Surekha Ragavan
Apr 8, 2021

Head & Shoulders on subverting shampoo ad tropes with new anime campaign

EXCLUSIVE: The P&G brand and creative partner Forsman & Bodenfors talk to Campaign about why it borrowed elements from anime to destigmatise male dandruff in Japan.

Ah, just a shampoo ad in the usual fast-paced, action-packed animated adventure genre. P&G hair care brand Head & Shoulders and Forsman & Bodenfors Singapore pair up to promote a new line of anti-dandruff products and to shed light on the often-stigmatised issue of male dandruff.

The campaign—which launches in Japan today (April 8)—is crowned by a series of animation films called ‘The Chase’ in which the protagonist spy, Ando, leaves a trail of dandruff while attempting to escape his nemesis Detective Takashi. In a chase around the world, the ending reveals that Ando is finally captured because of the specks of dandruff he leaves behind on the run.

Kylene Campos, VP Japan and Korea, hair care at P&G, told Campaign Asia-Pacific that the brand knew it had an opportunity to reposition Head & Shoulders, which was historically perceived in Japan as a scalp care brand. Through this campaign, the brand could be much more firmly rooted on dandruff—as it is globally—and give it a sharper point of difference in the Japan market. 

“As we went about our journey, we had done extensive consumer research and semiotics research to understand the cultural norms of dealing with cleanliness, hygiene, and the cultural shame associated with dandruff, and found out that it was a real issue wrought with heaviness, shame and fear,” said Campos. 

Studies conducted by the brand showed that more than four out of ten Japanese men suffer from dandruff, and half of those worry that others perceive them as unhygienic.

“With this, we gave our agency partners a challenge: How can you reassure men in Japan that there is a solution for their dandruff, in a way that destigmatises the shame associated with what is historically known as a taboo topic?” Campos said.

From the beginning of ideation, Campos was clear about subverting the usual problem-solution formats of shampoo marketing, which she said wouldn’t work in this case. “We needed a campaign that would make dandruff a more approachable topic to talk about, but at the same time, give solid assurance to our consumers that dandruff could be solved,” she said.

In swooped Forsman & Bodenfors with an idea to incorporate animation, drama and humour by tapping into anime culture.

“Our journey started in Japan, when we met up with Japanese men and listened to their stories about hair and the stigma around dandruff,” Susanna Fagring, the CEO of Forsman & Bodenfors Singapore, told Campaign Asia-Pacific.

“We realised that this is a real problem, causing significant pressure and pain in their everyday lives. Deeply affected by these stories, we started talking about the fact that dandruff is indeed a very human issue and that it’s a real shame to suffer when there actually is a quick solution to the problem.”

The agency also spotted an opportunity to break the rules of the category language without losing the cultural Japanese context. “Humour came up very early as a tool to destigmatise this very human but still pressuring concern. Humour as a tool opened a door to a fantastic creative journey where we spent hours laughing together,” said Fagring.

This was the first time for both the agency and client to be working on an animation, which meant a steep learning curve. But the creative team knew that the animation needed to showcase a high level of craft, and the main character Ando needed to come across as human as possible.

The campaign will run in traditional and digital media in Japan, including on TV, in pre-rolls and social. A digital activation will be launched on Twitter—a forum where Japanese men tend to feel safe discussing stigmatised topics, the agency learned during research.

“Ando will be taking over the Head & Shoulders Twitter account to offer advice, and to provide men with a safe space to ask any dandruff questions,” said Fagring. “Our hope is that Ando becomes a conversation instigator that allows men to discuss [dandruff] freely.”

A number of Japanese influencers will also be commissioned to share their perspective on the issue, and each of them is expected to speak about their personal experience with dandruff. On top of that, the agency is working with global distribution partners targeting men in the US and UK, given that dandruff is a global issue.

On whether Ando will be brought to life in future campaigns for the brand, Campos said: “This is just the beginning of our vision for Ando to take on the world of dandruff...what we love about the campaign and the creative is that it lends itself to storytelling over time.”


Client: Head & Shoulders
Vice President Japan and Korea, Hair Care at P&G: Kylene Campos
Brand Director Hair Care Japan at P&G: Afsheen Qaiser
Senior Brand Manager H&S Japan at P&G: Kinase Shun
Japan Hair Care Brand Manager, H&S and KIMEA at P&G: Anggia Pulungan

Creative Agency: Forsman & Bodenfors Singapore
Creative: Shum Qihao
Creative: Ivan Guerra
Creative: Firrdaus Yusoff
Creative: Joakim Laabraten
Creative: John Bergdahl
Creative: Patrick Knowlton
Designer: Jason Feng
Account Director: Tammy Cheok
Account Director: Stephanie Haugen-Ray
Campaign Manager: Adrian Ortiz
Planner: Julia Blomquist
Engagement Planner: Sanna Britsman
Executive Producer: Ali Loveday-Herzinger
CEO: Susanna Fagring

Production Company: Psyop/Blacklist
Director: CRCR
Animation studio: Wizz @ Quad group

Media Agency: Hearts & Science Hakuhodo
PR & Activation: Material
Distribution Partner: Verizon Media (Amplify 360)

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