Periods are a fact of life for women, and as a woman I have come to embrace mine. Like the seasons it tells me where I'm at, a benchmark letting me know everything is working the way it should for a healthy 24-year-old woman. I hate the fact that I need to keep my period to myself, I don't want to scream it to the rooftops but I wish it was less taboo. I hate feeling like need to sneak to the bathroom with my purse when I need to change my tampon or open my Midol bottle in my purse to disguise what I'm taking; it's bullshit and borderline oppressive (which is why I do a pretty half-assed job sneaking to the bathroom or opening the Midol bottle).
Anyway you frame it, women are always made to feel as though they must suppress the more human parts of themselves (we don't fart, we don't burp, we cover imperfections with make-up, holster our breasts lifting them to societies standards and we certainly don't bleed). Don't get me wrong, I LOVE being a woman but sometimes this box of lady-like-ness is exhausting. Kotex and the folks over at JWT must have felt the same way, because the new campaign for U by Kotex taps into this sentiment.
Most ads for menstruation products are actually pretty effective. They show an active, happy woman in a white outfit, they allude that she has her period and uses pastel colored products covered in flowers during her period selling us(women) an idea1 . We buy the idea that we too could be that happy and unafraid of wearing white during our periods. Because we buy the idea we buy the product. Unfortunately by the time our period is over with we realize that idea we bought, is nothing close to our reality -- no amount of feminine hygiene products can make us stop bleeding 4 days out of every month.
We can't change the fact that we get our periods, but we can change our attitudes towards it. With a target audience of 18 to 21-year-old women2 the U by Kotex campaign slogan "break the cycle" is not only a great pun, it speaks to a much larger issues in our culture including womens' lack of education about menstruation, society's fear of menstruation, and apprehension to talk about womens' issues as a whole. While the print and broadcast ads focus on luring young women in with witty, sarcastic and satirical commentary about menstruation products, the aim of the website is to educate these women about their periods.
Breaking the Cycle
What U by Kotex does really well is establish a distinct difference between myth and reality. Both the Reality Check and the So Obnoxious broadcast ads (seen above) paint all other menstruation product ads as dispensers of unrealistic ideas about what menstruation is (or rather what it could be if you used their product). Enter U by Kotex. Kotex acknowledges the myth we all bought into then invites us to rethink our relationship with our feminine hygiene products.
Next Kotex takes charge re-educating us with their U by Kotex website takes charge. This is a website built on facts. The homepage carousel cycles through facts about periods such as:
- "79% of girls don't see what dancing in white dresses has to do with periods."
- ..."83% of girls are uncomfortable talking to their parents about periods"
- ..."85% of girls are afraid to be seen with a tampon"
Upon digging deeper on the site you'll find a page full of statistics titled "It's time to Break the Cycle" about women and their feelings/thoughts towards vaginal health and menstruation. Fueled by a survey of 1,607 North American women between the ages of 14 and 353, these stats do two things.
Firstly, they inform. Based on these statistics I personally think our culture has a long way to go before we're at an acceptable place when it comes to understanding the vaginal health of women. I believe most women who read these stats would not be surprised at the results the survey yielded, instead I think they would be more surprised that anyone bothered to bring up the matter of vaginal health or menstruation at all.
Most women claim to be knowledgeable about vaginal health issues,
but more than 1/3 cannot dispel some basic myths.
Secondly reading statistics such as the one above levels the playing field, we can all stop pretending we have our vaginal health under control and admit the more we talk the more we'll learn.
One insight to rule them all
Anyone could have created an advertising campaign based on assumptions, in fact that is what feminine product advertisers have been doing for years. Assuming all women feel disgusted by their periods (or themselves while on their periods) and therefore wrapping products in pastel colors and flowers selling women the idea of of beauty and being carefree while enduring a monthly reminder of their womanhood.
In actuality, this assumption isn't entirely incorrect. According to Kotex's study approximately 47-67% of women say they feel dirty when they have their periods4. This statistic would be a great insight if it wasn't absolutely devastating that a majority of women feel dirty once a month because of something completely natural. Rather than moving forward with an insight is hinged to women feeling poorly about themselves Kotex's survey digs deeper and really gets to the heart of what is going on when it comes to vaginal health, menstruation and advertising.
Women are frustrated, but not with their periods – seven out of ten (70%) women agree
that it’s about time society changes how it talks about vaginal health issues. Women are
insulted by blue liquid advertisements and snarky jokes, and they are tired of skirting
around honest discussions regarding a natural, normal, and healthy process.5
Great advertising campaigns are built on insights surrounding a target demographic like the one above. Kotex did their research and delivered a campaign that answers the desires of their demographic to stop pussy-footing around vaginal health issues and get real.
Why I LOVE this campaign
When it comes down to brass tacks this campaign does the same thing all other feminine hygiene products ads do, it sells an idea. Where this campaign differs is in the type of idea that it sells. This campaign has nothing to do with feeling better while you have your period it's about feeling better about your period and your self while you have your period. It's about ending our censorship6 of women's health issues to obtain a greater good and the ideas put forth in this campaign move towards affecting a larger social and cultural change. In a way the idea this campaign sells is that women shouldn't need to feel embarrassed by the very things that make them women...their vaginas! I love this campaign for the same reason I love Eve Ensler: both acknowledge that having a vagina does not make you less, nor should it strip you of power, your entitlements or respect -- instead it simply makes you woman and that's a beautiful thing.
- Check out this Mother Nature ad for an idea of what I'm talking about: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3kugHmbNgQ↩
- "The new line primarily caters to women from 14 to 21." - Rebelling Against the Commonly Evasive Feminine Care Ad by Andrew Adam Newman for the New York times. Written 03-15-2010. Retrieved 04-20-2010. ↩
- Break the Cycle: A Study on Vaginal Health (page 6) ↩
- "Women with low-esteem are more likely to think of their vaginal area as ugly (58% vs. 29%) and to feel dirty when they have their period (67% vs. 47%)." -- It's time to Break the Cycle↩
- Break the Cycle: A Study on Vaginal Health (page 3, paragraph 5) ↩
- "Merrie Harris, global business director at JWT, said that after being informed that it could not use the word vagina in advertising by three broadcast networks, it shot the ad cited above with the actress instead saying 'down there,' which was rejected by two of the three networks. (Both Ms. Harris and representatives from the brand declined to specify the networks.)
'It’s very funny because the whole spot is about censorship,' Ms. Harris said. 'The whole category has been very euphemistic, or paternalistic even, and we’re saying, enough with the euphemisms, and get over it. Tampon is not a dirty word, and neither is vagina.'" - Rebelling Against the Commonly Evasive Feminine Care Ad by Andrew Adam Newman for the New York times. Written 03-15-2010. Retrieved 04-20-2010.↩