Procter & Gamble Co. has a new video from WPP-backed Cartwright focused on Black women pushing back against other people’s beauty expectations. But unlike prior work from the agency for P&G, it's more product focused, and unlike prior advertising on the subject, it is more about moving beyond bias than fighting it.
Procter & Gamble looks beyond Black hair stereotypes in film promoting natural hair care products
“Unbecoming,” a 60-second video that began running nationally during the 54th Annual NAACP Image Awards on Feb. 25 on BET, does take on stereotypes like prior P&G films such as “The Talk” and “The Look”. But unlike those other efforts, it squarely backs the My Black Is Beautiful haircare product line, designed for natural hairstyles. The video also will be featured in brand integrations throughout the year, including around the BET Her Awards and Essence Festival of Culture.
The film, directed by dayday through Biscuit Filmworks, shows Black women sometimes hiding but ultimately revealing and reveling in their natural hair. “Beautiful is something we have always been,” says a voiceover in the video. “When we unravel ourselves, we’re free to define beauty as who we are. Unbecoming. What’s unbecoming of a Black woman is becoming who you are.”
The My Black Is Beautiful platform, which P&G launched in 2007 well before it had an associated product line in 2019, “has always been about spotlighting areas of bias,” said Lela Coffey, P&G Beauty’s VP of North American Haircare. “What we’re seeing with Black women is that we’ve evolved past that, past fighting for our rights. We’re Supreme Court justices and VPs. Unbecoming is about shedding all of that. And what we’re seeing is this idea of Black joy for women.”
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While Dove from P&G rival Unilever has staked out a position against hair discrimination with ads and its backing of Crown Act anti-discrimination legislation around the country, “Unbecoming” is taking a different tack, Coffey said.
“We applaud the work that they're doing there,” she said. “But this really is a bit of a different, evolved direction. We don’t care that you're going to stereotype us for our hair. We’re going to be Black for us. You don't like us? You discriminate? All right, for us we’ll get another job, a better job.”
The campaign also recognizes that Black women and others increasingly are embracing natural hairstyles, regardless of what anyone else thinks, with sales of relaxers declining and sales of products for textured hair steadily increasing, Coffey said.
“The textured hair market is growing above the mass haircare market, and it’s been doing that for a number of years,” she said. “That was really accelerated by 2020, when everything shut down and we had to figure out how to do our own hair. And I think there are also again an explosion of products that are trying to meet the needs.”
My Black Is Beautiful’s haircare line, of course, is part of that explosion. The brand hasn’t had much brand messaging in media in recent years, said Taylor Whitelow, the Cartwright copywriter on the all-Black, all-female creative and production team behind “Unbecoming.” “So we really had a cool creative opportunity that doesn’t happen a lot to just start fresh.”
The creative team landed on the word “unbecoming” as a way to explain a journey away from stigma, stereotypes and discrimination.
“We realized what was a really interesting intersection between Black women’s experiences socially and identity-wise with experiences we have in our hair,” Whitelow said. “Unbecoming is essentially allowing Black women to step away and just be their true selves through the act of taking down their hair and confronting these expectations that were put on their hair and womanhood.”
The video was an opportunity to go beyond “something that felt like another haircare commercial,” said Chelsea Ceasor, art director at Cartwright. “I feel like we were able to weave our identity and our own personal experiences into this project, which is what made it feel so fulfilling.”
The hope is also that the brand’s new take on the word “unbecoming” will enter popular culture.
“We’re finding that everybody has an unbecoming story,” Coffey said. “We would love to have this be in the popular vernacular, because it’s everybody’s story to tell.”
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CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of the story said Cartwright created “The Look.” Keith Cartwright, founder and chief creative officer of the agency that bears his name, worked on the “The Look” as part of the organization Saturday Morning.