Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Old Spice guy, part II

Did you realize that the Old Spice guy is African American? 

I did. But only recently. 

This is relevant. First of all, because I'm old. And second because I grew up in the South. So I'm keenly aware of the prejudices I've worked so hard to overcome. Or at least I used to be. The fact is, the man's race wouldn't have even occurred to me except that I overheard someone describing his dark skin the other day –– and not in any disparaging way.

And even though I'm speaking for myself, I think it's pretty clear from the chatter that this campaign has generated that I'm speaking for the vast majority of people who have seen it. There is no uproar. Sure, there's controversy. Anything this popular is bound to have its share of detractors. But when I was coming up, the negative comments would have had more to do with the man's race than the advertising's message.

Ten years ago, a campaign like 'The Man Your Man Could Smell Like' would have been considered audacious had it starred an African American. Twenty-five years ago, casting like that would have been inconceivable. 

Today –– and I know this because I've spoken to some of the people who work at Wieden + Kennedy –– Isaiah Mustafa got the part not because he was black and not in spite of the fact that he was black, but because he was the right person for the role. Period.

I'm not an idiot. I know we still have a lot of racial stuff to work out in this country.

But we've come a long, long way.