If you're looking for a "no more tears" kind of shampoo commercial, I'd skip this nearly five-minute Chinese ad for Procter & Gamble's Rejoice from Leo Burnett Hong Kong. It's all about making viewers cry over true love … and silky, shiny hair!
Filmed in lush black and white by director David Tsui, the spot—a sensation in Asia, with this version reportedly being viewed more than 40 million times in the past month—tells the story of a young couple on the brink of divorce. The wife agrees to separate on one condition—that she and her husband share one hug a day for a month.
The first hug takes place at a rooftop lounge, high above the city, where he proposed; the second on a windswept pier where he professed his love; the third at a secluded spot where they first kissed.
We're about four hankies in by this point. Will they get back together? C'mon, dude. Thanks to Rejoice, she's got smooth, luminous hair, so stop being such a jerk!
In the end, the commercial notes that 3 million couples divorced in China last year (official statistics put the number around 3.5 million, an almost 13 percent increase over 2012), while there were about 100,000 reconciliations. The spot is part of the brand's "Smooth Heart Touching Moments" campaign, supported by the #IBelieveInLoveAgain hashtag.
Can a shampoo ad boost those reconciliation numbers? Terence Lam, P&G's hair-care marketing manager for Greater China, says: "We believe that no matter how complicated relationships can be, there's always a way to smooth things up. As a brand devoted to smoothness and love, this is a position worth taking, having a strong point of view on this cultural phenomenon."
On the one hand, the commercial is poignant and well made. Though manipulative in the extreme, it packs more emotional punch than your typical American romantic date film, and it has clearly made an impact for the brand. That said, there's something about equating hair-care products with love and relationships—let alone divorce—that doesn't sit right. It feels regressive, and perhaps even talks down to its audience. (The brand has been supportive of Chinese women, though, working with a local organization to help them start businesses.)
What bugs me most is the way the guy soulfully strokes his wife's hair with each hug. OK, this is, ultimately, a hair products commercial, and at first it seems natural. But it grows distracting and creepy. He seems to have some kind of follicle fixation. Maybe she'd be better off washing him out of her hair after all.