In China, single women over age 25 are cruelly referred to as "leftover women." They're under intense pressure from their families to get married, and they're often subjected to unthinking or hurtful judgments. Such as this: "We always thought our daughter had a great personality," one mother says in a new video spotlighting the issue. "She's just average-looking. Not too pretty. That's why she's left over."
The video, from Procter & Gamble skincare brand SK-II and creative agency Forsman & Bodenfors, features ordinary Chinese women explaining their complicated feelings about being single, from enjoying the independence to suffering from guilt over disappointing their parents. It centers on a "marriage market" in Shanghai's People's Park, where parents advertise their adult children as potential husbands and wives, with posters bearing their income, job, height and whether they own a condo or car.
In the same park, the brand helped dozens of women start changing the conversation. It set up an installation of photos of single women looking strong and happy, along with personal messages for their parents. "Even if I am alone, I will be happy, confident and have a good life," one of them says.
The campaign, spreading quickly on Chinese social media, is part of SK-II's ongoing global #changedestiny campaign. At Ad Age's Digital Conference on Wednesday in New York, P&G's Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard mentioned it as an example of the company's creative efforts to empower and support women and girls, along with Always' "Like a Girl" and Pantene videos showing dads helping small daughters with their hairdos, sometimes ineptly but always with love.
One interesting thing is that the campaign, despite all its local insights, came from an agency without a permanent presence in China. P&G tapped the Swedish creative agency that created the much-awarded "Epic Split" campaign of 2013 for Volvo Trucks, looking for an idea that would stand out in the crowded skincare category in China.
The team spent weeks in China interviewing women on many topics, quickly realizing how many emotions surround being single in China.
"When we talked to all these women, they explained that they had happy lives -- they talked about their independence and how happy they were about their situation," said Susanna Fagring, client director for the agency. "They are not 'leftovers,' they are strong women we should celebrate, we felt that was very inspiring."
The researchers found that Chinese women and Western women were more similar than not, although one difference that comes through in the film is in how adult children in China feel about their parents.
"That was the really strong insight ï¿½ï¿½" (Chinese women) are dreaming of so many things, they are independent and strong, but they're also very careful about how they speak to their parents because they respect them and love them so much," Ms. Fagring said. "We believe we created a platform for them to talk about the subject, to open up the discussion."