5 brands breaking women’s health taboos
Many women’s health topics such as menopause, fertility and menstruation have long been shrouded in stigma and deemed taboo, but brands have realized they can grow their markets by bringing these issues into the light. The Drum highlights work from Bodyform, Canesten, Dame, Elvie and the unambiguously-named Vagina Museum showing us the way.
Canesten’s ‘The Truth, Undressed’ campaign by AnalogFolk / AnalogFolk
Through bold creative executions, these brands are raising awareness, laughing in the face of ‘taboo’ and forging safe spaces for conversations to take place.
Here are the five best ads from recent years that changed their respective fields...
Bodyform: Womb Stories by AMV BBDO
Bodyform began its push to challenge period marketing back in 2017 when it took a stand against using blue liquid to mimic menstrual blood. Instead, the brand set out to show the reality of what women go through every month.
Fast forward to 2020, and building on the positive reaction to its ’Blood Normal’ and ’Viva La Vulva’ campaigns, Bodyform and its sister brand Libresse released ’Womb Stories,’ a three-and-a-half-minute short that showed IVF treatment, endometriosis cramps, menopausal hot flushes, nipple hairs and first periods.
The film was met with critical acclaim, winning multiple Cannes Lions Grand Prix prizes, plus 12 Gold Pencils and a Black Pencil at the D&AD awards.
Canesten: The Truth, Undressed by AnalogFolk
Alongside the short-form video, the brand also developed an educational platform that gave users access to information about how female bodies look and behave, with photography that truthfully represented lots of different body types.
Dame Products: Derail Sexism by Dame
Sexual wellness company Dame spent three years in a legal battle with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) after having its ads rejected.
The issue? The New York City subway system had previously featured billboards highlighting male health-related matters such as erectile dysfunction – but when it came to women’s health the ads weren’t deemed appropriate. According to the MTA the campaign was rejected due to a recent policy change that banned sex toy ads.
After settling the lawsuit in 2021, the brand was able to advertise in the New York subway system for the first time.
Elvie: Leaks Happen by Don’t Cry Wolf
Tech brand Elvie tackled the taboo of incontinence with a big, wet out-of-home (OOH) activation that aimed to create an open dialogue about the topic, while also wiping the floor with social media companies that feel the issue should be censored online.
The bespoke build stood at a lofty 10ft tall and featured real-life incontinent woman Megan Burns, a 28-year-old mum of two from Cornwall, with Muay Thai athlete Nesrine Dally also collaborating on the project.
Vagina Museum: Neighbours by TheOr London
The world’s first bricks-and-mortar museum dedicated to vaginas, vulvas and gynecological anatomy reopened in London in March this year. Since 2017 more than 150,000 people have visited its exhibitions including Muff Busters: Vagina Myths and How to Fight Them and Periods: A Brief History.
At the time, Nathalie Gordon, creative director at TheOr London, said: “Half the world has a vulva, a vagina and a clitoris – it should be normal to use these words in our everyday vernacular and be comfortable seeing them mentioned on billboards. If anyone finds the campaign sensationalist, inappropriate or weird, it says more about them than it does the work or the museum.”