Katie Couric’s Emotional Series for SK-II Weighs Women’s Dreams Against Expectations

Stories reflect on the pressures they face to hit milestones

Portraits of women from two different families in SK-II Timelines video series about women expectations and aging
Two of the groups featured in SK-II's Timelines series.
SK-II

SK-II and Katie Couric will leave consumers grabbing for the tissues thanks to its #ChangeDestiny campaign about young women achieving their hopes while fighting against traditional expectations.

On Thursday, SK-II, the Japanese luxury skincare brand owned by Procter & Gamble, released a new series of four documentary-style short films called Timelines with agency Forsman & Bodenfors Singapore and Sweden. Katie Couric hosts, with each short film spotlighting a young woman as well as a loved one in her life: mothers, friends and grandmothers.

In the videos, the women talk about personal goals like pursuing further education and cultivating mindfulness, while their family members and friends share their expectations for them—which primarily include marriage and children.

Timelines is part of SK-II’s ongoing #ChangeDestiny campaign challenging the expectations women face in society, whether it’s getting married, hitting certain milestones by certain ages, generational differences between daughters and their parents and grandparents, or feeling “expired” after a certain age or period in life.

The campaign has been going on for over a half decade, and Sandeep Seth, SK-II’s global CEO, said it was born from the brand’s desire to use its platform to speak to something bigger than simply touting its products. (Though its marketing showcases plenty of that as well.)

“We said, ‘Instead of putting all the money into just talking product benefits, let’s talk about what’s meaningful and give back to the society in that sense,'” said Seth. “This became the core communication platform for us.”

Couric, a longtime P&G partner, told Adweek she connected with the message behind the series. “This idea of changing destiny and liberating women to create their own timelines and to live the kind of life they want to live away from societal pressures was something that resonated deeply with me,” Couric said. “It’s something that I’ve done my entire life.”

More than that, working on a documentary-style piece of branded content was a particularly good fit for the former Today show anchor who now runs her own production company, Katie Couric Media.

“[With] my company, what I’m doing now is really collaborating with purpose-driven brands but also maintaining journalistic integrity,” she said. “I don’t do commercials, but I like storytelling and creating content that reflects the values and the goals of a brand.”

Short documentary films made sense for the brand as well. Seth said portraying reality is a priority for SK-II. “We don’t want to start scripting and creating stories,” he said. “We want to bring to life real stories of real women.”

Each episode features a different woman from one of SK-II’s primary markets: Japan, South Korea, China and New York. After each woman discusses her feelings about her life and the expectations she faces with her loved one, they walk along two paths meant to represent the potential “timelines” these women could take—one designed by the dreams and hopes the women have for themselves, the other what their friend or family member wants for them.

These timelines take physical shape in the form of television sets set along neon light paths—fittingly, the one the women create for themselves is a winding line, while the one done by their loved one is a straight line. On the timelines created by the friend or family member, the TVs flash words like “stability,” “May wedding,” “cute babies,” and “not getting hurt.” For the women themselves, they read phrases that represent goals like putting on a “solo exhibition,” doing “meaningful work” and making free choices.

The hope is that seeing these timelines laid out in front of them will help these women’s friends and family to understand where they’re coming from—and it works. Each spot ends with tears (of happiness), a tender hug and words of support.

All four episodes of Timelines are currently available on SK-II’s YouTube channel.