Anatomy Of A Cannes Contender: How “Like A Girl” Was Flipped, And Turned Into A Viral Sensation

Leo Burnett Canada CEO and CCO, Judy John talks about creating a blockbuster campaign, like a girl.


Always “Like A Girl” was unleashed on the world almost a year ago. In that time, the campaign has achieved more than 85 million YouTube views and massive amounts of media coverage. Perhaps because it has received so much publicity since its launch, it is easy to forget just how powerful that original three-minute film is.


A tiny girl’s unequivocal: “It means to run as fast as you can,” when asked: “What does it mean to you when I say: ‘Run like a girl?’” is touching. When set against the derogatory replies of older women and males it becomes profoundly thought provoking. P&G-owned Always’s research found that it is at puberty when girls’ confidence begins to erode and agency Leo Burnett hit upon a way to combat that unhappy change in mindset by re-appropriating a demeaning phrase that’s long been used as shorthand for “substandard.”

The campaign was a centerpiece in what’s become an ongoing female-empowerment push from brands. And it received renewed interest when a 60-second version of the film was aired at this year’s Superbowl, proving that feminine care products can be advertised at sports events and no one dies.

The “Like A Girl” campaign, from Leo Burnett Toronto, London & Chicago, and agency Holler, and directed by Lauren Greenfield (Queen of Versailles), is hotly tipped to collect awards in Cannes and has already won the PR Lion Grand Prix, as well as a Glass Lion, recognizing work that “breaks through unconscious gender bias.” And if its groaning trophy cabinet, which so far contains both a Black and a White Pencil from D&AD, a Grand Clio and 11 Webby awards (among other things) is anything to go by, it is a pretty safe bet.

Here, Leo Burnett Canada CEO and CCO, Judy John, who is the lead creative on the campaign, discusses some of the thinking and processes behind the blockbuster campaign.

What was the brief?

Always wanted to change girls’ lives one girl at a time by championing their confidence.


What was the insight that led to the winning idea?

Research conducted to support the campaign showed that girls’ confidence drops during puberty, significantly more than boys. For a brand that is a champion of girls’ confidence, we knew we had to do something about it. We explored different factors that influence girls during this vulnerable time (puberty). During this exploration someone taped a piece of paper to the board. That piece of paper read “Like A Girl.” That’s all it said. Among all the ideas and pieces of paper in the room, I was instantly drawn to it. The idea was explained as: Like A Girl has been around forever and is used in derogatory ways, let’s change the meaning of it. From that day on, we started to build on that idea.

What were some of the key decisions you and team made for #LAG, in terms of the creative and production process?

The first key decision was choosing an idea that felt insightful, relevant and true. #LikeAGirl had it all and in a few words, could capture people’s attention and imagination. Next, we decided that a social experiment was the best way to bring this idea to life, followed by the important decision of getting Lauren Greenfield to shoot it.

What’s the biggest lesson for marketers from the success of this work?

We are in the age where brand affinity is more important to people than ever. People connect with and buy the brands that share similar points of view or values they have. That’s why purpose driven brands are succeeding. These brands have big ambitions and they make an emotional connection with their consumers.


What are the results?

Today, one year later, Always #LikeAGirl has garnered more than 85 million views globally and more importantly, it has changed the way people think and use the phrase “like a girl.” We helped ignite a cultural movement and proved that doing something #LikeAGirl isn’t an insult, it means amazing things. It’s something our agency is incredibly proud of.

About the author

Louise Jack is a London-based journalist, writer and editor with a background in advertising and marketing. She has written for several titles including Marketing Week, Campaign and The Independent.