30 Seconds of Pure Creative Genius

You may have seen this.  It’s gone viral, and the star of this piece is already being limoed around New York to all the national morning talk shows after being nominated for an Emmy.

And Emmy for what, precisely?

For Best Actor in a Television Commercial.  Really. 

I didn’t know they had that category, either.  But when you see this, you’ll understand why he’s a shoo-in.

Yes, the 30-seconds referred to in the title of this post reference a TV spot for Old Spice, the most long-lived name in men’s grooming short of Gillette.

I first saw this thing sitting in a movie theater waiting for the trailers to run.  I usually get irriated when they show me advertising on my dime, and time, but this one blew me out of my seat.

You’ll see why in a moment.  And if you’ve already beheld this wonder of creativity, you’ll want to see it again.

Why Writers Should See This

That’s easy.  This spot tells an entire story, both visually and narratively.

It’s the sum of the Six Core Competencies of successful storytelling in full glory, at least if you go easy on the theme criteria in this case.  It has a killer concept, a great character, a solid structure, a great series of lightning-fast scenes, and most of all…

… the voice of the writing is on another level.

What makes this work is the sum of all these elements working together.  Click on the link below to behold this spectacle. 


One more note.  As a writer of novels and screenplays, you not only have to summon a remarkable voice, you also need to create the vehicle of its delivery.  In other words, you need to be the writer, the actor, and the director of your story, and pull it together in such a way that the sum of the end product exceeds those parts.

Which is precisely what happens here.

Watch and learn.  Be inspired.  And of course, enjoy.



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18 Responses to 30 Seconds of Pure Creative Genius

  1. Patrick Sullivan

    For anyone who missed it, the first ad is at least as brilliant


    And here’s an interview with the two guys who wrote the ad:


  2. Sadly, I like the first one better…

    I watch most of my tv dvr’d, but Hubby and I had to rewind to actually watch this commercial. Then watch it again. It’s excellent.

  3. This is the first time I’ve seen either of them (I’m a TiVo-holic) and I must say they are great – and I think the first one is better also.

  4. The first one I saw I thought ridiculous and over the top. But this one you linked to, I can understand where you’re going with story. Didn’t think of it that way, I usually tune out commercials to save my brain cells. Really enjoyed this post!

  5. You know, I didn’t find this commercial funny at all. And I don’t see the story structure in it whatsoever… Larry, maybe you can break it down and explain to us?

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  7. Kelly

    Larry. Kelly here.
    Nope. Didn’t do it for me.
    I especially didn’t like the line about the “swan dive,” and then he JUMPS feet first instead into the hot tub. I’d change it to “leap into your life tonight.”
    Give me a guy getting out of the shower in the woods, smelling like the great outdoors. That would do it for me, and I’d at least pick the stuff up and smell it the next time I’m at the grocery store. But then again, I’ve never been employed in the advertising field– just another consumer, buying bodywash for my man…
    Sadly, I’m old enough to remember when the Old Spice guy was a sailor coming home wearing a pea coat and carrying a duffel.
    Interesting that two of the three women commenting above didn’t like the commercial. Now it’s three out of four.
    Apologize for being long-winded here 🙂


  8. Okay. I’ll give my man’s take on why this works.

    1. As a man, I’m so sick of commercials showing men as idiots. Take a week and make an effort to see all the commercials where us men are made to look the fool and it will amaze you. Take Progressive for example. Every man on their commercials is a submissive, insecure, man-purse-holding wuss (with exception being the motorcycle guy).

    2. It’s about time someone stepped up and stated that, wow, men are actually different than woman, and it’s in fact okay to act manly.

    3. The style, flow, cadence and delivery of this commercial is one of a kind. There has never, in my 38 years of life, been another commercial that’s used this specific style so effectively. Think of how hard it is to come up with an original blog post, yet they’ve done it here.

    4. This is a product for men, and just as we should not try to please EVERYONE with our blog content bur rather focus intently on our niche, this commercial does likewise.

