Like a girl?

This empowering feminist war-cry disguised as an attempt to sell sanitary towels has been doing the Facebook/Twitter rounds lately:

Let’s look at the marketing angle first: someone’s clearly watched the way in which Dove has built a huge brand by being nice to women. If I were a little bit cynical (which I’m definitely not), I would suggest that the kindness is somewhat motivated by the chance that it might generate cash. The Always brand is owned by Proctor and Gamble, who have mined their own seam of pleasantness with this tribute to ‘moms’:

(By the way, is it sexist to connect ‘moms’ to the products made by Proctor and Gamble? Is that not an patronising and assumptive reinforcement of patriarchal gender roles?)

Anyway, being nice to females seems now to be a well-trodden path to selling them things. Is that bad? Can it be justified if a single unconfident little girl is inspired by this ad to gain the confidence she needs to be happy and successful? Well, here’s the real question: do you think Always would have made this ad if thought it would cost them sales? So how genuine is this supposed exercise in altruism?

That aside, does the concept stand up?

‘You ….. like a girl’ is definitely an insult, so I guess they make a good point. But then they seem to link this somewhat spuriously to puberty (supposedly the time when this phrase starts to become an insult), making the connection (I guess) to Always. I don’t know about you, but I would have thought ‘you run like a girl’ becomes negative before then, but if that were the case, what would sanitary towels have to do with the whole thing? (And while we’re at it: ‘Sanitary towels’? Doesn’t that place a negative value on the whole area of menstruation, like it’s something unclean?)

I think this is where we start to realise that someone’s observation that the ‘like a girl’ suffix can cause damage is just one of many unrelated points we could make in the feminine hygiene (negative again?) sector. And anyway, isn’t the prefix ‘man’ (man flu, man bags, man boobs) also negative? Where are the masculists to defend the men from such sexism?. Yes, I am stretching a point, but it is exactly the same point Always is stretching.

Hey, if you want to base your panty liner choice on bollocks like this, be my guest, but I’d have thought that not falling for the patronising, manipulative codswallop of a giant, money-hungry corporation would be far more empowering.

UPDATE: a lady agrees with me.

Comments 42

  1. george p wrote:

    I like it a lot.

    Got me thinking. Carved out a good role for the brand. Wasn’t too heavy but touched a nerve.

    Like to product a little tenuous but surely it’s better than an anodyne piece of communication?

    Think we have to rethink our frame of reference for this stuff.

    It’s trying to engage us as human beings, not consumers. Old rules go out the window.

    I’m with it.

    G

    Posted 01 Jul 2014 at 9:24 pm
  2. vinny warren wrote:

    More embarrassing American mawkishness. sorry about that. this is not a real problem. source: dad of two american girls here.

    I understand their need to talk about something (anything) other than their product but this one is stretching credulity.

    Posted 02 Jul 2014 at 12:48 am
  3. Original Richard H wrote:

    I thought it was so overwrought, so heavy handed that I got the message and dismissed it in about 15 seconds. Maybe because I never used or encountered “…like a girl” as an insult. Whatever. Move on.

    Posted 02 Jul 2014 at 8:38 am
  4. Andrew Bent wrote:

    @vinny, I think the view count shows how well this is going down doesn’t it?

    Ratio of ‘Likes’ to views is also worth a look: Dove Camera Shy 18M views, 11.6k ‘Likes’ in a year. Always #likeagirl 17M views, 75.2k ‘Likes’ in a couple of weeks.

    My bet is this video will have 40M+ views this time next week.

    Have a look at the comments too: a conversation in social media stimulated by a brand! How about that? The Ad Contrarian would be proud!!

    Posted 02 Jul 2014 at 8:42 am
  5. Andrew Bent wrote:

    Also..

    “..being nice to females seems now to be a well-trodden path to selling them things. Is that bad?”

    Any different from being funny to sell beer?

    Posted 02 Jul 2014 at 8:47 am
  6. Martin Headon wrote:

    I thought it was tenuous, predictable and contrived – but it was rescued by the casting (especially Dakota, who had sass and a fucking awesome top). But then, it’s got 17 million views, so what do we know?

