In the #LikeAGirl campaign, Procter & Gamble used a form of cause marketing to reach its target audience, picking up on recent social movements and subverting the dominant discourse. In the China advert, P&G used the pre-existing term ‘the left-behind girls’ to highlight and pinpoint the issue of contemporary girls living in rural China whose mothers had left to work in the city. This cause marketing was successful in promoting the product and brand values through empowering girls, acknowledging the taboo of periods, and support through education.
The significance and wide-reaching consequence of the cause was largely conveyed through the advert’s language. The voiceover of the mother’s letter is a powerful tool and works simultaneously with the primary narrative of the girls experiencing their first periods. It adds another dimension to the story, showing the full extent of the issue not just on young girls but the effect that this has on families and relationships. Not only does this evoke pathos in the audience, but it also provides a good selling point for ALWAYS: providing support for young girls in the literal product and in education, and providing support for mothers who know their daughters have everything they need when they’re going through a new period of their life (pun intended). The written language on the scene creates a sense of synthetic personalisation, as the opening question “Do you remember the feeling of your first period?” speaks directly to the women in the audience, reminding them that this is a universal experience and one with deep significance to all women and girls – as it signals the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood. This idea of a journey is carried throughout the whole advert.
This idea of a journey and growth is reflected in the sound and light compositional elements, complementing the journey taking place within the advert itself. At the beginning of the advert, the sound is gentle guitar strums, with a melancholic tone. This accurately reflects the somber mood as the girls explain their isolation due to their periods and how they miss their mothers. Towards the end of the advert, the music reaches a crescendo and has a far more joyous feel. The music reflects the happy atmosphere and creates the association between happiness and support from ALWAYS. Similarly, the light helps emphasise this. The soft gentle light hints at morning; perhaps symbolising the beginning of the journey for the girls. At the end of the advert, the light is brighter and more reflective of the shifting mood. As ALWAYS supports them, the girls feel happier and less isolated, demonstrated through the light and sound compositional elements. Perhaps ALWAYS attempts to build an association with their products and their brand values – in a form of habit stacking. Arguably, they attempt to create feelings of strength as a woman congruently with the frequent use of products that are part of everyday life for girls and women.
A significant part of the cause-marketing comes from the evocation of pathos – which is largely done through the cinematography of the advert. Just like other compositional elements, the cinematography evolves as the narrative does. It begins with close-up shots to focus on the establishment of the characters – so the audience can see every detail of their faces. Enhanced by the blurry background, the shot composition puts clarity on the facial expression and emotion – and this really helps to build an intimate connection and evoke empathy for these girls. This connection and character familiarity is valuable in selling the product; as it creates a relationship between the audience and the girls to create a more memorable advert or brand. Then, this shot is juxtaposed with the wider, long-distance shot to create a feeling of isolation and loneliness. Having established familiarity with the characters, these feelings of isolation resonate more strongly with this; as the juxtaposition highlights the feelings of vulnerability and the taboo or shame that comes with periods. Audiences can connect with this as it is a common human experience to feel vulnerable and alone – and thus is a very successful tool for the campaign with its strategic use of cause-marketing to appeal to a large target audience.
The #LikeAGirl China advert successfully uses cause-marketing to reach a large target audience by appealing to the emotions, selling the idea of ‘growth’ or ‘journey’, and by showing the significance and relevance of the cause. Together, these elements work together to create a memorable advert which effectively promotes the brand values and the necessity of their products.