Menstruation in advertising. It's often portrayed in a way that further spreads the stigma that periods are a hygiene issue — dirty, smelly, gross. And when the media isn't period-shaming women with ads for scented pads that block odor, tampons that fit discreetly in your pocket or completely unnecessary “cleansing products,” they are depicting menstruation in an unrealistic way. You know, like with that bizarre blue liquid used to represent blood, which (newsflash!) is red.
But some companies are breaking new ground in menstrual product advertising. A brand new campaign for U by Kotex uses a realistic-looking red fluid to show the absorbancy of their Security Ultra-Thin Pads. The company hopes this move will help bust the stigma and end the squeamishness around menstruation. “Blood is blood. This is something that every woman has experienced, and there is nothing to hide,” Sarah Paulsen, creative and design director for Kimberly-Clark’s North American feminine-care brands, told The Wall Street Journal.
According to the brand, this is the same synthetic material they use to test and develop their products. A clip posted to Instagram shows the dark red liquid being poured over two pads, one from U by Kotex and one from the brand's competitor.
The U by Kotex campaign, which will be marketed on social media and TV streaming apps, is the first from a major, mainstream brand to show blood-red fluid on its products in marketing. Smaller startups, like Cora, Lola, and Flex, have used this messaging and imagery in ads since inception.
Cora reports that their ads were initially flagged as inappropriate and taken down by social media sites like Facebook but have since been restored. And just Last year, the Australian-based feminine-care company Libra launched their Blood Normal commercial during prime time television shows, prompting an outpour of viewer complaints. Clearly, there is still more work to be done when it comes to ending the stigma around menstruation, and while we don't expect to see this new U by Kotex pad commercial run during the Super Bowl, it's certainly a step in the right direction.
The brand has received loads of support on social media since posting the clip to Instagram. “Thank you for taking a HUGE step forward in de-stigmatizing the female body. It makes me VERY happy to see the human color of blood,” wrote one user. Another commented: “HELL YES. Last I checked, my period wasn’t blue. Thank you for challenging stigmas and standing up for our bodies!”
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