Why Sanctuary Spa and Southpaw are democratising self-care

‘This Counts’, a joyous new campaign for Sanctuary Spa, underlines that self-care is a necessity not a luxury.

Georgie Moreton

Assistant Editor, BITE


Be it screaming children, relentless requests from the boss or spending an hour stuck in traffic; life can really be hectic with stress hiding around every corner. While for some,  the pandemic managed to slow things down a little, granting some with an extra hour here and there by eliminating the commute, there remains a never ending to do list which oftentimes comes at the sacrifice of self-care. 

For most, self-care is on the to-do list but as life gets in the way, it gets pushed to the bottom of that ever-growing list. Yet, Sanctuary Spa and Southpaw believe that self-care shouldn’t be a luxury for those with time to spare, it should be for everyone; this is the overarching message in the ‘This Counts’ campaign.

“The pandemic exaggerated a cultural shift happening already around self-care and showed that people want to make more time for themselves,” explains Niki Macartney, Strategy Director at Southpaw. “Being at home made the idea of it more tangible but there were still other issues. We hope that guilt associated with self-care will slowly start to shift away - as a brand we want to make it ok to take a moment to look after yourself,” she adds.

Bridging the Self-Care gap

To normalise self care the ‘This Counts’ campaign launches with an empowering film that seeks to take the guilt out of the way. A guilt  identified in a recent survey of 2,000 women aged 18-65 across the UK, which revealed an action gap in intentions, For while 94% of respondents said to have felt the benefits of taking time out for themselves, on average 61% are only managing to achieve 17 minutes and 7 seconds per day of self-care. When asked how much time they would ideally like to spend, the average came back as 51 minutes and 9 seconds a day; and thus the brand identified a definite self-care gap.

The insight was of little surprise to Macartney, who “had a hunch” of its existence. She explained: “Women know that self-care is extremely important and are aware of its benefits; yet, they want to be doing it for a beneficial amount of time.”

After analysing the data, Sanctuary Spa’s came up with a new proposition in the form of a realistic recommendation of 25-a-Day’; which essentially equates to giving yourself 25 minutes of self-care across the day. A tangible goal which aims to bridge the self-care gap in a way that is both achievable and transformative in that it  will help consumers feel great and banish any guilt about taking time out. .

“We want to see a future where people are able to make time for self-care. We know that there’s cultural momentum and we want to help accelerate women toward that 51 minutes a day as fast as possible by making it accessible and available on mass.” explains Peter Stocks, Head of Brand at Sanctuary Spa.

The brand came up with the ‘25-a-day’ mantra to facilitate the closing of this gap, Niki went on to explain, “the psychology of chunking means that self-care can be accessible. It’s similar to that 5-a-day kind of mindset. We wanted to reinforce positive change and position self-care as the same kind of thing. Working with psychologists they were able to advise us that breaking up the 25 a day into chunks is far more achievable and once self-care feels like an achievable thing far more people are able to join in on it.”

The pandemic exaggerated a cultural shift happening already around self-care and showed that people want to make more time for themselves

Niki Macartney, Strategy Director at Southpaw

Redefining Self-Care

A 30-second primetime advert will see the campaign launched across major TV networks, directed by renowned commercial director AJ Colomb and produced by independent film studio, Caviar London. The film is narrated by a self-assured, 40-something woman and features four spirited, relatable women representing different life stages; a work-a-holic in her 20’s, a mid-30’s mother and a woman in her 50s playfully show their own versions of ‘self-care’ cheekily asking ‘does this count?’, whilst taking time out to dance around the kitchen, eat chocolate spread from the jar and spend time in the garden.

The light-hearted slot aims to redefine the meaning of self-care, highlighting the fact many everyday activities are actually contributing to the 25-a-day. It doesn’t have to be costly trips to the spa or time consuming treatments, self-care can actually be found in everyday activities like having a tea and biscuits if only people take a moment to appreciate it.

Glenn Smith, Creative Director at Southpaw explains that “this is one of the main things we wanted to look at in our research; what does self-care mean? Can it simply mean having a bath and a glass of wine? Once you look at it this way and start opening it out, it opens up a whole new world of self-care. This meant that in the campaign we could at times have fun, be silly or even poignant when we thought about what self-care means to different types of women at different stages of their lives.”

The case for creative optimism

Where for a long time beauty brands have been positioned as purposeful and released campaigns with a more serious tone, with ‘This Counts’ Sanctuary Spa have opted for a more light-hearted tone. 

“For almost two years we’ve been hearing negativity; words like ‘no’ ‘don’t’ and ‘stop’ so we wanted to encourage people to pursue self-care with positivity and upbeat messaging” explain’s Smith. 

He added:  “The time wasn’t right for humour before but now it feels more culturally right. We’ve seen it in the fashion world already, this ability to dial up humour in high fashion and I think now we might start to see this in beauty too. Of course there is a serious side to what we are doing but this may be a tipping point where humour and joy allows us to connect with an even wider audience. We thought - why is nobody doing humour? The strongest emotion you can get back is a smile and if we can start to put smiles on peoples faces and we will likely start to see more people engage with the campaign. Now is the right time and right place for joy!”

For Sanctuary Spa, choosing to pursue a joyful campaign was a carefully considered choice. As Stocks, explains: “Where the brand was positioned and where we were set was quite far away from humour. We had to ask; can we stretch where the personality of the brand is with the right message? If we can provide a humorous element to self-care then we can make it accessible. Serious makes it feel like a task, joy makes people want to join in.”

We want to see a future where people are able to make time for self-care. We know that there’s cultural momentum and we want to help accelerate women toward that 51 minutes a day as fast as possible by making it accessible and available on mass

Peter Stocks, Head of Brand at Sanctuary Spa

An Inclusive Future

Accessibility and inclusivity is at the heart of the ‘This Counts’ campaign. After a more sombre eighteen months, the consensus at Southpaw and Sanctuary Spa was that audiences seem to be ready for fun and have a renewed appreciation for the smaller things in life. The decision to pursue joy was indicative of the inclusive nature of the campaign, as it is an inclusive emotion with the ability to connect a lot of people. Stocks explains: “At Sanctuary Spa, our products are at attainable price points, it felt natural that the campaign would focus on attainability which is what gives us an edge over our competitors who can at times tend to market it as a guilty pleasure rather than a necessity”.

For the self-care market, the growth of the sector in the future will rest on its ability to connect with a wider audience, Macartney added:” We hope that the industry will continue pushing culture and society in the direction of inclusivity. And, we’re hoping to see similar messages start to be echoed by other brands and charities. Once the messaging of accessibility and ease is truly embraced, that's when self-care will be democratised.”

There is no question that in the wake of so much loss, consumers are more acutely aware of their own experiences. It may well be a cliche that you cannot pour from an empty cup but it is nonetheless true. Sanctuary Spa and Southpaw’s ‘This Counts’ campaign is a pitch-perfect attempt to create a new, healthy habit by reminding audiences to stop and appreciate the small moments of recuperation and rest. For in the wake of a global pandemic far from being something to roll your eyes at; self-care is a supremely radical and joyful act, one that should be accessible to all and free from guilt.