Barbara Lippert’s: Critique – Beauty Spots

These commercials portray two powerful, kick-ass women who are in control of their lives and get what they want due to their:
a) Talents as golf champions
b) Devoted pets
c) MBAs and pilot licenses
d) Great hair
If you answered d, great hair, it’s a good one, as Regis Philbin says.
This Finesse campaign is fresh and breakthrough for the mass-market shampoo category. It features contemporary-looking actors in natural, intimate, everyday situations with edgy dialogue. Best of all, there’s nary a toss of a freshly- washed-shiny-thick-healthy head of hair in the entire campaign.
That said (“Sometimes you need a little Finesse, sometimes you need a lot”), I give it points for being memorable, but in an annoying way.
First, and I realize this is an irrational reason to dislike any commercial, the spot called “Personal Shopper” caused my young son, in a moment of sudden bonding, to ask me about tampons. Like I needed this while watching a shampoo ad. I’m still stumped about how to explain “freshness.”
But what really bothers me about the Finesse spots is the idea that these women are truly cool chicks, nothing like the desperate-to-please hair flingers of yore. Yet what we have here is merely the same, age-old manipulation in reverse.
The “Shopper” spot opens with a woman at the wheel of her groovy vintage Mustang convertible, pulling into a small shopping center, her tousled-haired, one-day bearded boyfriend beside her in the bucket seat. (The giant Lever’s sign in the background is about as subtle as the fact that she’s in the driver’s seat.)
She tosses her tousled one a list of things to pick up at the Drug Center Pharmacy.
“Thanks, honey,” she says, and turns to her morning paper. He compliantly hops out, starts reading the list aloud, but hits a wall when he gets to tampons. There are certain things too emasculating to buy, after all.
But it’s here that hair, that ultimate fetish of love, saves the day. He’s about to put his foot down when he takes a gander at her hair. “It’s pretty amazing what guys will do for the touchable beauty of Finesse,” the female voiceover announces.
Here’s the rub. “Touchable beauty of Finesse?” That phrase reeks of Breck girl. Everything’s okay because her hair has touchable beauty? I lost my copy of The Rules, but if I had it, I could look up how many dates a gal should wait before letting him actually touch one’s beauty. We might be saving it for marriage.
Fired up at the prospect of that future touch, he goes back to his taskmistress, only to inquire “regular or super?” And he comes out of the store with a cargo load of boxes.
In “Directions,” another downtown couple is shown driving. He’s at the wheel of a Volvo, in the middle of a fight because they are lost. But again, the thought of that “touchable beauty” allows him to make the ultimate sacrifice–he stops and asks for directions!
In this case, he goes into a gas station, where the attendant is eating a giant sandwich. When the boyfriend admits he needs help, the attendant gives him a look of immense derision, as if to say, “Man, are you whipped!” He comes out with an actual map. “Apparently, these things tell you where to go,” he jokes.
My problem is the having-it-both- ways angle. If we are modern, we don’t believe in the clichƒs of men who are embarrassed by tampons. And we certainly don’t believe in the Pavlovian response Finesse summons. Is pandering to women about what they dislike in men any better than the old toss of the hair?
Finesse Unlever HPC, USA
Agency: DDB Worldwide Chicago
Copywriters: Jeanne Shields Ken Erke
Art Director: Becky Cohen
Producer: Karim Bartoletti
Director: Nicholas Barke