So, basically, the women who use Secret deodorant are self-involved and narcissistic. That’s the message I get from the current P&G’s campaign—a blatant knock off of the amazing project. Having seen posts and the attendant comments on both Coolz0r and rm116, I know that they do a great job of raising their respective issues with this problematic campaign. Here are mine:

I read Secret’s secrets and think, “Huh?” The Secret campaign is particularly problematic if you’re familiar with Postsecret. Given that context, rather than celebrating “50 years of strong women,” it presents Secret’s target consumer as vapid or, worse, infantile.

Some copy:

My fiancé thinks I’m 8 years younger than I really am.

My “famous pecan pie” is store bought.

Sometimes, when I’m in public, I call my office on my cell phone just so people will know that I have a job.

The real question is, Who cares?

The important thing to remember, marketers, is that the big idea isn’t so big (or great) if it doesn’t work in the larger cultural context. I’m a firm believer in Doug Holt’s premise that somebody on your team has to be able to tell you when something isn’t authentic. Authenticity is about the way things feel, and many marketers (on both the agency and client sides) are so disconnected from all but a narrow range of experiences, that having their own sense of how something should feel is a tall order indeed. But this is a critical skill, if you’re going to counsel multi-billion dollar brands on how to be relevant in today’s marketplace Engagement isn’t just about interactivity, it’s about creating an emotional bond with the audience, and authenticity helps that bond develop mightily.

To be fair, I understand why P&G couldn’t wholeheartedly embrace Postsecret, since some of the anonymous secrets it receives deal with abuse, depression and suicide. Not exactly the brand positioning Secret’s trying to stake out.

But highlighting largely inconsequential secrets on the out-of-home and in Oprah-like moments between women on video isn’t the way to go either. What we see is that the women are ultimately nacissists. As a result, we the reader/viewer are excluded, which means we feel no connection to the women, nor do we care about the secrets they reveal. I’ll grant you that the dynamic is very much altered once you go from seeing a postcard and message that someone created anonymously to seeing women talking to each other. But–if the goal is to get women to step up to the challenge posed by “Are your strong enough to share your secret?”–somewhere there’s got to be a fertile middle ground between what Secret has now and what Postsecret is.

I guess the real challenge here is to not only not only show that you’ve come a long way, baby, but to develop a campaign for women that has balls.


A short interview with Frank Warren, the creator of the Postsecret project is here.

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