Pantene’s Gender Equality Ad: Amazing or Average?

Pantene’s latest advertisement was created by BBDO Guerrero in the Philippines (which you may remember is the same agency that created the #Unselfie campaign), and it focuses on gender equality in the workplace. It’s the long-argued debate over whether women leaders are treated differently than their male counterparts, and it sheds light on the inequality by using some of the choice words to describe the two sexes (i.e. men are bosses, women are bossy; men are neat, women are vain, etc).

First of all, I applaud BBDO for thinking outside the box when it comes to advertising. Haircare products are so hard to advertise, because like many other ordinary products–toothpaste, insurance, air conditioning units–there isn’t much about it that differentiates it from the competition. You can only promise so much shine, softness, and magic split end reparation to get people to buy shampoo or conditioner.  So for Pantene to break away from the norm by creating an attention-grabbing commercial is risky, but at least they’re trying something new.

But at the same time, I don’t like how they’re using this issue to sell their product, rather than using their product to sell the product. What I mean by that is that they’re hoping women will see this commercial, agree with them that gender inequality is a problem, and in turn buy Pantene shampoo. There is no product placement or really anything involving the hair product itself throughout the whole ad, so it really is the inequality issue that’s doing the selling rather than the item. (But then again, not all ads need a lot of product placement. Who would have guessed that a talking camel would be the best way to sell insurance, but apparently it works).

Also, I think they picked an issue that most people agree with already. Saying that they don’t support gender inequality, therefore women should buy their product is like me going out and saying “Hey! I’m a great person because I don’t abuse my pets!” It’s a given that pet abuse is wrong, so it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m awesome because I don’t do it, just like it’s a given that gender inequality is wrong, therefore agreeing that it’s wrong doesn’t necessarily mean your product is amazing. I know that it’s better than the alternative of choosing a controversial issue and alienating some of their audience, but I still think it’s kind of a cheap way to sell a product.

I’m curious to see how this video and campaign translate into sales. The video itself is fairly memorable, but because the brand name is rarely mentioned I’m not sure if people will remember that it was Pantene that created it. But at the very least the ad’s getting attention, which I guess is what they wanted all along.


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