Sorry NOT Sorry: Pantene’s Newest Ad Unapologetically Challenges Gender Norms

As a woman—and really, just a human being in general—I cringe at the sound of the prolific phrase spewing from the sassy mouths of my female counterparts: “sorry NOT sorry.”

I’ll admit it; I’ve definitely said it more times than I’m proud of. But now that the walls of my college campus no longer act as a personal sound barrier, I’ve removed that catchy expression from my repertoire. So, it’s safe to say that I was surprised that a brand—and a popular one at that—chose to resurrect this colloquialism as the centerpiece of its new ad.

However, as you’ll see in the “Not Sorry” spot from Grey New York, Pantene transforms the overused saying into a fresh, and revolutionary, message.

Clearly, Pantene is not shying away from confrontation as it holds a mirror up to society in an attempt to dispel traditional gender roles. The result? A brand that is a reflection of the very image it is encouraging women to be: confident, authoritative, and unapologetic.

While the approach that Pantene takes with this ad may be a bit unexpected, the overarching theme is not. Procter & Gamble is taking advantage of the positioning of its successful beauty brand to demonstrate to consumers that it’s not just a global company; it’s a global company that cares. It’s also a company that knows how to produce spots that spread like wildfire; the first video for the Shine Strong campaign, “Labels Against Women,” went viral in December—in a 46 million views on YouTube kind of way.

But how can Pantene be confident that the virality of its content isn’t just some fluke? Even though the “Not Sorry” spot was released just a few hours ago, Kevin Crociata, marketing director of P&G’s North American hair care business, is optimistic that the sequel will be as big of a hit as its predecessor:

“We’ve struck a chord in terms of changing gender norms for women. We used market research to look at what gender norms were holding women back and tried to tap into the most relevant and insightful areas. This problem of saying sorry, it wasn’t just something women in the U.S. were facing, but globally. After the success of the first campaign, ‘Shine Strong’ is something we’re committed to as a brand.”

When it comes down to it, Pantene has set itself up for another viral sensation because of one quintessential element: it hits close to home, almost a little too close. But it’s this realness of the ad—of both ads—that is alarmingly beautiful.

The spot raises an interesting question: “Why are women always apologizing?” So, in the spirit of Pantene, I’m going to have a little more conviction, starting now: watch the ad, you won’t be sorry.

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