Was That The Plan All Along, Fabio?

by Thomas MORADPOUR on August 2, 2011 · 15 comments


I love bold, ballsy big campaigns that go all-in and make a statement.

But sometimes the work doesn’t quite go as planned and you may end up with a bit of egg on your face.

Which is why it’s not a bad idea to ask yourself the question upfront “what if it doesn’t work?“, and plan yourself an escape route.

OK, so I’ll mention Google+. Why do you think Google called their launch a “beta”, only to open the door to more than 10 million users in its first two weeks? Did something go wrong, did they let too many people in? Surely not… but let’s say, if G+ had been less of a success, they could easily have pinned the lack of subscription to a deliberate plan to keep it small and private. Worse case scenario, if it had completely bombed, they could have unplugged it discreetly with a “we like to try new things at Google, move along, nothing to see”.


  • they’ve thought about it,
  • the story is credible,
  • it’s in the open upfront.
All good, but the best escape plans are those who  keep you guessing: was it the plan all along?
Many have wondered how Procter&Gamble and Wieden+Kennedy would top themselves after the Old Spice guy campaign last year.

Not quite the same. If you ask me, the work sucks. It’s just a tackier, not funny shadow of what their genius campaign of 2010… the same recipe with weaker ingredients. But guess what? A couple of weeks post launch, we learn that no, no, no, that was a trick from the start! Like the New Coke of Old Spice Guys, Fabio was just there so the fans would want Isaiah Mustafa’s return even more. Turns out Fabio wanted to challenge Mustafa for the spice title… and after a few days, he lost.

Of course, this work looks a lot like it would have if the client and agency had realized that Fabio was bombing, and had scrambled to find a fix in a few days.
I guess we’ll never know.

Kudos anyways to P&G and W+K… after putting Old Spice on the radar with a stellar campaign, they managed to keep it there with bad work.
Or with one of the best escape plans seen this year.
Or both…

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  • http://www.andrewnhem.com/ nd

    I agree that Google+ had a ton of insurance in their launch strategy. 

    I thought that the Old Spice content was as planned. It felt like a digital, irreverent microcosm of “Got Milk?” It screamed “deprivation strategy” from the get-go. P&G and W+K didn’t have to stuff Isaiah Mustafa down our throats again– we chose him this time. Just my .02.

    • Anonymous

      It’s possible!

  • http://dougridley.wordpress.com Doug Ridley

    I think that the Old Spice campaign was all planned from the start. I was however very disappointed with their so called duel. They did nothing inventive and played it safe.

    Come on now, we know you can respond to twitter posts and make funny video clips, you did that last year. Let’s see something NEW!

    • Anonymous

      My point exactly Doug.
      This feels like a repeat of a “proven recipe” rather than real creative work.
      It’s really hard when a campaign hits it out of the park so much, to either walk away from not, or figure out a way to keep it fresh. I think this work is lame, but funny enough they managed to get people to notice and talk about it anyway. But I think it won’t last – their “I want to see what’s next” credit is spent with their audience.
      Thanks for reading and commenting, Doug

  • http://carolweinfeld.com/ Carol L. Weinfeld

    It’s difficult to tell. However, with the spots, W+K maintains visibility for Old Spice. Fabio is not a counterpart to Isaiah Mustafa. To reach the white demographic, Old Spice needs a similar actor. Fabio is not funny, nor is his brand as strong as Mustafa’s. Perhaps Procter & Gamble could ask consumers to suggest someone for a duel against TMYMCSL.


  • http://twitter.com/SixDegreesPGH Robin Davidson

    I can’t stand Fabio. Isaiah had his hit and misses with me. I’m just not their target demographic.

  • http://twitter.com/markdavidson Mark Davidson

    I have to hand it to Fabio for being such a good sport. Obviously, this campaign was planned in advance. I’ve found the videos of Fabio mocking himself to be entertaining. I know not everyone appreciates this and believes that Fabio was intended to replace Isaiah Mustafa but clearly, this was never the case. I love that ad campaigns are increasingly edgier and more entertaining.

  • http://twitter.com/markdavidson Mark Davidson

    Duplicate post. [edited]

  • http://twitter.com/Galactic Cristian Gonzales

    Whether this was planned or not (and my feeling is it wasn’t), the Fabio thing was simply lame.

    Last thing I would’ve expected (or liked) from Old Spice was a repeat. Give us something new. We know you’re capable of it.

  • http://twitter.com/skypulsemedia Howie at Sky Pulse Media

    Well they got 22mil views on you tube. But they did about 30 spots. So less than 1 mil per video. And we have no idea uniques. I bet they reach 5mil viewers. I watched 2 spots and yawned.

    But then came the news. Old Spice sales down over 20%.

    You can not ‘Spice’ up a poor product with great advertising. It just doesn’t work. I tried the Body Wash last year. I will never buy Old Spice again I doubt. But here is the catch and I use this for the mass beer market. Make a great TV spot that I find entertaining I will watch it over and over again. I will stay in the room to watch it. Thank you. Nielsen, the Agency and the TV Channel get to tell the Brand look…he watched the spot. Great job back pats all around. But guess what. I am never buying your product. Ever. But hey that is OK. The Brand is paying for my entertainment. Thank you. The commercial timeouts are usually boring.

    Isn’t it better to save that money and fix the product so I will buy it? Or maybe find a way to not pay for me to watch something that while I like returns no ROI to you?

  • http://twitter.com/morgansiem Morgan Siem

    I, too, appreciate a bold, balsy campaign. I also see where you’re coming from in recommending a planned ‘escape route,’ however I tend to take the stance that if you are going to do something wacky, go balls-to-the-wall, all out, no escape route. Fully commit. When you really believe in something, there’s no need for an escape route. Planning an escape route is like planning for failure. I always advocate a well planned crisis management strategy before any launch, but that’s different than an escape route. There are some things that you’ll never know without trying – like, if you’re balsy campaign is going to be a runaway success or an embarrassing flop. The biggest successes come from people and agencies willing to take the biggest risks. It means they’re the same people who have learned from a series of flops along the way. Rather than an escape route, I advocate honesty and transparency with the audience. Fans are surprisingly forgiving if they feel like you are being honest with them instead of pulling one over on them. I’d go with something as simple as, “Ok, so as it turns out, you think that one was kinda lame. Good thing we’re listening to our audience, and you all offer us honest feedback so we know and can learn and improve. So, what’s will we build together next?”

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  • http://www.about.me/tericonrad Teri Conrad

    Adore campaigns that draw me in! I would love to believe that the less than fabulous Fabio was a strategic play and poke at the ridiculousness from his romance novel modelling days.  Either way ~ they’ve got me talking about my Dad’s Old Spice again.  Kudos!

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