Feminine hygiene products have a history of questionable advertising. Lately, however, we’re starting to see some truly groundbreaking, entertaining, and original ads. The newest maxi pad video doing the viral rounds is this one from Always:
Now, I’m not sure I would really consider this an ad for tampons or pads. In fact, they’re not mentioned in the ad at all, save for the Always brand name.
But as embarrassing as it is to admit, this ad actually moved me to tears.
The company says: “We’re kicking off an epic battle to make sure that girls everywhere keep their confidence throughout puberty and beyond, and making a start by showing them that doing it #LikeAGirl is an awesome thing.”
In my formative years, the standard tropes for tampon and pad ads were women in white clothes horseback riding and playing tennis, and scientists pouring blue liquid onto a maxi pad.
Now, feminine hygiene product companies are jumping on the social change and empowerment bandwagon. And I’m not sure how I feel about that.
On one hand, I welcome this renaissance of advertising with open arms. Companies that make pads and tampons are one of the few types of companies that can market exclusively to girls and women. They are therefore in a powerful position to enact social change.
On the other hand, these companies need to tread carefully, to walk the line between truly moving and empowering messages and selling products aimed at women’s insecurities. Sure, they have to sell products, but they can do so without exploiting women’s self esteem.
This is not a domain that is unique to pad and tampon companies. Other female care companies have gotten in on the action. Dove famously has a range of advertisements – some more successful than others – that aim to empower women. And we recently saw an ad from Pantene Philippines that examined various forms of gender bias.
Personally, I would love to see more ads that actually talk about menstruation. For instance, Hello Flo, a company that makes period-time care packages, made their Camp Gyno and First Moon Party videos to promote their product. In the ads, periods are spoken about frankly, however with no shortage of humor.
In comparison, Always’ other new ad includes the dreaded pouring blue liquid onto a maxi pad!
I definitely don’t want to discourage female product companies from making empowering ads. But I think they need to carefully walk the line between selling us our insecurities and liberating us beyond them.
Tessa Needham Synnott discovered About-Face while completing her PhD in Performing Arts at the University of Western Sydney (Australia) in 2008. Her thesis explored the potential of performance to provoke change, and part of her research was Bodily, a solo theatrical performance about body image. She loves technology and the creative arts, and is passionate about the different cultural forces affecting the body image of girls and women. She is a freelance graphic designer, photographer, and WordPress developer: tessaneedham.com.