Response to the UK Government’s Women & Equality Committee: Changing the perfect picture: an inquiry into body image 

June 2020


About Procter & Gamble (P&G):

  1. P&G is one of the world’s largest consumer goods companies and the Company behind favourite household brands such as Olay, Gillette, Ariel, Pampers, Head & Shoulders, Pantene, Fairy and Oral-B. Founded by an Englishman and an Irishman in 1837, the Company is headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, US. Globally, P&G has around 97,000 employees with operations in around 70 countries, and our brands are sold in 180+ countries in the world.


  1. P&G entered the UK market with the acquisition of Thomas Hedley & Co in the 1930s – P&G’s first international acquisition outside of North America. P&G employs around 2500 people in the UK & Ireland and has 12 sites, including Business sites, R&D Innovation Centres and Manufacturing Plants/Distribution Centres.


  1. P&G generally appears in the top 10 UK advertisers, by spend, when considering advertising across all mediums, in any given quarter. Our UK advertising spend across the last 12months was £164million and investment format choices include digital, TV, radio, print, cinema and outdoor. With our scale comes responsibility and we acknowledge our role in accurately reflecting society and societal evolution.  We have made meaningful progress in this area but acknowledge there is still plenty that can be done across all formats.


  1. P&G are active members of various Industry Associations including the Cosmetic, Toiletry & Perfumery Association (CTPA), Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) and the Advertising Association (AA) and within these have participated in discussions around body image and confidence. We support the comments made in the submission of the AA to this inquiry, including those made in respect to the role of Government & Regulators, so we have elected not to include additional commentary on those elements in this submission. We believe that progress in promoting healthy & positive body image & confidence can be achieved by working in partnership with others including Government, NGOs, Consumer Groups, Regulators and Academia.


P&G input relating to the Terms of Reference


  1. At P&G, everything we do starts with the consumer, and consumer expectations are changing. Consumers want to know that they can trust the brands they buy and the company and people behind those brands. Today’s consumers expect businesses to step up to a bigger role solving the challenges facing our world. Nine out of ten people say they have a more positive view of a brand when it supports a cause they care about and 65% of millennials find it unacceptable for a brand (or company) to be silent on important societal issues.  Our key business partners, retail customers and future employees expect us to do the right thing. Taking a stand is good for society and good for business.


  1. At P&G, Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is a fundamental part of who we are and how we do business. Within P&G, there are more than 140 nationalities represented in our global workforce (~65 in UK & Ireland) reflecting different races, ethnicities, cultures, religions, sexual orientations, gender identities, abilities and backgrounds.  Our own diversity helps us reflect & better understand consumers around the world.


  1. Externally, we believe in using our voice in advertising and media to call attention to bias and equality, spark dialogue and motivate change in the world. We know advertising has the power to shape how communities and individuals see themselves and each other. Many of our brands are advancing diversity and inclusion perspectives through accurate and positive portrayals in everyday advertising, and by calling attention to the topics of body image & confidence as well as bias: racial, gender, LGBTQ+, (dis)ability.  Our annual Company Citizenship reports – global and local – provide a breadth of examples about our work in this area.


  1. The topic of body image has been on our collective radar for many years.
    1. In February 2012, P&G ran an external event entitled “Beauty, Bailey & Beyond” where the audience heard from external speakers including Reg Bailey (CEO, Mother’s Union and author of the 2011 report Letting Children Be Children), Jo Swinson (MP), Linsay Taffe (ASA) and Karen Fraser (Advertising Association).  The event sought to understand the underlying issues and points of view that are driving external opinion in key areas that impact P&G’s business including Body Confidence, Sexualisation, Advertising to Children and Airbrushing, to enable actions to be put in place across our Brands.
    2. P&G has participated in a previous Select Committee Hearing on body image, sharing company research & broader perspectives and remains committed to further our journey in understanding and action to bring about positive change for everyone.
    3. The Government Equalities Office report entitled Body Confidence Campaign: Progress Report 2015 with foreword from Jo Swinson, remains a very useful reference on this topic, including definitions around body image and how poor body image can cause real harm as well as being an equalities and public health issue.


