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A screengrab from a Pantene Philippines ad on gender portrayal in the workplace. The spot got a social media boost after being shared by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. (Pantene Philippines/YouTube)
A screengrab from a Pantene Philippines ad on gender portrayal in the workplace. The spot got a social media boost after being shared by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. (Pantene Philippines/YouTube)

Pantene ad goes viral after nod from Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg Add to ...

Persuasion Notebook offers quick hits on the business of persuasion from The Globe and Mail’s marketing and advertising reporter, Susan Krashinsky. Read more on The Globe's marketing page and follow Susan on Twitter @Susinsky.

Men are bosses; women are bossy.

That’s just one of the double-standards facing women in the workplace that is being explored – in a new commercial.

The spot from Pantene Philippines was released last month, but is now gaining worldwide attention online. Partly, that’s because of the kind of promotion that marketing money can’t buy: over the weekend Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer at Facebook Inc. and author of the book Lean In -- which has dominated the conversation about women in the workplace this year – posted the ad on her Facebook page.

“This is one of the most powerful videos I have ever seen illustrating how when women and men do the same things, they are seen in completely different ways,” she wrote. “Really worth watching.” It has since been shared by her followers more than 2,000 times – reaching thousands more through those people’s social networks. On Friday, the ad had nearly 6 million views on YouTube.

The ad for the Procter & Gamble-owned beauty brand, made by agency BBDO, features women and men going through their days, with adjectives labelling how their behaviour is perceived. A woman working late is “selfish,” for example, while a man doing the same is “dedicated.” A man who takes care of his appearance is “neat” but a woman who does the same is “vain.”

Pantene would appear to be borrowing a page here from Dove’s playbook. That brand, owned by Unilever, has for years used messages about female strength and empowerment, through its “campaign for real beauty,” as a sales tactic for its beauty products.

It also highlights a trend in advertising: companies that try to resonate with customers by declaring that they stand for something, and presenting a more human face. In this case, that strategy has led to a free campaign boost from one of the world’s most famous career women.

Follow on Twitter: @susinsky