Why Pantene Launched the 'Not Sorry' Video

The brand sparked a viral social moment -- but what's it got to do with shampoo?

ByABC News
June 20, 2014, 2:37 PM

— -- It’s not every day a hair care brand runs a commercial without one mention of, well ... hair care.

In an effort to get women to stop over-apologizing, Pantene did just that. It's viral ad campaign has sparked an active social conversation about women’s issues -- but not about shampoo.

That’s intentional, Cheri McMaster, a communications manager for Procter & Gamble, which owns Pantene, told ABC News.

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“We don’t want to say, 'Use this in your hair: It will help you overcome barriers,' because that’s not true,” McMaster said. “It’s a lot more subtle. We know as a brand, and as women, that when your hair looks amazing you do walk a little taller, you have more confidence. But when you say it aloud and you put it in a piece of copy, it sounds ridiculous.”

Pantene’s “Not Sorry” video shows women apologizing in situations where there’s no need to be sorry -- for asking a question or scooting over in a conference room. There’s no mention of shampoo, but it’s hard not to notice all the women do have great hair.

The clip has been viewed more than 1 million times on YouTube in two days, proof it’s going to be as much of a hit as another viral video from the brand, “Labels Against Women,” which juxtaposed words used to describe men such as “boss” and “persuasive,” with words used to describe women in similar positions, such as “bossy” and “pushy.” That video has gotten more than 46 million views on YouTube.

“To be honest, it was a lot more popular than we thought it would be,” McMaster said.

Now it’s the brand’s shtick: supporting women’s issues.

Dove has launched similar campaigns focusing on real women’s bodies, and even Patagonia snubbed traditional advertising rules with last year’s “Don’t Buy This Jacket” campaign, which urged shoppers to focus on sustainability instead of shopping.

But what do brands get out of ads that don’t actually advertise their products?

Nothing, according to one branding expert.

“People will say, ‘I agree with you, Pantene: Women should stop apologizing,’” Rob Frankel said. “But now what? How does that link to women buying shampoo? And that’s when it all comes breaking down.”

Frankel argues companies should focus on the bottom line: selling products.

But brands like Pantene appear to be thinking about the bigger picture. It’s all about creating a conversation with customers, McMaster said.

“This gets us that priceless, two-way conversation with our target audience,” she said. “They’re spending more time with us. They’re talking to us on our channels -- Twitter, Facebook, YouTube.”

If sparking conversation is the goal, it’s working. Women have been quick to praise the video on social media and Sheryl Sandberg even showed it at a conference in Cannes this week.

“It’s absolutely beneficial when brands are part of a big, buzzy, high-awareness campaign like this because you are on people’s minds,” McMaster said. “You’re talking to your friends about the video and the name Pantene is said aloud, and all of those positives are associated with your brand.”