Algorithms are a good base but it takes a one-off creative to break on through

How long would it have taken an algorithm to come up with Procter & Gamble’s brilliant #likeagirl campaign for the Always feminine products brand?

Ruth Mortimer 654 400

The US video ad shows adults showing off their negative portrayals of running, throwing or fighting ‘like a girl’ – think of people jerking like crazed spiders. Then young girls run, throw and fight without negativity, but with speed and power.

The ad has had around 30 million views on YouTube and asks the valid question: when did doing something ‘like a girl’ become an insult? The campaign is a brilliant creative idea (read more about it here). It’s also interesting because P&G has stated that it aims to buy 70 to 75 per cent of all digital media in the US programmatically by the end of 2014 – but this ad and its media placement is about deep human understanding, not just algorithms.

I was thinking about this while reading Ashley Friedlein’s column. He talks of creating marketing-as-a-service (Maas), where “what becomes most valuable is less the specific creative execution and more the underlying models, frameworks and algorithms”.

It’s a fascinating idea – how technology can help marketers create personalisation by having elements that “assemble on demand”. It would create a world where marketing becomes better targeted, more relevant and probably cheaper to produce.

But is that a good thing? Not necessarily. Creating personalised, targeted marketing is great but will it be the work that goes beyond the product and becomes part of culture? This one ad has probably made Always more relevant than a million coupon offers. 

The P&G #likeagirl campaign perfectly fits the zeitgeist, where there are questions being asked about how women are portrayed in both marketing and society.

It’s 10 years since Dove’s groundbreaking Campaign for Real Beauty and how women are portrayed in marketing is more high profile than ever. Think about the recent lobbying campaigns: No More Page Three, the Everyday Sexism project, which records instances of casual sexism that women face every day, and Let Toys Be Toys, which campaigns for retailers to stop segregating toys into being “for boys” or “for girls”.

Always is not the only example of P&G getting creative in this area. Last month, it partnered with subscription sanitary service HelloFlo on a hilarious extended video called First Moon Party (25 million views). Watch it – it’s genuinely funny and a bit rude.

Maas is set to become prevalent and it’s a good thing, but only if marketers have the desire and ability to look beyond algorithms and create something that can push boundaries.