    Posted 02 Jul 2014 at 9:25 am
  7. GOUT_LEGS wrote:

    waaaaaaaaaaaaank.

    but cannes gold none the less.

    Posted 02 Jul 2014 at 9:37 am
  8. Anonymouse wrote:

    well said

    i’m sick of this fucking planning-based shit

    Posted 02 Jul 2014 at 9:41 am
  9. GOUT_LEGS wrote:

    Andrew:

    40 million views?

    play it during emmerdale twice and you’ll match it.

    I can show you a video of a cat being sick on itself that has more views, so lets not have that as our sole barometer.

    Regardless of all that, will it sell sanitary towels?

    As a woman on the wrong side of 30, the thing that sells sanitary towels is absorption, size and disposability.

    Not a misunderstanding of a misunderstanding designed to make people feel guilty about their perception of a term.

    Posted 02 Jul 2014 at 9:42 am
  10. ben wrote:

    @ Andrew: I think the Ad Contrarian would ask if any more boxes of Always have been sold as a result of this, since all the likes and views in the world are ultimately meaningless without a change to the bottom line.

    He certainly wouldn’t give the first shit about a ‘conversation in social media’.

    And the difference between selling beer with funny and selling things to women through empowering feminism is the intent: no one is pretending a funny beer ad is anything other than a momentary attempt to get you to laugh and remember a brand; these ‘feminist empowerment’ ads are disguising an attempt to enrich a massive corporation as a kindly message of social awareness. There is plenty of research to show that hoodwinking people into thinking you’re nice (as The Gap did when it was caught out using the same sweat shops as everyone else, despite its hippy-dippy image) is much more frowned upon (if you get found out) than being straight up and clear about your intent.

    P&G is worth $82.55 billion. If you can convince me that their motives are anything other than the pursuit of cash I will owe them an apology. Until then, keep adding the likes.

    Posted 02 Jul 2014 at 9:51 am
  11. ben wrote:

    OMFG.

    GOUT-LEGS is a lady.

    *brain turn to mush*

    Posted 02 Jul 2014 at 9:56 am
  12. bubbo ho-tep wrote:

    As usual the onion nails this bullshit –

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/women-now-empowered-by-everything-a-woman-does,1398/

    Can’t we just leave people the fuck alone and stop empowering them all the fucking time. If I was a woman or a girl this would irritate the shit out of me but as the owner of a penis I can only bemoan how easy it seems to be to push peoples buttons these days. It’s like the whole world has surrendered to the simplicity of Simon Cowell’s business instincts.

    Posted 02 Jul 2014 at 10:13 am
  13. Mister Gash wrote:

    Caitlin Moran hasn’t called it out. And she could have done so here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ebD9ISX4NQ&feature=youtu.be

    Posted 02 Jul 2014 at 10:33 am
  14. steakandcheese wrote:

    This genuinely scares me. A massive corporation like PG with its billions pick on a non-issue like this one and blow it out of proportion to make women feel “empowered” by this manipulative crap. Like Lady GOUT-LEGS said, it’ll pick up awards at Cannes next year. And then every client and agency will want to have their own version of it to be the mantlepiece of their creative genius, while completely forgetting what they’re supposed to do: sell the damn product. Just another reason to work for small clients who can’t afford bullshit like this.

    Posted 02 Jul 2014 at 11:28 am
  15. Original Richard H wrote:

    Yeah, I’m in shock. GOUT-LEGS is a woman? Is she AN EMPOWERED WOMAN?

    Posted 02 Jul 2014 at 12:18 pm
  16. James wrote:

    A little bit funny:

    http://vagendamagazine.com/2014/07/why-likeagirl-is-justaloadofcorporatebullshit/

    Posted 02 Jul 2014 at 1:25 pm
  17. Ciaran McCabe wrote:

    “Advertising is built on puffery — on, at heart, deception, ” he said. “And I don’t think anybody can go proudly into the next world with a career built on deception – no matter how well they do it.”

