he should ‘defend’ the world from catastrophe.
Powerhouse Animation took this celebrity and with their animation production studio conducted all concept design and character design. They also helped to design the character and concept for Mutombo’s fictional guide, a bear.
The anthropomorphic grizzly calls himself a “hyper intelligent bear with a keen fashion sense and a firm grasp on the English language.” He goes on to explain the first week’s challenge: Mutombo must “travel to the heart of America and stop people from dancing so they can vote,” at a time when the “Gangnam Style” music video and dance had just gone viral. This wry humor continues throughout the game.
Powerhouse Animation says on their website that “this project will go down in Powerhouse Animation history as one of the most successful, exhausting, fun and creative jobs we ever got to work on,” and that’s easy to believe. Their animation production studio crafted a captivating game in vintage, 8-bit style, in a fictional, hyperbolic universe that constantly surprises its audience.
As with W + K’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like,” these animated videos are a sheer joy to watch and play. And just like that previous ad campaign, this production garnered critical acclaim, winning a Clio award and a Webby Award.