The new campaign questions why fresh graduates in Japan are forced to adhere to a strict dress code while job-hunting.
“Pantene is promoting this advertising campaign to help as many people as possible be active in their own fields… by listening to what job-hunting students have to say and sending our message to them,” said Yoshiaki Okura, Brand Manager of Pantene Japan.
In Japanese corporate culture, the average salary man and woman are bound by strict standards in dress codes. Women in particular are expected to standardise their outfits and pull back their long hair into a neat ponytail.
“They typically adjust their skirts to be of the same length as those of other students, put their hair together in a ponytail and pull their hair tightly back in accordance with the custom of valuing uniformity,” explained Pantene. “They try to look similar as other applicants and suppress their individuality.”
In fear of standing out inappropriately, Japanese people tend to conform to these rules, a customary practice that is deeply rooted in their culture, said Pantene.
With the campaign, Pantene Japan “is determined to support women's aspirations to be active in society by helping make their hair beautiful,” said the company.
The campaign concept was conceived after Proctor & Gamble (P&G), parent company of Pantene, conducted a survey of 1,000 Japanese university students and found that many faced immense pressure to conform to conservative corporate standards.
The result found that 81% felt they had to oppress their identities for the sake of interviews, and 70% expressed dissatisfaction with the way they were supposed to be dressed.
Pantene said that many of its respondents felt compelled to hide the natural beauty of their hair during job interviews. However, when Pantene surveyed companies, they agreed that prospective employees should be allowed to show their individuality through their dressing and appearance.
To help Japanese employees and employers come closer to an understanding, Pantene Japan centred the campaign around encouraging and inspiring young women to be confident in who they are in the face of pressure to conform.
Pantene ignited debate by running advertisements on newspapers, on board trains and along walls in the train stations. Additionally, the company uploaded a video version on YouTube which has since garnered more than 800,000 views.
The ads featured some of the comments from the university students that took part in the survey.
According to Japan Today, some of the remarks were: “I wanted to get the job so I wore a ponytail even though the style didn’t suit me”, “I have a complex about my round face so I don’t like ponytails but I felt pressured to follow the recommended hairstyle”, and “This mass-produced hairdo makes me feel like there’s no me”.
Okura added, “Pantene hopes to help create a society in which both students and companies can work toward their goals while allowing students to show what they really are with confidence, including their clothes and hairstyles."
Pantene has previously celebrated African-American beauty and diversity with the “Strong is Beautiful” campaign starring Pantene Brand Ambassador, Jillian Hervey.