While working from home has allowed many of us to forego parts of our morning beauty routines, it can still be hard to shake the feeling that we’re not meeting those ever-elusive beauty standards, especially for women. That’s what direct-to-consumer shaving brand Billie aims to highlight—and debunk—in its new spot “Are We Doing Video?” released today.
The spot shows people engaging as we all are these days: over Zoom. At the beginning, the participants jump on a call only to immediately apologize for their lack of makeup, greasy or grown out hair, tired eyes or myriad other sources of shame.
Partway through the ad, words flash across the screen asking, “What if we stopped apologizing for looking like ourselves?” After that, the women change their tune; instead of apologizing for the way they look, they’re dancing on beds, dabbing in office chairs and appreciating the wisdom that their newly visible gray hairs communicate.
The idea for the spot came after Billie co-founder Georgina Gooley noticed that every work from home Zoom meeting began with the same chorus of apologies. Part of that comes from being “face-to-face with your own face, so much more often than you would be if you were just working in a normal office,” she said. But it also speaks to a much bigger issue: that women find their failure to meet societal standards for beauty offensive enough to apologize for.
Gooley also pointed out the irony in people’s reticence to turn on their video during a chat. “The person on the other side really doesn’t care what you look like,” she said. “They’re just happy to see someone during this time.”
Doing all the campaign’s shoots over Zoom allowed for some unique opportunities. For example, the spot includes participants filming from their homes in the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Spain and Russia. To try to capture a more natural interaction between people, the director asked actors to recruit their friends to join the calls, so rather than having actors simulate a friend group or work team in a Zoom call, they were filming real family and friend groups chatting.
“There wasn’t much prompting or acting; it was just quite natural,” said Gooley. “Because they were riffing with people that they were super comfortable with, whether it was their mom or their sister or their friends, all those interactions were very natural reactions.”
When filming was over, she said one of the hardest parts was cutting down the 12 hours of captured footage. There were other logistical challenges, too, said Gooley, like how to make sure the director could see what was happening without having them in the recorded Zoom call.
Calling out the unfairness and inconsistency of feminine beauty standards is something that’s been part of Billie’s DNA from the beginning. The brand launched in 2017 with the message that it wanted to offer a product that provided a way for women to get high-quality shaving products without the “pink tax,” which is a markup on women’s products just because they’re women’s products.
In 2018, one of the brand’s ads showing women with—gasp—actual body hair was flagged on Facebook as “adult material.” The groundbreaking goal of those ads was to frame shaving as something that women can choose to do or not, rather than something that’s a baseline requirement of femininity.
In early January, Proctor & Gamble announced plans to acquire Billie for an undisclosed amount. In March, the brand expanded its offerings outside of the shower with a line of clean beauty products. Gooley sees this new spot as a natural and timely extension of the brand, especially as it moves into a new category with its new product line.
“I think you’ll always see us really challenging the way women are sometimes pigeon-holed into having to look a certain way,” said Gooley.