News & Views

About bloody time


It must be a double full moon. Not one but two brilliant films for sanpro brands have appeared over the last few weeks. In an industry that averages one half-decent ad for tampons or sanitary towels a year, could this suggest that this sector’s advertising is finally coming of age?
The two films  – one for P&G sanitary towel brand Always and one for HelloFlo, a Brooklyn-based monthly sanpro subscription service – have both gone viral, clocking up more than 50 million views between them. Both are more than three minutes long. Both are well-crafted pieces of film that have generated PR. Both continue to be shared millions of times via social media. Hang on a minute. Sanpro advertising being shared? Wtf?

Always looks like it’s attempting to replicate Dove Sketches with a powerful film directed by Lauren Greenfield and via ad agency network Leo Burnett in London, Chicago and Toronto. Women 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 as themselves, with power and conviction. The film, which has amassed nearly 28 million YouTube views, questions our use of the phrase ‘like a girl’ - when did that become an insult exactly? Why do girls lose so much confidence during puberty? These are really important questions and I want to see where Always takes this.

takes a different tack, using humour and straight-talk. First Moon Party, a film written and directed by Jamie McCelland and Pete Marquis via production company Hayden 5, shows a pre-teen girl faking starting her period by painting red nail polish onto a sanitary towel. Her mother then mortifies her by throwing a ‘first moon party’. Her daughter cringes as grandpa indulges in a spot of ovary-bobbing, her friends dip marshmallows in bright red fluid and everyone’s entertained by a ‘vagician’. Finally she caves to her mother, admitting that she’s faked it, and her mother shows her HelloFlo’s $29.95 Period Starter Kit. ‘Periods don’t have glitter in them,’ says the mother, letting her daughter know she’d rumbled her from the get-go.

First Moon Party has attracted nearly 25 million YouTube views. What I love about this lolfest is that it appeals to mothers and daughters and there’s absolutely no Vaseline on the lens in the portrayal of their relationship. For that reason I bet it’s been shared millions of times on social media - mostly by mothers -  and I bet it’ll sell a ton of subscriptions to HelloFlo, for both mothers and their daughters.

It’s a worthy sequel to HelloFlo’s 2013 Camp Gyno film, which got the HelloFlo brand name out there at its launch last year and generated 8.6 million YouTube views. Camp Gyno stars a tween who gets her first period at summer camp, appoints herself ‘Camp Gyno’ and educates her peers about impending womanhood. ‘Camp Gyno’ is subsequently rendered redundant when her peers realise they can subscribe to HelloFlo.

The change in tone taken by HelloFlo and Always is long overdue. The average woman uses 11,000 sanitary items during her lifetime, spending around £90 ($154) a year. There’s a massive cost discrepancy between brand-name and own-label and the big brands dominate: Procter & Gamble (Always, Tampax) has a 46% value share in the US and 44% in the UK, according to Euromonitor.  Feminine hygiene brands can command that price premium because women want products they can rely on. Enter advertising.

For a long time, the ad industry couldn’t see past that need for reliability, meaning that ads focused squarely on product benefits. Blue ink was used to prove hi-tech absorbency alongside words like ‘trust’ and ‘protection’. Using these products would make you so high on life every month that you’d be playing the sax while roller-blading in white hot pants, only pausing to punch the air and screech ‘Woooahhhh, Bodyform!’

Incidentally, Bodyform’s 2012 viral was a witty recognition of bygone advertising, starring the fictional CEO of Bodyform, taking sips from a glass of blue water, admitting that these ads were an elaborate cover-up. And Kotex, since 2010, has been doing some brilliant work to ‘break the cycle’, in other words to end the taboo around periods. It’s worked: the range grew by 82% in current value terms between 2010 and 2013. That Kimberly-Clark-owned brand also produced a smart content-led social campaign in China in 2012.

#LikeAGirl in particular has the potential to be as big as Dove’s Real Beauty campaign. But it needs to have the guts and the spirit of the young stars in its film if it’s going to make an impact. Should it succeed, it will help its brand and, crucially, its audience to make the transition from feisty girl to self-assured woman.