Going to beautiful lengths

Knowing how devastating hair loss can be for women undergoing chemotherapy, Procter & Gamble Canada partnered with the Canadian Cancer Society to support these women during the fight of their lives. Building on the success of an American program, P&G used Pantene, the number-one hair care brand in Canada, to help cancer patients regain some of their dignity and self-esteem.

Knowing how devastating hair loss can be for women undergoing chemotherapy, Procter & Gamble Canada partnered with the Canadian Cancer Society to support these women during the fight of their lives. Building on the success of an American program, P&G used Pantene, the number-one hair care brand in Canada, to help cancer patients regain some of their dignity and self-esteem.

Inspiration

According to the Canadian Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute of Canada, an estimated 77,200 Canadian women will be diagnosed with cancer in 2007, and one in three will develop some form of cancer in her lifetime. U.S. figures show that 58% of women consider hair loss to be the worst side effect of chemotherapy, and 8% are at risk of avoiding potentially life-saving treatment because of their fear of losing their hair.

After seeing these numbers, the Pantene team knew they had an opportunity to help. Since wigs made of real hair can be expensive, Pantene Beautiful Lengths was born. The initiative enables women to contribute to the solution by donating their ponytails and help make wigs more accessible to those who need them.

Execution and marketing efforts

Pantene Beautiful Lengths kicked off in Canada in October 2007 with a $100,000 donation to the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS). Winning the CCS’s support and partnership was a great indicator of the value the society saw in the program. Media partners included Cineplex, CanWest, Sun Media and Metro.

Hilary Swank was asked to be the North American spokesperson and lead the campaign by inspiring women everywhere to donate their hair to the cause. To get the ball rolling, the actress cut her own ponytail off live on Oprah on Nov. 2.

A print ad by Grey NYC featuring Swank and asking women to consider donating their hair ran in beauty and fashion mags and national papers, as well as Metro, 24 Hours and Reader’s Digest.

To drive broad-scale awareness, P&G aired a 45-second TV commercial called ‘Dolls,’ in which a little girl cuts off her dolls’ hair to give to her mother, who has lost her own due to cancer treatments. The spot ends by inviting viewers to go online for information on how to donate their ponytails. Created by Grey NYC, ‘Dolls’ ran on traditional and specialty TV stations, and also aired on Cineplex screens and in thousands of doctors’ offices across the country.

At retail, from October to December, 2,000 Pantene displays featured the program message – more than any other Pantene initiative in the past year. Shoppers Drug Mart created a program in which consumers received extra Optimum points for purchasing Pantene products and then donated the points to charity. Wal-Mart showed ‘Dolls’ in-store on its shelf screens and distributed information about the program to shoppers.

An extensive PR campaign by Manning Selvage & Lee for magazines and dailies was exceedingly well-received. Juliette Lie of Flare donated her hair as part of an article that ran in the magazine. An internal launch at P&G that saw 16 employees make the cut amid tears and cheers was covered by media including the Toronto Sun, CBC News and CityTV.

To tie it all together, P&G launched pantenebeautifullengths.ca, a site made by Bam Strategy containing information as well as a community where hair donors could interact. Visitors could learn where the hair goes and how the wigs are created, as well as more about the charity and media partners. A downloadable donation kit contained instructions for cutting and sending in ponytails, as well as tips on growing and caring for long hair, and how to style a new, shorter hairdo.

After cutting their hair, donors could submit their stories or upload pictures to the Million Inch Chain, a virtual chain of donors’ photos, with the goal of reaching a million inches of hair. They could also download an information kit on how to host ‘cutting parties,’ where groups got together to cut their hair.

Those who couldn’t donate their hair could make a donation online, or spread the word about the initiative by putting a banner on their blog or forwarding the ‘Dolls’ ad to friends.

All funds donated went directly to the CCS for use in wig distribution or cancer research and prevention programs.

Results

P&G surpassed its first-year goal of 1,000 ponytails within three months, receiving over 1,300 ponytails in Canada. Across North America, that number has reached over 25,000, creating more wigs in a year than other charities do in 10.

The Canadian Cancer Society credits the program with not only creating wigs for women in need, but also raising overall awareness of cancer and cancer prevention.

The program received a tremendous outpouring of support from agency and media partners, who donated $1.5 million in services and media space, including the creation of the website, and space in newspapers and theatres. Further, P&G quadrupled its original goal of 10 million PR impressions.

The most amazing support, however, was at the grassroots level. Women set up cutting parties at schools, hair salons, women’s organizations, etc. People talked about the program in their blogs, emails and Facebook groups in a flood of support. Consumers felt more affinity for the TV spot than for any other P&G commercial ever created.

P&G’s biggest initiative from July to December 2007, the program was also key in driving a share growth of 0.7%, from 15.2% to 15.7%, during the period the program was executed.

Not surprisingly, pride in the program has been great for internal morale, and Beautiful Lengths has become a key part of the Pantene brand.

Judges’ quotes

‘Pantene stood out because of the wonderful fit with its brand DNA. Hair care is about self-esteem, but also vanity. That’s OK. But when a brand steps up to the plate with ideas like collecting hair for cancer patients, the brand gets vaulted to a higher plane. Will this cause have legs? Sadly, yes. But maybe some day it can celebrate having helped to eliminate the root of the problem.’ – Philippe Garneau, GWP Brand Engineering

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