    5. It’s just a fun view. It made my Friday a good one. I can say I have not had to many good days this past year and this hit my funny bone and brightened my day.

  9. I wear Old Spice deodorant daily and so does my husband. (Is that wrong?)

    Also, I totally agree with Shane and that’s why Family Guy really grates on my nerves so I don’t watch it. Nor do I care for most commercials or modern movies with the stupid white guy in the lead. Really pathetic stuff, IMO.

    What happened to Omar Sharif?

  10. Chick #5 weighing in – I loved it! Loved the first one and thought this one was good too. Clever, well written, hidden depths and funny to boot.

    Incredibly BRILLIANT ad campaign.

  11. Ladies — I appreciate your opinion, you like what you like. Hey I don’t like jazz, for example, but it doesn’t stop me from appreciating the craft and the artfulness of the folks who play it well. When it comes to jazz, I just don’t “get it,” which sounds like case for some of you about this commercial.

    That’s okay, too. I don’t “get” a lot of genres out there, and I really don’t “get” a lot of the advertising that supposedly works.

    This commercial, and the other one referenced here (which I like just as well, by the way), by a couple loyal readers isn’t supposed to be funny, more like clever and edgy. It is going viral, and is being reviewed as one of the freshest and best TV spots in recent memory, including the current run of lousy Superbowl ads.

    The reason I covered here is to illustrate a point about storytelling (yes, this tells a story… watch it again, it has a beginning, middle, end, a theme, a character, and a narrative thrust) through a non-fictional medium. Yeah, I wanted you to smile, too, to appreciate, but more importantly to notice the WRITING VOICE and to make the point that, without that guy’s knock-out performance of the script, it wouldn’t work as well. Despite the killer special effects. People notice the performance more than the writing, but the the two factors are totally intertwined.

    More importantly, as writers we are responsible for BOTH the “voice” of our stories AND the contextual delivery of it (the performance), which includes characterization elements and story elements.

    No big deal. Just trying to share the writerly habit of noticing the world around us, especially the media, that influences trends and becomes a shining example of writing and storytelling craft. It’s amazing that the same set of core competences pertain to almost any form of communications… including the effectiveness (and consequences) of how we disagree.

    That said… love ya, thanks for reading Storyfix. Good stuff coming down the pike.

  12. Kelly

    Hello, Larry. Kelly here, one more time.
    I had**A THOUGHT** as I read your post.

    When I have the commercial down just as the script (words only, not the acting/visual), I can see and appreciate the writing much better.
    That may be why “Shutter Island” was easier than this commercial for me– the actor aside (which is a matter of taste– I see him as jazz…)
    Still reading and enjoying storyfix!

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  14. Sandra S. Richardson

    This is a wonderful add! And I agree with the people who are sick of weak males in our TV shows and commercials.

    This guy’s delivery was perfect and the script was perfect as well!

    *note to self: buy hubby some Old Spice*


  15. CCW

    The Wizard of Ads showed the clip of the first commercial at a seminar – I love this whole campaign (I am a woman – I could not stop laughing, I showed it to my husband, we laughed together).

    It is brilliantly poking fun at how the ad world uses symbols to draw people in (by using every symbol possible in a 30 second spot: “I’m on a horse”).

    There is a third video that is shorter and happens to feature a moustach that I don’t care for – – but the writing for this series is superb.

  16. As an addendum to these commercials (and having nothing at all to do with story structure) Old Spice guy has been replying to twitter comments, with video. Some of these are absolutely brilliant.

    (There were times the video was uploaded to YouTube within 30 minutes of the Tweet he was replying to.)

    Check them out here. My son and I spent a good hour laughing with him


    There was even a wedding proposal by proxy.

  17. Patrick Sullivan

    Totally agreeing with Tony, the videos are amazing. Apparantly the ad guys are busting these out in a couple minutes then handing it off to the actor who then busts them out in a couple takes. The results are mostly amazing, the rest simply funny.


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