    Julian Koenig, arguably the best copywriter in the history of US advertising.

    Ben, hat should P&G’s motives for being in business be?

    Posted 02 Jul 2014 at 1:50 pm
  18. Sell! Sell! wrote:

    I’m with SteakandCheese on this one.

    Posted 02 Jul 2014 at 2:30 pm
  19. ben wrote:

    I don’t give a shit what P&G’s motives for being in business should be (assuming they’re not racism and ethnic cleansing, but considering they make skin-whitening cream for African women, they actually do both); I’d just rather they didn’t lie about it.

    And I’d rather they didn’t try to make people feel guilty so that they can make more money.

    Posted 02 Jul 2014 at 2:31 pm
  20. anon wrote:

    17 million views on an online film entitled ‘like a girl?’. There are at least 16.47 million unfinished wanks right there.

    Posted 02 Jul 2014 at 4:02 pm
  21. Anonymous wrote:

    The copywriter approached this brief like a girl. Prefer the Full Moon Party.

    Posted 02 Jul 2014 at 4:12 pm
  22. david cameron wrote:

    maybe they should change the ‘like’ button to a ‘buy’ button.

    Posted 02 Jul 2014 at 4:30 pm
  23. GOUT_LEGS wrote:

    yeah.

    not a woman.

    but i thought i’d let that stew to prove my second point. how many anonymous men added to that 40 million views? how many repeat watches? the internet is full of deception, we shouldn’t forget that when judging its success as an advertising platform.

    i can start pissing stood up again now.

    Posted 02 Jul 2014 at 5:07 pm
  24. Dave wrote:

    I’m glad we have a man to tell us about these things

    Posted 02 Jul 2014 at 5:32 pm
  25. bob hoffman wrote:

    My thoughts on this subject are expressed at the end of this post from 2012: http://adcontrarian.blogspot.com/2012/10/what-hell-are-they-teaching.html

    Posted 02 Jul 2014 at 7:36 pm
  26. Andrew Bent wrote:

    Burgers making people cry:

    http://youtu.be/qBkAAortU_g

    Posted 03 Jul 2014 at 9:14 am
  27. ben wrote:

    That seems to be utterly set up and contrived.

    And we’re not all the same inside.

    Posted 03 Jul 2014 at 9:29 am
  28. Mister Gash wrote:

    @TAC

    Yes. And, er, no. If P&G / Always seriously tried the ‘tell us what you’ve got and why we need it route’ I’m guessing that the good people at Clearcast would self combust on seeing the scripts.

    Never going to happen.

    This film has divided opinions. The response to this blog and Vagenda shows that. But at least it’s a step on from where san-pro was. A small step – and not without faults. But I’m guessing someone, somewhere had to fight tooth and nail to get this unconventional approach past the box-tickers at P&G – obsessed with ‘frame by frame’ bollocks and the vag equivalent of ‘product enjoyment’ shots.

    It’s far from perfect, but at least it starts to change the San Pro conversation. BBH (Sir John & Babs Nokes) did it with a press campaign for Dr Whites in the ’80s. Can’t find a link, but it was ground breaking stuff. Maybe we should look at the positives in this – because there are some – rather than crush the thing to death.

    If you want to have a go at P&G, Unilever etc tell them to stop making these bastard things:

    http://www.andrex.co.uk/products/washlets/

    “Flushable” my arse.

    http://www.sas.org.uk/news/campaigns/world-toilet-day/

    Posted 03 Jul 2014 at 9:39 am
  29. ben wrote:

    Like A Girl annoys me more because it’s deceitful and patronising. Like the giant corporation has just found the route du jour to getting eyeballs but has no interest in this stuff beyond the possible cash.

    For some reason I prize honesty over jumping onto a bandwagon of bullshit, but that’s just me. Evidently this change in conversation is happening, but whether it really relates to a change in attitude from Always, I have my doubts.

