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This is a period piece

Sanitary wear advertising is having a makeover, and it’s about bloody time, says Lucy Aitken, staff writer at Contagious

Feminine hygiene brands have historically been hilariously daft when it comes to their advertising: women roller-blading in white hotpants to a soundtrack of ‘Woooahhhh, Bodyform!’ sung over sax; copious faux-scientific blue liquid being poured by white-coated women with very neat ponytails; a lot of coy, and sometimes confusing, euphemisms…

But there’s a revolution happening. First there was Bodyform’s 2012 viral that was a witty recognition of bygone advertising, starring a fictional Bodyform CEO admitting that these ads were an elaborate cover-up. Since 2010, Kotex has been trying to ‘break the cycle’, i.e. end the taboo around periods. And this year, not one but two brilliant films for feminine hygiene brands have appeared. Could period product advertising finally be growing up?

The two films – one for Always; one for HelloFlo (a Brooklyn-based subscription service for sanitary wear) – have gone viral, clocking up more than 70 million views between them. Both continue to be shared millions of times via social media.

In the Always film, directed by Lauren Greenfield, people are asked to ‘run like a girl’, ‘throw like a girl’ and ‘punch like a girl’, eliciting ridiculous limb-flailing. Then the same thing is asked of pre-pubescent girls. They do it with power and
conviction. The film, which has amassed more than 45 million YouTube views,
questions our use of ‘like a girl’ – when did it become an insult? Why do girls lose so much confidence during puberty? These are really important questions that the brand is tackling.

First Moon Party, by Jamie McCelland and Pete Marquis, has had more than 26
million views. A pre-teen girl fakes her period by painting red nail polish onto a sanitary towel. Her mother then mortifies her by throwing a ‘first moon party’. Finally she admits she’s faked it, and gets shown HelloFlo’s Period Starter Kit. “Periods don’t have glitter in them,” says the mother, letting her daughter know she’s been rumbled. The ad clearly appeals to mothers and daughters: it’s been shared millions of times on social media – mostly by mothers – and is bound to sell subscriptions to HelloFlo.

What seems clear from the positive reaction to these ads is that women are ready for some straight-talking, reality and humour when it comes to period products. Could this be the beginning of a new wave of tampon ads? That are actually, you know, good? One thing’s for sure, this change in tone is long overdue.