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persuasion notebook

It is no longer good enough to sell soap, or shoes, or even menstrual pads, just by pitching the product’s reliability, or its low price. Now, it seems, every company has to stand for something.

The latest example comes in the form of Procter & Gamble Co.’s Always brand of feminine care products, which on Tuesday launched the follow-up to its highly successfulLike a Girl” campaign. The original video, which launched online just over a year ago, criticized the use of that phrase to connote weakness or incompetence. It has since attracted more than 85 million views online. It helped to change the image of the Always brand. The response was so positive that P&G spent millions to air a TV commercial-length version of the video during this year’s Super Bowl broadcast.

Always and its ad agency, Leo Burnett, are following up this week with a new video to instill greater confidence in young girls – and, it’s hoped, build love for the Always brand among female shoppers.

In a new video, girls were asked to give examples of times they were told they could not or should not do something because of their gender. After writing those negative messages on cardboard boxes, the girls knocked over the boxes.

Along with the video, P&G is partnering with TED-Ed, a division of TED – the non-profit organization that hosts TED Talks and advertises “ideas worth spreading” – which focuses on educational resources for schools. The Always Global Confidence Teaching Curriculum will produce materials for educators to assist in “confidence teaching.”

Teachers have proven willing to use the advertiser’s message in their classrooms: according to Judy John, Leo Burnett Toronto CEO and the chief creative officer behind the campaign, the agency heard that schools were showing “Like a Girl” to students in order to spark conversations about language choices and gender dynamics.

In many ways, Always is borrowing an approach that was pioneered by rival Unilever PLC’s brand Dove, which for more than a decade has campaigned for “Real Beauty.” As Dove has tried to keep its campaign fresh, the ads have ranged from inspiring (such as the Canadian-produced “Evolution” video) to condescending. Similar to Always, Dove has attempted to back up its promotional messages by running self-esteem programs targeted to young girls.

In launching the newest phase of its campaign, P&G released a survey of 1,300 American women and 500 American men aged 16 to 24. It found that 89 per cent of girls feel “pressure to conform to the way they’re supposed to feel and act,” and that 60 per cent feel that has had a negative effect on them. Just over half of the girls and women said their confidence had fallen after puberty.

Socially conscious advertising has been a growing trend in recent years, and with good reason. In a survey of 1,500 Canadians last year by Ipsos Reid, 84 per cent said that if price and quality were not a factor, they would switch brands to spend their money with a company that is affiliated with a good cause. Canadian brands including WestJet, Toronto-Dominion Bank and Rexall have all jumped on that bandwagon, and have seen positive responses from consumers.

But will this new project be enough to keep Always in the spotlight that it has enjoyed since launching the campaign?

“That’s the creative challenge,” Leo Burnett’s Ms. John said in an interview last week. “I think it’s a big enough problem, that we need to solve. Confidence in women and girls, specifically during puberty, it’s just such a big thing – and with my daughter being 14, we’re in the heart of it. … We need to keep working at it. From a creative standpoint, that’s the challenge, finding different ways to do it that are still interesting, and that girls will want to be a part of.”