The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Fempowerment Fails …

Years ago I worked on the shampoo brand Sunsilk.

I know. Me.

A bald bloke.


Back then, it was in a two brand fight for dominance with Pantene.

They went back and forth trying to get one over the over.

Apparently the brands had legally agreed how each one could show the ‘shine’ of the hair they washed in TV ads. A slight deviation that allowed each one to build their own distinctive look.

Back when I was on it, albeit for 2 mins, Sunsilk was a big, mature brand.

A powerhouse.

So you can imagine my surprise when I saw this:

What in gods name is that?

What is it?

It’s like the worst Barbie ad I’ve ever seen.

An ad that claims to ‘rethink’ pink but doesn’t really rethink anything.

Oh they may think they are, but the people behind this need to know you can’t just say pink now represents possibilities, future, strength and shiny [gotta get those haircare ad cues in there, even if it makes even less sense to the premise of the ad] … you actually have to make it mean that.

It’s a commitment.

A focus.

Acts beyond advertising.

So sadly, when you make an ad so bubblegum it looks like the bastard love child of the movie, Legally Blonde and a packet of original Hubba Bubba, you’re not really going to convince anyone.

On the positive, they cop out by saying ‘pink is whatever we make it’ and so I would like to tell the people at Unilever and Sunilk they did exactly that, because they have made pink brown.

Shitty brown.

Am I being mean?


But then this is a multi-billion dollar company who has profited by putting women across Asia in cultural jail by promoting white skin as the right skin … used COVID to maximise profits for their antiseptic products and continually used stereotypes to promote it’s products … so I don’t have much sympathy for them.

Especially when they’re now trying to connect to young women by saying ‘pink’ is powerful while using all the same tropes, styles and themes that means what they’re actually communicating is ‘pink is the same old girly cliche they’ve been profiting from, for decades’.

There’s some absolutely incredibly talented people at Unilever.

Including some very good friends of mine.

There’s also some brilliant systems and processes within the organisation.

Sadly, there’s also a blinkered reliance on some questionable research methodologies, which results in a lack of self awareness so they end up with work like this.

They have done some brilliant work in the past.

Some truly brilliant.

But – in my opinion – not so much right now. Made worse with the sort of underlying messages that undermine people rather than elevate them.

If it wasn’t for their huge distribution and pricing power, it would be interesting to see what would happen to the brand.

But the thing is I want them to do well.

I want them to make work that changes and positively impacts culture.

They’re a huge spender on advertising.

They have the ability to change how culture feels and how the industry is perceived.

A Unilever that does great advertising is a Unilever that will have positive knock-on effects in a whole host of other areas and industries.

I’d even be willing to help them – for free, for a time – if their starting point was about building change through truth rather than their messed-up, manipulative version of purpose.

However given they made this ad after saying they wanted to stop the stereotypes in their advertising, it appears their view of reality is more blinkered than a racehorse.

14 Comments so far
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what the fuck have i just seen?
every fucker behind this should be arrested.

Comment by andy@cynic

Yep. And even that is being too kind to them.

Comment by Rob

That ad is a disgrace.

Comment by Mary Bryant

It’s so pathetic … and yet I bet they all think they’ve done something good. That what makes it even scarier.

Comment by Rob

Wow. Just wow. A great example of what happens when a company has a culture of corporate complicity. It really is terrible.

Comment by Pete

Has anyone involved in this abomination, have daughters?
What on earth were they thinking? How did this get made?

Comment by George

Pink is an anachronism. And this is appalling.

Comment by John

Sunsilk. For young women with long hair and a pink fetish.
But no one else. Only cliches allowed.

Comment by Bazza

That is one of the reasons the ad has made me so angry. All the women in the ad are the same. If the brand really wanted to promote independence, then they could at least show some women with different length and color of hair.

Comment by Mary Bryant

Good points, both of you.

It has nothing to do with empowering women, and everything about keeping them in the cliche that can profit Sunsilk.

Comment by Rob

There’s bandwagon jumping and there’s brands who can’t even be bothered to put in the effort to jump.

Comment by DH

Hahahaha … when a brand can make others who are bandwagon jumping look more respectful to the cause, you really have hit a low.

Comment by Rob

It’s not even good enough to be terrible.

Comment by Lee Hill

Men using woman to exploit more women.

Comment by Jemma King

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