It all started with Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim.

The duo behind Adult Swim’s oddball Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! and those absurd Zach Galifianaks Absolut commercials you love were tapped by white hot advertising agency Wieden and Kennedy to direct some Old Spice TV spots. The ads feature ex-NFL linebacker Terry Crews, his massive biceps and chiseled sub-5%-body-fat frame, and Heidecker and Wareheim’s special blend of bizarre.

You can call the campaign “Corporate America’s relentless co-option of the interesting,” but I call it good advertising. And it only gets better.

After the success of the Crews commercials, Wieden and Kennedy called up award-winning commercial director Tom Kuntz to create his own set of unique Old Spice spots. Featuring chiseled ex-NFL wide receiver Isaiah Mustafa, Kuntz’s ads take the Heidecker and Wareheim beat-you-over-the-head brand of weird down a notch, just enough so as to maintain the strange without being too scary.

old-spice-man-twitterThe results are fantastic. Kuntz’s flagship ad, ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like‘ has nearly 13 million views on YouTube alone since its February release.

If Wieden and Kennedy stopped there, they’d have an extremely successful campaign, generating tons of exposure and press hits for their client, while reestablishing Old Spice’s image in a younger, hipper, Axe-loving market. But this may just be the beginning.

What do you do after you’ve made an intriguing commercial character with viral potential? You get interactive and social.

Starting yesterday, Old Spice Man, Isaiah Mustafa began posting YouTube videos in response to random Twitter messages from both laymen and Hollywood and internet elite.

Personalized messages to Kevin Rose, Rose McGowan, Ellen Degeneres, Alyssa Milano, and Gizmodo built buzz, while clips created for Twitter users like wawoodworth, jieyeow, and Muffinzeshlongun give the campaign an equal opportunity appeal. It’s as if Subservient Chicken was upgraded for the micro-blogging age and played by a character from the cover of a Norah Hess novel written by Brad Neely (aka the premise for the most brilliant ad campaign ever).

Old Spice has uploaded 122 (and counting) 30- to 60-second long personalized videos in the past 24 hours. Impressive, to say the least, but what impresses me most is no one seems to mind the shill. This is, after all, still advertising, and the creative minds at Wieden and Kennedy are trying to manipulate audiences into having positive associations with a product in order to sell more units. In the past, online video has been especially prone to criticism for its branded entertainment, but in this case, no one seems to care.

Is it because of the innovative nature of the campaign and its off-the-wall humor? Definitely, but incorporating those elements into a two-way environment is what makes the public a-okay with the commercials. Viewers feel like Mustafa is pitching a product with them, not at them.

Brands looking to tap the inherent interactive opportunities of online video should take note. This is the ad campaign your ad campaign could be like.

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