In January 2015 #ThisGirlCan dropped. The campaign for Sport England features real women. OK ‘real women’ is a fairly overused phrase in anything to do with body image, but when we say real here, we mean they’re actually real.
'This Girl Can celebrates the active women everywhere who are doing their thing no matter how they do it, how they look or even how sweaty they get.'
Team New Blood met the team behind it – Copywriter Simon Cenamor, Art Director Ray Chan and Strategist Nicola Willison from agency FCB Inferno – to quiz them about the process and how they arrived at the all-important insight that's causing such a buzz.
First things first. What was the brief?
Nicola: Sport England had identified that there was a big gender gap with women exercising. In Europe we rank 3rd for male participation, but 19th for female. Sweden have both genders in the top 5, so it is possible to bring the gap much closer.
In a nutshell; our task was to get more women aged 14-40 exercising regularly (they define that as 1 session of 30 min exercise per week).
Tell us a bit about the research process. How did you get to grips with the target audience and identify the insight?
Nicola: Sport England had a lot of research. Lots and lots of research. 6 years worth. They had so much for us to read through, which was fantastic. Reading through all of the research we initially went down various avenues that were quite obvious. So we were genuinely looking for women to tell us what they thought about what we were doing, whether it was right or wrong. Not only to make sure that the creative was on the right line but that the insight was right.
Trying to find the unifying barrier was quite tricky because it changes depending on where you live, what your circumstances are, your age. It wasn’t just, teenagers feel this way, this is the barrier for them. It was really really mixed. And you can have a couple of barriers going on at the same time. It was only when we took a step back we realised that actually the thing that really did unify was the fear of judgement. Whether that was a fear from P. E. 14 years ago or a fear from last week when someone looked at you in the gym a bit funny. Once we realised that, we all knew it was right. We felt it.
It’s not very often in focus groups you get someone give a very gut reaction and get excited about something. Normally it’s quite difficult for people to get their heads around a board showing a concept. With the initial TV ad concept they were leaning forward and saying 'oh I love that line', 'yeah I want to be that person', and 'that’s so me'. That's the first time I’ve done qual research and had that. It was nice to get the same reaction pretty much everywhere, which was a massive turning point.
What's the importance of working with real people and not just people as data on paper?
Nicola: You can get so much out of desk research but going out and talking to people is so much better. It adds a whole other layer. You can’t pick up on the little things in facts. We couldn’t have written what our audience were saying to us. One girl actually said, 'Oh if everyone else here feels judged then who’s actually doing the judging?’. You don’t get those insights unless you’re talking to someone.
Starting conversations allowed us to learn a lot and enabled us to test and learn what was right and what was wrong. You can also tell by the way people react and their body language if they are engaged in something or not. The client didn’t just want to know how many of a focus group liked it, they wanted to know the semantics of it, what words they were using, how they expressed they liked it. They didn’t want their research just regurgitated back to them.
So. This campaign is for 'girls'. It's called This GIRL Can. And you guys are, well, guys. You must have found it a big challenge?
Simon: At first it was a little bit tricky. But in the same way that it’s a little bit tricky to work on something for pensioners. Or anything else that you’re not the target audience for. To begin with you have to get into it and get a feel for the right way of doing things or the right way of saying things, but it’s like that on anything you work on.
I think when it came to the film in particular, working with Kim, the director, really helped. Kim would come in and be like, 'I want to get right in there on the bums!'. I felt that maybe if it was a guy directing it certain things might have felt a bit sexualised so there was a certain sensitivity that came from Kim doing it. But it was never a case of it having to be a woman director, a woman photographer and an all woman team. It was about having the right people.
Ray: I never really thought about it. I think listening to what the research and the women were saying was pretty key to help us empathise.
The campaign is all real stories and real people. Did the campaign lead the casting process or did the casting lead the campaign?
Simon: Early on we spent too much time trying to visualise and highlight the barriers, but then we realised that we needed to be focusing on the people that were overcoming these barriers, and turn it around to be positive. We had a few ideas and we knew we wanted a spread of women but it wasn’t until we just went out and started street casting that it all really came together. Our Casting Director stood outside leisure centres and chased women through the park.
When we met the women, we realised how this was actually real. This wasn’t reading research on paper any more, they had real stories so we wanted to give them the space they deserved. It was never a box ticking exercise, we just wanted women who embodied the spirit of the campaign. And that’s who’s in it.
The copy of this campaign is pretty powerful. Where did it come from?
Simon: We knew that we wanted to do this version of 'mantras'. It started off as these repeated mantras, like if you were out running and you’re thinking ‘I’m a gazelle. I’m a gazelle.’ We were thinking about them as a way of demonstrating with a line which barrier these women are smashing through or overcoming when they’re out there doing it. We imagined them to be almost like t-shirt slogans. We had a few, but then a lot of them were written based on the castings. So for example the young boxer girl, Skyla, came in with fake eyelashes and fake nails. Her line ended up being ‘under these gloves is a beautiful manicure’.
This was written purely just from meeting her and knowing what she’s about. The copy of the campaign was about embracing the way these women feel. You might take it and flower it up a bit but they're 100% true to the women. They’re all based on their attitudes towards exercise, and it was nice to champion that through the copy.
There's been a really positive response, and it's also sparked a lot of opinions. How do you feel about the reaction?
Nicola: We thought people would like it, but we didn’t think it would go as crazy. One woman sent us a facebook message to say that she listens to the Missy Elliot track every morning to remind herself of the ad and motivate herself. When you hear that kind of thing you think, we’ve really done something.
Ray: It’s really hard to motivate yourself to get out there but for women to be doing it because of this advert is amazing. There was a tweet from one girl who was on a run and she saw one of the posters at a bus stop and it made her run even faster. We’re not selling a product, we’re promoting behaviour change. So to see that in action is completely incredible.
Simon: Everyone who has worked on it has felt so overwhelmed by it. On the first night it was on telly, we were just watching the tweets come in thinking wooooaaa. The response was just incredible. I have to say that getting tweets through from girls saying ‘I went for a run this morning #ThisGirlCan’ or 'I’ve been out of exercising for two years but this advert made me go do it' is amazing. The few people that have had a pop at it, have actually done it a favour because the people who like it have defended it.
This Girl Can is here to inspire women to wiggle, jiggle, move and prove that judgement is a barrier that can be overcome. Meet the girls of the campaign and learn more here.
If you think you have a campaign that deserves a Pencil, enter your work into the D&AD Awards and see if our judges agree. When it comes to awards, nothing matters more.