Aishwarya Ramesh

Pantene's new campaign embraces freedom

Freedom is a fundamental right of every Indian citizen, however, some brands have made freedom aspirational. The latest brand to do so is Pantene. The P&G owned hair care brand has released a new ad film centred on the theme — no points for guessing — 'Freedom'. A press release issued by the company states that the brand spent the last 18 months listening to young girls across the country with in-depth interviews and tried to capture their sentiment in this new campaign.

The insight — young girls might not have all the answers to the challenges they face, but they seek to lead their lives differently versus the earlier generation — is the crux of the #FreedomHair campaign. To highlight some of these choices, the film features eight women from varied fields and professions, including professional athlete and LGBT activist Dutee Chand.

Chand shared a message of encouragement, “People used to tell me, there is no future in sport and that I was wasting my life. My mother and older sister supported me to run, so I kept going. We need to be what we are no matter what people say. If we listen to others, we won’t be able to make our lives into the dreams we see. So do what you want!” The campaign brings together lyrics by Javed Akhtar, and the song ‘Freedom’ by international singer Pharrell Williams.

With the #FreedomHair campaign, Pantene is partnering with Sattva, a mission-driven organisation that creates scalable solutions for social impact. This unique partnership aims to help young girls across India embrace the power of Freedom Hair and become the voice of their own story.

Some digging revealed that the tone and thought behind this campaign is similar to an international campaign the brand had worked on, in collaboration with actress and musician Selena Gomez. Take a look at the ad below…

Ankita Chauhan, group head - strategy, Tonic Worldwide points out that both the ads are essentially for the same cause of ‘Hair fall management’ and celebrating strong hair through Pantene’s range of products. She emphasised that while these ads portray similar looking situations; the storyline, tonality, and impact are completely different.

“The ad campaign with Selena Gomez is a bunch of sweet moments capturing women at different life stages and expressing the celebration of ‘owning the day’ through their hair, be it with Gomez herself moving from party to recording studio, the young girl getting her hair braided for probably the first day at a new school, two friends laughing as if no one is watching or the teen who decided to chop her bangs on her own and go for the prom. The Indian #FreedomHair campaign, however, is creating awareness about the choices a woman has at a given life stage and how it’s her right to choose what she wants to do and become. The Indian campaign, given the regional context, is essentially coated with an empowerment and ‘freedom to choose’ flavour," she clarifies.

Ankita Chauhan
Ankita Chauhan

Chauhan says, marketing to millennials needs a lot more customisation and not just stereotypical, unconventional and anti-establishment theories. “This ad campaign, in my opinion, is in the league of ‘Femvertising’ where it’s throwing pro-women, liberation and ‘freedom of choice’ related thoughts. Beauty and lifestyle brands have always worked on concepts of self-esteem, liberation, and celebration of one’s choices and this campaign is hitting similar notes,” she explains.

“Like most other ads targeting this TG, this campaign also captures the codes of ‘challenge’, ‘unconventional choices’, and ‘celebration of difference’. We’ve seen these codes excite and stir conversations over the last two years, however, when we look at 2020, brands will have to find newer connections and more personal stories that are beyond liberation,” she says.

Navonil Chatterjee, joint president and chief strategy officer at Rediffusion Y&R too, agrees that there aren't too many similarities between Pantene's two ads but adds, “While both are about keeping your hair open, the Indian one is trying hard to give too much 'gyaan' or philosophy which the Selena Gomez ad is, thankfully, not giving.”

Navonil Chatterjee
Navonil Chatterjee

The ad seems to fit into a neat template marketers seem to be referring to while creating an ad for a young TG. There are warm sunny tones, happy fluid visual movement and of course, ambitious protagonists. “The abiding feeling that accompanies you when you are watching this ad is 'been there, seen that'! From what I know about millennials, they hate it when you are preachy. They embrace the real authentic stuff. This ad is by all means ‘addy’," he says wryly.

He zeroes in on the insight — a young person wanting to write their own story — and tells us that to a large extent, it's true. “Youth wanting to write their own story is a theme that many brands across many categories would have showcased. So as far as novelty goes, this ad surely is not high on that count. The insight is relevant yes, but differentiated? Perhaps not…" he signs off.

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