A discussion on this morning's Women's Hour on Radio 4 about the viral film made by Bodyform broadened into a critique of sanitary protection advertising as a whole - and a recent print advertisement for Lil-Lets made by Leagas Delaney came in for some particularly blistering criticism.
Women's Hour host Jenni Murray invited Tiffany Maddox of Rubber Republic - who made the Bodyform viral - and Gail Parminter of Madwomen - an agency which specialises in creating advertising that targets women - to assess feminine hygiene advertising in the wake of the viral's runaway success.
Parminter pointed out that "it's taken a man to make a comment for Bodyform to actually respond to the fact that the ads are sanitised and stereotyped... when women have been moaning about this for years". She added that while the viral is very funny, "it hasn't actually done anything for the future of sanitary towel advertising because it's letting itself off the hook... it's essentially saying 'because people can't cope with the reality [so] we're going to carry on doing this with metaphors and stereotypes'". Maddox claimed that Rubber Republic were commissioned to create a response to the Facebook comment by Bodyform's media agency Carat: "we made it incredibly quickly... we got it on a Wednesday, by Thursday we were scripting it, by Friday we were organising the shoot, by Saturday it was shot, by Sunday it was edited... we worked very, very fast and I think that was one of the reasons it went viral." According to Maddox, it wasn't just this rapid response that made it successful: "we felt it was something that someone like Bodyform wouldn't really say and it wasn't a response that people would have expected."The focus then switched as Jenni Murray asked Gail Parminter about a recent magazine advertisement for Lil-Lets which "suggests masturbation as a cure for period cramps," and asked, "how do you think they got away with that?" Parminter let out a groan before pointing out that "the managing director of Leagas Delaney - who made that ad - tweeted when the ad went live saying 'great work, team - that's the first time I've got the word "horny" into an ad'" which led Parminter to question the reason for this approach: "is it really empathy with women or is it just to try to get a controversial ad out?"
Parminter went on to say: "I find it a little bit disturbing because it's aimed at very young girls who are just starting their period and it's trying to sexualise periods so it's seeing [this] through a male lens... it's trying to sanitise it and sexualise it... we've sexualised everything else in a young girl's life so let's sexualise periods as well. Are they going to give them vibrating tampons next?" Parminter used this criticism to urge Bodyform to use her company in a consultative capacity as they seek a new advertising agency: "I would suggest they talk to Madwomen - and to Tiffany - about how they can better sell these products to women."Update: Response from Lil-Lets
Lil-Lets' marketing director, Clodagh Ward, has got in touch with The Drum to respond to the criticism. She said: "The thinking behind the ‘Your body is amazing campaign’ of which the horny press ad is just one facet, came on the back of extensive research into the female body. "The aim is to share our knowledge and even surprise some people with facts they may not know about how a woman’s body works. Our campaign is aimed at the over 25s and we have carefully selected our media titles to reflect this target audience and worked closely with the ASA to ensure best practice was adhered to. "In 2011 we successfully launched a range of products specifically targeted at the under 16s with the Lil-lets teens range. We have a separate marketing campaign with advertising and editorial in appropriate titles to reflect this age group.”
The Bodyform viral that sparked the debate...