rising to the old spice challenge

This is one of my favorites from last week. What’s yours?

Yesterday I described Old Spice’s recent internet campaign as “this month’s challenge to greater excellence” for us college ministers. One of my biggest hopes for college ministers is that we’d learn to, in a sense, “see the world through college ministry-colored lenses” – applying the wisdom we learn from everywhere to the specific, amazing call God has given us.

(That’s one of my driving hopes for the College Ministers Cohort at Catalyst, in fact – for us together to creatively apply what we learn at the conference. That’s one BIG reason to stay for our Saturday session!)

So I want to continue to view the Old Spice phenomenon through those very lenses. (If you’re unfamiliar with Old Spice’s surprising marketing move last week, my intro’s here. You can now see the whole series here.)


Through video after video, the Old Spice spots were excellent. Sure, aiming for “professionalism” at the cost of impact is a temptation for many, many college ministers. But going through with an activity (small or big) when it isn’t as truly excellent as it should be is also a big temptation. Too often we place action above planning and/or preparation, and that’s certainly ill-advised – whether it’s in designing a skit or creating a huge campus-wide event.

And lest we misunderstand: The concern over excellence isn’t simply for “marketing” or recruitment reasons. Excellence in our activities may connect with honoring God, hospitality, effectiveness, modeling, or all of the above.


As this article notes, “Old Spice’s parent company Procter & Gamble exhibited incredible bravery in allowing [the advertisers] to write marketing content in real time, with little to no supervision.” But not only did P&G take a gamble (get it?), the advertisers had to be brave to try a never-before-seen ploy!

Plenty of our impact comes from doing basic things well, every time. But some of our impact will only come… bravely.

go with opportunities

Of course, unless you’ve really been avoiding the TV, you know that last week’s Old Spice extravaganza was simply another iteration of some very popular commercials. When America first went crazy for the Old Spice Man after he was “on a horse,” the advertisers took advantage of the moment and doubled down on his popularity.

This can be applied in both lighthearted and more serious ways in our college ministries. But all the options come down to this question: Are we willing to adjust our calendars or even adjust our priorities when true opportunities present themselves?


I can’t say it better than Matt McComas did the other day in the comments: “It was obvious [the Old Spice advertisers] were having fun with it…and that was attractive. It made me want to learn about the marketing company that was putting these shenanigans on. Seems like a fun culture to be a part of.”

(And it’s not surprising that this vital point would be brought up by a Campus Crusade guy; as I’ve noted before, they are very, very good at making campus ministry fun.)


Remember how, earlier this century, everybody began noticing that the Millennials are really excited about showcasing themselves? That’s still true, although it’s probably not quite as ego-driven as some curmudgeons believe. Still, our collegians do very much believe in the “power of one,” and they like it when they happen to be that “one” in the spotlight.

The Old Spice Man couldn’t answer nearly everybody who queried in those two days, but he took a nice stab at it. And it wasn’t only (or even mostly) celebs who received attention. So even those who didn’t get personal responses still felt included, because they were represented by the 180ish who did.

For college ministry, there are little applications of this (like recognizing birthdays and reading students’ blogs and status updates) and big applications – like asking ourselves, Does every member of our campus ministry feel like they’re well-represented by our ministry?

As you look through college ministry lenses at the Old Spice campaigns, what do you notice?


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  1. Thanks, Dave. Good word. You’re right – those things are definitely not all that matter toward whatever impact we’re looking for. And our “bottom lines” are clearly a lot more numerous and complicated than an ad agency fundamentally seeking one thing: Sales.

    I had seen the sales concerns, and that’s definitely an important point. But we should also note that the Yahoo.com article is based on (and links to) info in a much better article. That one gives a much rosier picture:


    In fact, the Yahoo article seems a little irresponsible, because they make it sound like the figures include last week’s campaign. They don’t. Those are actually numbers only through the 13th of July, they cover the entire past year (not just the 5 months we’ve been treated to this Old Spice Man), and they don’t include Wal-Mart sales (which, at least in some parts of the country, seems awfully significant).

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