  1. Advertising reflects society’s changing norms, but advertising and media images can also have a wider influence and impact on people’s views about themselves and other people.  Earlier this year in February, our Brand Director spoke about the importance of diversity at the ISBA Annual conference when she was interviewed by the CEO of Publicis UK on the topic of tackling taboos and driving societal change, reflecting why brands must use their voices.  She called on the Advertising Industry to collectively use the power of the scale of our voices and reach to start conversations, spurn action and ultimately drive the change we want to see in society.


  1. Body image, confidence and self-esteem affects girls & boys, men & women including those in the LGBTQ+ community. P&G conducts extensive research amongst people who use our products and use these insights to inform product design and advertising campaigns: a snapshot of such insights includes:
    1. Across our Hair brands, we’ve taken a very deliberate shift to fully reflect men and women: from a one-dimensional view to one that is embracing everyone in society and the role their hair plays in their identities.
      • Hair is proven to impact on personal identity, self-esteem and confidence. Through a global study with Yale, P&G showed that hair is critical for self-esteem and is an important extension and expression of identity. A good hair day today was correlated with feeling more productive, less stressed, more socially powerful, more resilient, physically stronger, and more in-control. Good hair can be as empowering to women (and can even exceed) the impact of a good meditation, therapy or yoga session.

(P&G Research Study: Professor Marianne LaFrance, Ph.D., Psychology Department at Yale University: the psychological impact of good hair days via a cross-cultural survey with 3,000 women between the ages of 18-35 spanning the US, Brazil, Mexico, UK, Spain, Russia, India, Japan, China and Indonesia)


(Internal Data: Head&Shoulders, 2020)


(Internal Data: Pantene, 2019)


(Internal Data: Pantene, 2019)


    1. The Hair Equality Report, which includes the School Hair Survey, has captured the collective experience of a thousand respondents representing children 0-18 years and adults 19-70 years.  The findings reveal that black and mixed-race children are under constant pressure to fit into a school and a society that doesn’t understand or value their Afro hair.  Body image, body confidence and self-esteem sit behind many of the findings, including:
      • 95% of respondents are calling for an end to anti Afro policies in schools.
      • 1 in 4 adults (24%) said they had a bad or very bad experience at school with their Afro-textured hair and identity.
      • 41% of children with Afro hair want to change their hair from curly to straight.
      • 1 in 4 children have shown signs that they want to change their hair and identity by mimicking straight Caucasian hair by putting objects on their heads and role playing

(Reference: Hair Equality Report, 2019)


    1. A Body Confidence survey undertaken amongst women aged 18-55 years old yielded the following statistics:
      • 90% of women feel beauty brands do not have realistic representations of women
      • 60% of women feel they don’t meet “typical beauty standards” and 29% feel different to everyone else.
      • 50% of women aged 18-24years have avoided posting pictures of themselves in social media because of a lack of confidence in their own skin
      • Nearly a fifth of respondents apportion the blame of their insecurities on the influencers and celebrities they see on social media

(Internal Data, Gillette Venus, 2019)


    1. 60% of UK women aged 25-34 years old feel judged by their appearance reinforcing the role that body image plays in today’s society.

(Internal Data, Olay, September 2019)


