Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Secret gets you to spill it....

Secret just launched a campaign for their anniversary, asking women consumers to “share their secret.” The television and web spots are directed by Jessica Yu (she’s done documentary work in the past, and has also worked on Grey’s Anatomy, American Dreams, and ER). “Real” people were used for the spots, not actors—so, supposedly, real secrets were filmed: “There’s better stuff between real people—things that you can’t imagine,” says Yu.

Link to one of the spots “I told” on this week’s Ad Age. (Link will probably die after this week’s over, so check out the other spots on Secret’s site.) This spot is an affirmation of sisterhood: “one young woman admits to her sister that she told their parents about the sister's first sex encounter.” So much for that being a secret…

With the television ads, there is a tie-in project with print ads featuring text messaged secrets from women around the country. They’re visible in various subways stations within NYC, and I’m sure elsewhere.

Many of the supposed secrets that were shared seem of the garden variety, insecure type:

“I want a fairytale relationship.”
“I wish he still loved me.”
“I’m still in love with my ex even though he dumped me.”
“I think I’m staying for security.”

And while these are moments of weakness, I can see how they’re true secrets—things we hide within ourselves, because we want to be strong, want to be independent, want to be unique and clever and awesome. Just as these “girly” or “feminine” weaker secrets are shared, there are also secrets shared that have nothing to do with gender roles or sex,

“I never finished collage.”
“I’m afraid to be alone.”
“I talk out loud to no one.”
“Growing up scares me.”
“I have a hard time keeping my lies straight.”

Stunningly few are amazingly affirmative and wonderful:

“I’m more secure with myself than I’ve ever been in my life.”
"My sister is my hero.”

So, I’m thinking about Secret as a brand, and how this campaign seems to want to celebrate strong and independent women. Sort of similar to Dove in some ways. The commercials themselves are quirky, sort of positive, and pro-female: “Dad took me to get a tattoo” is an example of one of those confessions.

We don’t see things like “I still love him even though he’s married,” even though, unfortunately, that seems to be the majority of the user submissions.

Secret had an interesting idea, but it seems the users didn’t quite measure up. They’re submitting their secrets, their truths, but when all you see is their secret fears; it’s hard to remember the hopes and dreams that balance it all out. I’m surprised by the amount of pain and heart-ache within these text submissions. When all we’re judging is a quick sentence, it’s hard to tell if these women are strong through out the rest of their lives, and this is their one admission of weakness, of fallibility, and of true humanity.

Secret can’t control what sort of submissions they receive, but I’m not sure if this was entirely what they were expecting. It’s hard to run a campaign about the wonders of girl-power when your source material is a bit weak. Why is that? I think it’s because when we think about the nature of what a secret is, it’s something we don’t want to share with others. Positive news, for that reason, would very rarely be a secret—we want to shout our successes from the rooftops, but not our miseries and failures. So, chances are, these women aren’t weak and crying—they’re just sharing actual secrets, private parts of themselves that not everyone gets to see. And that, I think, makes them strong.

Agency: Leo Burnett, Chicago.

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