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Old Spice's Mr. Wolfdog
Charming huckster or disturbing stereotype?

In an effort to sell a new line of products—the “Wild Collection”—Old Spice has created a character they’re calling Mr. Wolfdog.

Mr. Wolfdog, a wolf, is supposed to know a lot about the wild as well as marketing. He wears a clunky metal collar that translates his vocalizations into English. He sits at a desk, covered with Old Spice products and other decorations.

Mr. Wolfdog has the head of a real canine (hard to tell if it’s a dog, a wolf, or a hybrid) and a puppet body, so that he appears to be sitting at his desk, arms moving, like a human.

The style is cheesy, a riff on Mad Men’s bygone era of marketing that includes touches like a 10-key calculator and an ancient intercom system on the desk, as well as Mr. Wolfdog’s complete disdain for his assistants.

In fact, Mr. Wolfdog eats his assistants.

Yes, wolves are the epitome of wild. I get that. The target male audience for Old Spice products—the original cologne debuted in 1937—probably doesn’t include many wolf-huggers. But that doesn’t justify a high profile company that has hit some home runs with prior ad campaigns perpetuating a myth that contributed to the eradication of wolves across the West and continues to confound their successful reintroduction today.

Adding to my concern is another ad in the new campaign. It’s called “Irresistible.” An elegant man descends the stairs into an opulent party room with…a wolf growing out of each shoulder. I guess he’s a man-wolf hybrid. The man never speaks. The wolves, however, snarl and threaten a pretty woman who says she’s afraid, then intrigued, then drives off with the man and the wolves. “I never had a chance,” she says. I guess because they man-wolf smells so good, with his “wild” scent by Old Spice.

[“Irresistible” ad video on YouTube]

I asked some friends with dogs for their reaction to the Mr. Wolfdog ad.

From Tina: “Ooookay. Wow. At first I thought it was just really, really stupid. Then it got to the part where the wolf just can't resist the urge to eat his staff members. When so much has been done to get people to understand that wild animals (especially the highly feared ones like wolves, bears, sharks, snakes) are NOT living for the day that they can consume a human being, what Old Spice is doing is very wrong.” 

From Shelle:  “I thought it was stupid, revolting and couldn't figure out what the hell they are trying to say. I hated it. The poor dog looked hot and uncomfortable. The copy was nonsensical. Did I say I hated it? Where's the sexy black dude. Loved him.”

Shelle is referring, of course, to Isaiah Mustafa, who gained sudden fame in February 2010 as the bare-chested actor in the popular “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” advertising campaign for Old Spice. Women who buy Old Spice products for their men were the target audience, and the ads worked.

My informal poll shows males responding slightly more favorably to the Mr. Wolfdog ad than females, although none of them liked it.

What do you think? Love it or hate it?




Rebecca Wallick is an attorney and a Bark contributing editor; she and her dogs live in Washington.
CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by Beth | March 13 2013 |

I think this is creepy. I don't "click" with the dog/wolf in any way. I feel really detached from the whole commercial. The dog isn’t cute, not funny either. Seems to be like it’s forced humor. I’ve got a wicked side, and get a good laugh when a dog or wolf gets the upper hand, but this is just plain stupid. The contraption around his neck looks more like a torture device. That animal has no personality. They are trying to give him a personality by the dubbing, but again they fail miserably. Remind me again, what’s this commercial for? What are they selling? Makes no sense.

Submitted by Anonymous | March 16 2013 |

Hated the Wolfdog.

I thought the "Irresistible" commercial was actually kind of funny. Especially when he sprayed the stuff all over his face in the car. It is so ludicrous.

However, I am a middle aged women. Young men do think women are prey. In that area, Old Spice has played right into their new target demographic. Sad but so true.

Submitted by laura kinsale | March 17 2013 |

I adore Mr. Wolfdog. I'm a female, love dogs, think "Dog is my co-pilot" is funny. Which is why I'm pretty taken aback that you are taking this ad campaign with even the slightly smidge of seriousness.

Mr. Wolfdog has played video games, done the ENTIRE INTERNET'S homework on twitter (you should see the wicked math problems he solved!) created banner ads, yes, eaten his assistant (only 1 so far), created ringtones and Music for Business (including the classic "Elevators". Lyrics: "Up. Down. Up. Down. That's pretty much it."

All done by a brilliantly chosen voice actor.

You know, nobody, nobody at all, relates this to real wolves or the real wild. If people believe he ate his assistant and subliminally blame that on real wolves, then I guess they'll have to subliminally think real wolves are genius mathematicians too.

It was great fun while it lasted. Mr. Wolfdog was shockingly arrested after an incident, which he didn't want to go into, "because it didn't matter who stepped on whose tail during a much-needed Power Nap, or who started the fire..." (Sirens in the background.)

Maybe you didn't get the humor, but a here's one female who loved it and hopes he comes back and went out looking for Old Spice to support it.

I agree about the ad with the snarling wolves on the guy's back, that one was just weird. But Mr. Wolfdog was brilliant.

Submitted by Ana | March 18 2013 |

Brilliant voice actor? You must have been watching something else. The voice was certainly not a bonus to this already terrible commercial. Boring voice, boring ad, totally not funny in any way. A real miss for Old Spice in this dog-loving woman's opinion. Not that I care about Old Spice. But the ad was dumb with a capital D!

Oh well, to each his/her own opinion and I'm glad there's a mix of opinions here. That is the point of a public forum and a bonus of the internets. I guess I'm just very surprised that anyone could like this idea.

Submitted by Cody | September 15 2013 |

The "terrible voice acting" was just an addition to how ridiculous these ads were. In turn making it more un-credible, and in turn more humorous. This wasn't suppose to offend people but over-sensitivity plagues the world.

Submitted by Alice | March 19 2013 |

Laura, I agree with you! Mr. Wolfdog had me giggling!

Submitted by Per-Ola | March 18 2013 |

When I saw this one the first time on Youtube, the first comment said it all (many has been added since);

"This is what all advertising today needs to be like. Something that will actually make me f*****g laugh and want to buy your product."

I'll add to that, as long as the animal is having fun, I have no problems with animals/pets in advertising or in a commercial setting.

Submitted by Kyra Haussler | May 1 2013 |

Not only is this ad a disgusting display of "canine behavior", but it is stupid and counter-productive from a business standpoint. Why would a company want to advertise its crudest behavior and moral depravity regarding business practices?

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