    When people start chatting about reducing the stigma of menstruation (exacerbated hugely by Always), then I’ll doff my cap. Until then, it looks like P&G have just skirted round the side and stuck a logo on a glib film that could simply have a been a 3-minute piece on Upworthy. Connection to monthly shedding of uterus walls? Zero.

    The Dr Whites stuff was excellent, though.

    Posted 03 Jul 2014 at 9:58 am
  30. Brian Clough wrote:

    Well why do men and women compete in separate events in sports – well its because men are stronger and compete at a higher level than women. When people say you “hit like a girl” they are saying you don’t hit as hard, which is factually correct,

    The idea is flawed.

    Women are strong and wonderful in so many ways that men aren’t, but asa species we are different and if we embrace that difference and just try to be the best we can be then everybody wins!

    Just an opinion, its what makes the world go round.

    Posted 03 Jul 2014 at 11:31 am
  31. bumble wrote:

    Have you seen the one about twins chewing chewing gum. That is fucking shit too.

    Posted 03 Jul 2014 at 12:01 pm
  32. Mister Gash wrote:

    Maybe having kids to talk about ‘intimate cleanliness’ is better?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01mGORzw81o

    No. I didn’t think so.

    Posted 03 Jul 2014 at 12:17 pm
  33. John S wrote:

    Yep, tenuous connection alright, but as Mr Gash points out, at least it starts to change the San Pro conversation.

    What annoyed me was I thought the first two and half minutes were going to be back story, followed by a kick ass commercial full of female empowerment. But nothing.

    Like a Girl is an interesting insight that no-one’s been arsed to carry forward. So it looks like you can cut the creative bit and just submit your planning bullshit to win Cannes Gold now.

    And Gout_Legs. Fucking brilliant way to make a point…

    Posted 03 Jul 2014 at 1:13 pm
  34. ben wrote:

    @Mr Gash: is that Noddy Holder’s kid on the right?

    Posted 03 Jul 2014 at 2:27 pm
  35. Mister Gash wrote:

    Ben

    You are NOT making me watch that thing again.

    So, yeah. Probably. Let me guess – the mirrored top hat gave them away…?

    Posted 03 Jul 2014 at 2:33 pm
  36. Anonymouse wrote:

    @bumble

    cannes gold

    one of the worst ideas i’ve ever seen

    Posted 03 Jul 2014 at 3:29 pm
  37. ben wrote:

    @ Mr G: Nah, it was the way he shouted ‘IIIITS SHITMAAAAAAS’.

    Posted 03 Jul 2014 at 3:34 pm
  38. Anonymous wrote:

    The massive irony is when the young naive girls run and throw balls on this advert, they inadvertently run and throw balls ‘like a girl’, hence perpetuating the truism.

    Posted 03 Jul 2014 at 3:44 pm
  39. vinny warren wrote:

    Good point mr. clough. both my daughters never gave the slightest toss about baseball/throwing things in general. but years of ballet and skating have turned them into steel killers with ice in their veins.

    Posted 03 Jul 2014 at 3:48 pm
  40. bumble wrote:

    Anonymouse, you are fucking kidding me. I used to hate it just for existing.

    It pisses me off that my career is in the toilet whilst this shit gets lauded. Intelligent people really have let go of the reigns of this industry. Cynical cunts have taken over.

    Posted 03 Jul 2014 at 5:04 pm
  41. Jaded. wrote:

    To someone’s point earlier. Work for small clients, start an agency – you just need one like minded client with a story to tell that believes in your talent. Do great work that doesn’t have the saccharine platitudes of this ad. Don’t work for Unilever or P&G or Kraft or any of the other mega-brands who get our holding companies hard. If you can be free of that shit then maybe you’ll do good work. Of course, if you, do the holding companies will come calling with big shares and earn out options and the cycle will continue because you’re not making art here you want to live well and put the kids through school. But at least there will be a few years there where you can look at yourself in the mirror and feel good that you haven’t done condescending shit like this.

    Posted 03 Jul 2014 at 11:40 pm
  42. steakandcheese wrote:

    @bumble

    I know exactly how you feel.

    Posted 04 Jul 2014 at 9:40 am

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