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By Amy Houston | Reporter

July 6, 2022 | 7 min read

Following its multi-award-winning campaign ‘Womb Stories,’ Essity-owned feminine care brand Bodyform has launched a new campaign to tell the unfiltered truth of periods at night. It hopes it will further the women’s healthcare conversation – especially in the US, where it soon plans to roll out the raw new work.

From perfect hairless bodies to weird blue liquid mimicking menstrual blood, for years women have felt unseen and misunderstood in advertising. Bodyform and its agency partner AMV BBDO have been on a mission to champion real periods through a brand narrative that is frank yet relatable.

Think about adverts or films where you see a woman in bed. Half of the time “she’s probably having sex with a man, and the other half she’s having a super restful sleep and looks beautiful when she wakes up,” says AMV BBDO’s strategy partner for Bodyform Margaux Revol.

“Everything is perfect – but if you think about it, when you have your period, your sleep is pretty chaotic.”

That sentiment is at the core of Bodyform’s latest campaign, which it has dubbed ‘Periodsomnia.’ To position itself as one of the only brands “accurately portraying what women go through during the night,” it has created an intense, almost trippy film that quite literally shines a light on what happens in the dark during the menstrual cycle – farts, blood, bloating and all.

The creative process

With a project that promises an authentic look at periods, Bodyform and the creatives at AMV BBDO had to speak to people from all walks of life to accurately portray different kinds of after-dark scenarios. The people you see in the ad were all interviewed, and their stories are all very real. The team even recreated aspects of their living circumstances so that the film felt authentic, using a mix of standard and thermal cameras.

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“We took the insights and expressed them through animating the thermal imagery,” says Luca Grosso, one of the creatives who worked on the brief.

“You see a woman melting down the side of the bed. These are things that you can’t do with only real-life footage – you need that extra animation, that sort of artfulness. They’re real by being surreal, in a strange way. Then there was the thermal camera, which was the portal between these two worlds, where you transition from one to the other in a really seamless way.”

They wanted to find distinctive ways to represent period blood, and in this campaign saw it as a Medusa-like character, detaching from the uterus and flowing through the body. “It was a creative interpretation of a period clot that goes through the lining, and how even when we sleep, our body doesn’t – our body is alive at night and it’s working,” adds fellow creative Anzhela Hayrabedyan.

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By coining the term ‘periodsomnia’, Bodyform hopes to put a name to the experience that millions go through at night by showing that people aren’t alone in this, while hopefully providing some comfort and a sense of community.

Breaking taboos in America

Bodyform was scheduled to launch this unfiltered ad in the States. But just weeks before the rollout, the American Supreme Court overturned the Roe v Wade ruling, ending the right to abortion within many conservative states. Essity has since taken the decision to temporarily pause its US rollout, but it will resume later in the year with a focus on Hispanic communities.

Essity’s femcare global marketing and communications director Tanja Grubner explains: “The brand that we have in the US is Saba, which is the market leader in Mexico and Central America. We’ve been debating which brand it is because, within Essity, we have seven regional brands. The US is the second biggest feminine care market in the world, so the cost of entry is very, very high. We’ve decided to take Saba to the US and focus on the Hispanic population, who will know the brand from growing up.

“We’re also predominantly focused on the states where the Hispanic population lives and this is also represented in the retailers, which are in California, Texas, Arizona and Illinois.”

Texas and Arizona were among the states to ban abortion after Roe v Wade was overturned.

“We were all devastated,” adds Revol on the ruling. “You work for months and years on trying to push boundaries, break barriers for women. And then literally the irony of us about to launch and you see this happening and you feel like it’s the biggest kick in the teeth. It’s such a massive step backward.”

Of course, period representation in advertising and abortion rights are two completely different issues, but both pertain to the feeling that somehow women’s healthcare just isn’t a top priority.

“There is so much shit that piles up for women and their bodies. And there’s so much progress that needs to keep being made and fights that need to be fought. So, for us, where things link up in terms of Libresse as a brand is that the battle is never over.”

Reception and the future

Similar to ‘Womb Stories,’ Bodyform hopes that the reception to ‘Periodsommnia’ is one of solidarity, and the notion that women don’t need to deal with these issues in isolation anymore.

“We hear sometimes about the gender sleep gap, but what’s never really acknowledged until now is the impact that your actual body, your womb, your hormones have on the sleep as well, and it puts an extra amount of pressure on you,” adds Revol.

“You just get on with your day, but imagine the billions of girls going to school after a shit period night, going to university or to work. For decades, you just do that every single month and you don’t complain, but it’s just important to acknowledge the impact it has on us and to acknowledge the inequality.”

Looking to the future, the team hopes that other brands will step up and make some noise. “It’s interesting because it feels like more and more brands are trying to do their own ‘blood normal.’ They’re trying to almost replicate what we did a few years ago by finding the one thing that was untruthful and sort of flip it – like we did with the blue liquid and the red liquid.

“Bodies aren’t just bodies. It’s not just showing hair or not showing hair, red blood or not red blood. For us, the key element is becoming better at representing women, and having a deeper understanding and more powerful creativity to translate it.”

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