Best in Show: Pantene Goes to Beautiful Lengths for Cancer Patients
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Best in Show: Pantene Goes to Beautiful Lengths for Cancer Patients

The Pantene Beautiful Lengths campaign was an example of holistic brand building led by the PR function, built around a cause-related marketing idea that involved consumers by asking them to make “the kindest cut of all” on behalf of cancer victims.

Paul Holmes

In 2004, Procter & Gamble’s Pantene was the mass market hair care leader, generating over a billion North American media impressions annually and dominating the category’s editorial share of voice. The question facing the brand’s public relations team was where the product could go from there. Could the power of PR be used to propel Pantene beyond its category leadership into a place of cultural prominence, emotionally engaging its female consumers while staying true to the Pantene promise of “beauty transformed through health?”

The Pantene Beautiful Lengths campaign was an example of holistic brand building led by the PR function, built around a cause-related marketing idea that involved consumers by asking them to make “the kindest cut of all” on behalf of cancer victims.

The program had three objectives: to invent a new paradigm in cause-related marketing; to elevate perceptions of the Pantene brand beyond the simply functionally superior to inspiring and inclusive; and to illuminate the transformative power of beautiful hair.

Pantene agency DeVries Public Relations extensively researched the cause marketing landscape to identify a unique space that would link directly to the brand’s core equity.  Recent studies revealed that one in three women will be diagnosed with cancer over their lifetime, and that 58 percent of women consider hair loss to be the worst side effect of chemotherapy. In fact, 8 percent of these women will potentially avoid life-saving treatment altogether due to the fear of hair loss fear.

The firm recognized a unique opportunity to donate real-hair wigs to adult, female chemotherapy patients and set out to forge a series of partnerships with actress Diane Lane, who became the campaign spokesperson; the non-profit Entertainment Industry Foundation; HairUWear, the global leader in the wig industry, to create wigs from the donated hair; and the American Cancer Society, which served as the distribution channel for the finished product.

These partnerships helped Pantene achieve differentiation from other philanthropic efforts; credibility for the media launch; and long-term sustainable infrastructure.

The public relations team helped ensure alignment among all partner marketing agencies, and led a soft-launch phase to test-drive consumer engagement mechanisms and acquire learnings. PR led message development for all consumer touch points, including the PSA tagline, website copy, hair donation kits, toll-free telephone hotline script (utilizing Diane Lane’s voice), and more. During development of print and TV PSA creative, DeVries capitalized on events such as the Diane Lane print PSA photo shoot as media opportunities to seed awareness of official launch timing.

The team encouraged national coverage at launch by reaching out to high-profile long- and short-lead media and influencers utilizing a variety tools, including stylized delivery of scissors, one-on-one visits with Pantene celebrity stylist Danilo (who donated his time to the campaign), b-roll and stills from the print PSA shoot and influencer communiqués.

The campaign was launching in July with an appearance by Diane Lane on NBC’s Today, during which she had her own haircut, followed by an appearance on the View and a subsequent series of exclusive national print interviews. Launch coverage was complemented with a series of controlled media vehicles (b-roll, satellite media tour, radio media tour and radio news release) to drive branded reach.

The PR team also recruited 50 individuals (one from each state) to cut and donate their hair and volunteer as “hometown ambassadors” for the cause. The team leveraged ambassadors in a nationally coordinated wave of local market media outreach on launch day, as well as ongoing outreach. (Ambassadors  were provided with “toolkits” including blogging tips, cutting party ideas, suggestions to stage co-branded local events, to help them make unique grassroots connections.)

The firm cultivated hair cutting events bringing together local organizations, salon professionals and individuals in local markets such as Cincinnati, Boston, Little Rock, Minneapolis and Providence, and  also equipped ambassadors with branded t-shirts and 8-inch ruler-style bookmarks with campaign information, to maximize impact.

The team provided all copy for the campaign website,, designed to be the online heart of the campaign and an information and donation resource. The website also offers the TV PSA as a viral pass along e-mail option for visitors. And DeVries augmented the campaign’s official online presence by reaching out to more than 100 online communities and blogs supportive of cause related initiatives, including, MySpace, WebMD, and Facebook.

The TV PSA was also posted on online video sites including YouTube, Yahoo! Video and Google Video.

And through EIF, the team secured extensive pro-bono space in national publications such as In Style, Time, TV Guide, O (The Oprah Magazine), and Entertainment Weekly for the Diane Lane print PSA, providing millions of dollars in ad equivalency and a cost-effective, consistent campaign message tool that complements editorial presence in target books.

Media and consumers alike have embraced the campaign, in the case of US Weekly, Ellen, The View, and Access Hollywood, providing multiple hits. From Diane Lane’s kick-off cut on Today to blogs announcing “I’m Dating a Hometown Ambassador” to the 190 million print PSA impressions, the campaign tactics created a groundswell of attention.

The campaign has generated more than 678 million media impressions (PSA:  200 million, editorial: 478 million) and 3,021 placements (PSA: 23, editorial: 2998) to date. More than 98 percent of these placements were branded.

During the first 48 hours of the campaign, 82 broadcast segments ran along with 12 local and national newspaper placements, including Associated Press pickup, garnering 21 million impressions.  In addition, regional placements were garnered in more than 26 states. The PR team also secured feature coverage in national broadcast outlets including NBC’s Today show, The View, Ellen, Access Hollywood and E! News

Hometown ambassador outreach has far exceeded expectations with 95 percent of represented states securing local coverage, 95 percent of which was branded. In total, 64 broadcast segments have aired in local markets featuring hometown ambassadors cutting and donating their hair as well as delivering key messages and calls to action

Newspaper impressions have surpassed 11 million with placements in major markets including New York, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Miami. Coverage has also included high profile print outlets such as Family Circle, InStyle, Elle, Fitness, Glamour, Marie Claire, Shape and Redbook. Online coverage has appeared on more than 200 websites including WebMD, and

All of that coverage has generated more than 134,000 visits to the campaign websites, including 23,000 uses of the site’s tell-a-friend mechanism; more than 115 blog postings to date, with approximately 575 responses and more than 95 percent of those postings referencing Pantene positively; and more than 35,000 donation kit requests.

As a result, more than 6,300 ponytails have been donated so far, hundreds of them returned with stories and photos expressing how relevant and resonant the campaign is.

In an address at the annual conference (10/6/06) of the Association of National Advertisers, P&G chairman, president and CEO A.G. Lafley cited the Pantene Beautiful Lengths campaign as a perfect example of the emerging trend of consumer-controlled marketing experiences.

The program is also attracting support from national retail chains, one national textbook publisher has already requested rights to reproduce the campaign’s print PSA as part of a case study, and there have been spontaneous requests from service organizations (including Jewish Community Centers), schools and like-minded corporations (such as Marriott) to make the program their own.

The campaign also has had a significant (confidential) impact on sales.

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