The Original Old Spice Guy Is Back On His Horse to Sell You … Ad-Free Hulu?

P&G and Hulu team up for the new spot, which runs through July

Isaiah Mustafa, first seen as the Old Spice guy in 2010, returns in this Hulu/Old Spice hybrid. Hulu

Hulu wants people to know about its ad-free streaming offering, and to do it, the company has brought back an iconic advertising character: the Old Spice guy, played by Isaiah Mustafa.

A week after its NewFronts pitch to advertisers, Hulu has teamed with Procter & Gamble for a 15-second spot promoting both Old Spice and Hulu’s ad-free subscription service. The spot stars Mustafa, the actor and former NFL player who has periodically starred in Old Spice ads since 2010, and leans into the now-iconic tropes of that brand’s commercials before transforming into an ad for Hulu’s ad-free subscription offering.

“You’re probably thinking this is another Old Spice ad,” Mustafa says in the spot, which was jointly produced by Big Family Table and Wieden+Kennedy. “Look again. This is a Hulu ad that tells you should get Hulu with no ads if you’re not into ads.”

Hulu’s final message to viewers: Get Hulu with no ads—unless, of course, you love ads.

The spot, which aired on Wednesday night during Fox’s Empire, borrows heavily from the now-iconic “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” Old Spice ad from 2010 that introduced Mustafa. In both spots, shirts hanging from invisible wires drape across Mustafa’s shoulders, and Mustafa demands that viewers look at him, look away, and then back to him. There are even similarities in how Mustafa shows off different items in the spots (first, Old Spice bottles; later, the Hulu logo, complete with cascading green glitter).

The end of the new ad is also an ode to the 2010 spot in which Mustafa declares, “I’m on a horse.” In the new spot, Mustafa perches on a Hulu-branded bench and says, “I’m on an ad.”

That inaugural spot quickly became one of the most iconic ads of all time, sweeping many of the industry’s top awards. It won a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Commercial in 2010, the same year it took top honors at the Cannes Lions with a Grand Prix in Film and a Gold Pencil from The One Show.

Mustafa has appeared in other Old Spice spots throughout the years, and also resurrected the character as part of Tide’s clever Super Bowl takeover last year (“It’s a Tide ad.”).

This is the second big campaign this week for the actor, who is also being haunted by a red balloon on Instagram to promote his upcoming film, It: Chapter 2.

Nick Tran, Hulu’s vp of brand marketing, told Adweek that the campaign is part of a broader push to reinvent Hulu’s brand identity and promote its suite of products, which include both ad-supported and ad-free streaming options.

“The irony isn’t lost on us that we’re using an ads guy to tell you to get no ads by putting this in an advertisement where you’re able to see it because you have advertising,” Tran said. “We wanted to wink to it, and we also think our audience would get the joke.”

The irony isn’t lost on us that we’re using an ads guy to tell you to get no ads by putting this in an advertisement where you’re able to see it because you have advertising.
Nick Tran, Hulu’s vp of brand marketing

Hulu approached P&G’s team with the idea to enlist Mustafa’s Old Spice persona for its campaign. P&G agreed, and both companies’ agencies of record, IPG’s Big Family Table and Wieden+Kennedy, came together to develop the spot, which will run on national television and on social media through July.

“Old Spice is an iconic male grooming brand known for entertaining advertising. We just couldn’t pass up the opportunity as an advertiser to make an advertisement about subscribing to a Hulu plan to not watch advertisements through a Hulu meets Old Spice advertisement,” said Matthew Krehbiel, associate brand director, Old Spice, in a statement.

This month, the ad will run on TV during episodes of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, the finales of Fox’s Bob’s Burgers and The Simpsons, and the finales of NBC’s The Blacklist and Chicago Fire.

Tran said the ad is part of Hulu’s bigger brand refresh and ongoing campaign promoting Hulu’s different product offerings. The brand refresh kicked off with Hulu’s “Better Ruins Everything” campaign from September, in which celebrities like Sofia Vergara, Sarah Silverman and Ramy Youssef told viewers not to get Hulu unless they wanted traditional television for them ruined forever.

Since then, the brand has also rolled out “Hulu Sellouts,” a campaign starring NBA players Joel Embiid and Damian Lillard, in which they hawked Hulu’s live-sports offering for cold, hard cash. Tran said Hulu’s subsequent ads have all sought to answer why Hulu is going to ruin television; the Old Spice ad is no different.

“This new phase now is just another reason why we think we’re going to ruin TV for you,” Tran said. “Very few places give you the option to watch TV with ads, but also the option to turn off ads.”

Hulu, which is leaning into original content and live TV offerings, is touting a strong year so far despite an increasingly crowded and competitive market for streaming services. During its Newfronts presentation last week, the majority Disney-owned service said it had hit 28 million total customers, including 26.8 million paying subscribers, and added 7.5 million paid subscribers in the U.S. in 2018. Its ad-supported audience, meanwhile, grew to more than 58 million viewers, a 43% increase year over year, the company said.


Creative Agencies: Big Family Table and Wieden+Kennedy
Production Company: MJZ
Post VFX: Eight VFX
Director: Craig Gillespie
Executive Producer: Emma Wilcockson
Managing Director: Troy Kelley
Group Strategy Director: Will Burroughs
Executive Integrated Producer: Mary Ellen Duggan
Executive Creative Directors: Guto Araki, Jason Bagley, Eric Baldwin
Creative Directors: Ashley Davis-Marshall, Matt Sorrell
Copywriter/Art Director: Liz Malenfant
Account Team Member: Katie Schaller
Creative Operations Manager: Andrea Drapcho
Strategy Director: Drew Phillips
Business Affairs: Dusty Slowik

@kelseymsutton Kelsey Sutton is the streaming editor at Adweek, where she covers the business of streaming television.