Secret Makes a Point About Equal Pay in Ads About Staying Fresh

Campaign From W&K Takes a Feminist Slant

Published On
Apr 11, 2016

Editor's Pick

Secret deodorant makes a pertinent point about women and equal pay in an ad that also has a strong product message, part of a new campaign from Wieden & Kennedy. The Procter & Gamble-owned brand awarded W&K its business last August.

The campaign promotes the fact that Secret is "stress-tested for women" and depicts stressful situations --- the first of which is a young woman asking her boss for a raise. After she agonizes in solitude over what she's going to say before the mirror in the ladies room, she gets a surprise pep talk from an older female colleague who unbeknownst to her, had been in a stall listening to her the whole time. An on-screen caption informs the viewer: "At 3 o'clock, Lucy does her part to close the wage gap."

Another ad shows a woman sending a text message to say "I love you" and waiting in suspense for the response as she sees the recipient typing away. "Say it first even if the response might ruin your life," says the caption. The spots were directed by Irish director Aoife McArdle of Somesuch/Anonymous Content. She's also shot major ads for Honda and Samsung and the short film for U2's "Every Breaking Wave."

"The team approached this campaign thinking about what it means to be a young woman right now," said W&K Portland CD Justine Armour. "What are women still not really 'allowed' to do? What are the barriers they're still up against? What roles and situations still make them feel uncomfortable? These are the areas where they're really feeling the stress, and where Secret is going to step up for them in a way that other deodorants can't."

The ads promote Secret's "Clinical Strength" formula, and hinge on the insight that stress actually leads to a particular, harder-to-fight type of perspiration. "Secret was the first antiperspirant brand made specifically for a woman's needs," said Janine Miletic, brand director, North America Deodorants at P&G. "We developed product technology designed specifically to fight stress sweat, which is more unpredictable and worse-smelling than normal sweat."

The campaign seems to make the point that the scenarios featured in the ads are both potentially stressful situations for women, because they're fighting against both culture and tradition, but that they are important to be able to do, for the sisterhood as much as for yourself. At the same time, the "stress test" theme ties into the product message more closely, perhaps, than that of a campaign like Always' #LikeaGirl, another P&G brand that's won plaudits for flying the flag for gender equality, or P&G haircare brand Pantene, which took a look recently at why women are always apologizing.

"Secret has a 60-year history of bringing to life women's evolving role in society through its advertising," said Ms. Miletic. "The brand's latest campaign continues to show how women are pushing the boundaries and redefining their role in society. We understand the stress that comes with challenging cultural norms and are committed to providing women with high quality products that can stand up to today's stressors -- big and small."