Activia moves beyond gut health to celebrate women with guts

Who: Danone, with lg2 for strategy and creative, Cinélande for production, Post 430, BLVD and BAM for post production, and Wavemaker for media.

What: “It starts inside,” a new brand platform for Danone’s probiotic yogurt Activia that is about being more modern and engaged with its consumers as an “ally of women.”

When & Where: The campaign is live now. The focus at launch is on TV/online video and additional social media, but other creative and extensions of the campaign are in the works.

Why: Activia has long been about guts, or more accurately gut health, and the digestive benefits of its active probiotics. But Danone has increasingly become interested in Activia as a more holistic health brand, said Nicholas Paget, vice-president and executive creative director at lg2 Montreal. “They’ve been talking about how feeling good starts inside, and about how your gut is your second brain,” said Paget.

Danone is also a Certified B Corp., meaning it meets high social and environmental standards, and each one of its brands has CSR connected to it in some way.

“On Activia, we proposed you could bring CSR more into the heart of what your brand is,” said Paget. “It’s not an addendum. It’s not a side project. It could be the thing. And to their credit, the VP over there said ‘Go all in.'” That meant going all-in on positioning Activia as a brand that contributes to healthier lifestyles—not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally.

How: With “It starts inside,” (which replaces the previous tagline “Feeling good starts inside”) Activia is going beyond gut health to tell a more metaphorical and emotional story about having guts—as in being strong and courageous. The functional benefits of the product are still there, but the new creative vision presents gut health as a starting point for the kind of holistic health that gives women the strength—or the guts—to take on life’s challenges and defy conventions.

The 30-second launch spot shows a series of women taking on a range of challenges, from running a business or a family, to climbing in an ice cave, with only a few fleeting Activia product shots. “What we’ve done is come out and say ‘Hey, the things that you’re doing, we know they’re not easy… Keep doing what you’re doing if it’s good for you,’” said Paget.

“It was important to situate the brand promise within a more relevant socio-cultural context without reducing the equity and positioning that Activia has accrued over the past 20 years,” added Anne-Marie Leclair, partner, vice-president, strategy at lg2, in a release introducing the campaign. ”In this campaign, the brand’s promise moves beyond the product benefits of probiotics on digestive health, yet remains firmly anchored in the idea that everything begins inside.”

The guts message is heightened by narration from Geneviève Lamoureux (pictured), who has a stutter and is an advocate for Quebecers with speech impediments. “Public speaking is a major fear for lots of people, and it actually skews even more highly as a fear for many women,” said Paget. The fact that Lamoureux was willing to narrate the ad, in both French and English, is a perfect representation of the guts that Activia wants to celebrate.

“No one could better represent courage in this situation,” said Éric Maffert, senior marketing director for dairy, Danone Canada. “[W]e hope that featuring this woman will inspire others to find the courage to speak up. She was definitely an inspiration to us when we decided to defy the usual advertising codes and use a woman with a stutter to do the voiceover.”

What’s next: This ad is just the first declaration of Activia’s intent to be much more engaged on its agenda of championing women for being strong and overcoming challenges. “One of the things that we think is important is you can’t just say stuff, you have got to do stuff,” said Paget. “We are currently in the process of doing stuff, but you have to make a statement and then come out and back it up.”

And we quote: “The Activia brand enjoys strong brand love, and we want to nourish this trust by having the brand engage with a more modern, diversified and inclusive societal reality. When lg2 presented the concept of celebrating courageous women, we immediately recognized its relevance and audaciousness.”—Éric Maffert, senior marketing director of dairy, Danone Canada

David Brown