  1. In response to our research, the advertising campaigns we create and the way we tell our stories give us the opportunity to spark conversations that motivate change and contribute towards positive change. Below are a few positive examples from P&G Brands:
    1. Pantene Power of Hair: celebrates the transformative power of hair to create the Pantene Power Squad, including Katie Piper, Paris Lees and Ramla Ali. Each of the three inspiring women has a unique story for how their hair has played a pivotal role in their personal evolution.
      • Katie Piper is a mother, author and philanthropist who survived an acid attack in 2008.
      • Paris Lees is P&G’s first transgender haircare ambassador in the UK and featured in our campaign Hair has no gender which addressed the discrimination faced by the transgender community related to beauty treatments.
      • Ramla Ali is a champion boxer who has represented both England and Somalia in Championship tournaments
    2. Gillette Venus “My Skin, My Way” is a celebration of every woman and her skin. Through surveying women across the country, we found that 87% of women say they wish they didn’t feel so much pressure to follow rules about how their skin should look. Those rules can hold women back from expressing themselves in the way they want to, so we developed a campaign to support women who write their own rules for their skin – how it looks, how it feels and how they feel in it – using a diverse group of skin types & tones. 
    3. Gold Series by Pantene, is a range of products designed specifically for women with relaxed, natural or transitioning afro hair, celebrating beautiful hair in all women.  Based on the insights we got from this community, the advertising campaign shows equal representation of relaxed and natural hair, which is not something seen very often from mainstream haircare brands.
    4. Olay Face Anything: In a bid to increase women’s power & influence and build a movement of women ready to throw off the labels and face anything that life throws at them, Olay and Young Women’s Trust joined forces to introduce 9 fearless female ambassadors. All from different backgrounds and facing different struggles, each ambassador shares her own story and the labels they’ve suffered to help women to #FaceAnything.
    5. Pantene has partnered with the Dresscode project in hair salons across the county to help the 93% of the transgender and non-binary community who have been mis-gendered during a salon visit. 
    6. #PowerofGrey campaign from Pantene championed greater diversity in beauty advertising.  The mood-boosting campaign carried a serious message: people should celebrate their unique set of traits, grey hair or otherwise, and not feel that they have to confirm to expectations of society.
    7. For more than 3 decades, Always has empowered girls worldwide by educating them about puberty and their cycle, so that they can feel confident. We’re committed to stopping the drop in confidence girls experience at puberty, as their bodies change visually through shape and invisibly through hormones, by encouraging all girls to Keep Going #LikeAGirl, the latest in the series of the ongoing LikeAGirl campaigns.


  1. Alongside advertising, we believe that education in the area of body image, body confidence and self-esteem is important and run school programmes for both girls and boys, including:
    1. About You is a holistic puberty education programmes for teens aged 9-16 years old. Written by teachers, for teachers, and sponsored by P&G brands, About You is designed to equip teachers with everything needed to deliver puberty education with confidence. The programme is regularly updated with new modules coming for Academic year 20/21 and is designed to
      • Support young people through physical & emotional changes during puberty
      • Foster young people’s wellbeing and mental health
      • Help young people to develop positive & healthy relationships with their own bodies and with others
    2. Gillette partnership with Football Beyond Borders: confidence is more than skin deep and we know that young people’s belief in their self-worth is hugely influenced by how they in turn feel valued by society and those around them. Young people need inspiration from others: people they can aspire to be, who come from the same places they do; people who have been through the same tough times, similar challenges; people who have held true to their values through successes and failures alike. They need role models.  Gillette has long stood for the importance of role models in ensuring younger generations have positive versions of masculinity to aspire to. However, the number of permanent exclusions from schools in the UK has reached its highest point in nearly a decade, and 78% of those young people are boys. Self-esteem and confidence play a part in this, and Gillette is trying to address this by funding the training and provision of more relatable mentors for young men through its partnership with youth education charity, Football Beyond Borders. Gillette has also invested in the development of the ‘What Makes a Man’ module that is a core part of the curriculum delivered by Football Beyond Borders.


  1. At P&G we firmly believe that across any medium, the advertising content people see must be legal, honest, and truthful as advocated by the regulator ASA. Alongside this, it needs to be served to them in mediums that can be trusted. We believe that, as with all advertising, the content of the advertising and the advertising platforms which includes traditional channels, publishers and social networks – need to hold themselves accountable. If we don’t, people will lose trust in the brands, in the advertising and in the platforms.


  1. We, alongside our creative agency partners, are guided by a set of P&G Global Production Guidelines which includes guidance on unconscious bias and stereotypes in advertising. 


  1. At P&G we hold ourselves accountable to ensure our advertising reaches the same high standards irrespective of the medium it is placed in. We hold all our advertising, whether it is native or influencer, to the same high standard of broadcast advertising and ensure that it is clear to those consuming it and in compliance with the regulators.



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