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Ad campaigns for maxi-pads and tampons tend to look like commercials for exotic resorts, replete with beachside strolls, yoga at sunset, and well-absorbed blue dye the color of a crystalline sea. With that Zenlike imagery on the one hand, and on the other the misguided stereotype of the crazy PMSing woman, it must be awfully confusing for men--or at least it was for one Richard Neill, whose amusing tongue-in-cheek comment about period confusion posted to the Facebook page of Bodyform, a British brand of maxipads, has now inspired a national campaign.
"As a man I must ask why you have lied to us for all these years," Neill wrote. "As a child I watched your advertisements with interest as to how at this wonderful time of the month that the female gets to enjoy so many things, I felt a little jealous. I mean bike riding, rollercoasters, dancing, parachuting, why couldn't I get to enjoy this time of joy and 'blue water' and wings !! "
His clever jab at the brand got 80,000 likes. But it also got something unexpected: a direct, and even wittier, response from the company.
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Posted this week to Facebook, the ad features the company's CEO (played by an actress) addressing Richard directly.
"I think it's time we came clean," she says playing it totally straight. "We lied to you, Richard, and I want to say sorry. … Sorry."
What follows is a hilarious, you-asked-for-it explanation of what really happens to woman's body once a month.
To pre-empt any further criticism, the ad's actress also explains why honesty hasn't been the policy in the past. "In the 1980s we ran a focus group to help gauge the public's reaction to periods," she says. Cut to grown men crying and rocking and covering their ears with their hands.
The spot, created by the agency Carat, has been getting raves internationally, with Adweek praising it as "brilliant" and Jezebel.com calling the humor-based approach "awe-inspiring."
Yulia Kretova, brand controller for Bodyform, offered some insight into the risky campaign in a statement to Yahoo! Shine.
We created this video as a light-hearted response…in an attempt to try and break down some of the social taboos that surround periods," says Kretova, who called Richard's original comment "funny." "We had a giggle making this video and we are delighted that our fans have not only seen the funny side but have also been openly talking about periods."
Bodyform isn't the first brand to knock down the walls of period paradise. A 2010 campaign for a line of pads and tampons called U by Kotex, took a similarly sarcastic approach, poking fun at the dreamlike stock images in most tampon ads. But when one of the commercials included the word vagina, major US networks refused to air it. Even after changing the reference to "down there" the ad was still "too frank" for some networks, according to The New York Times.
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Two years later and across an ocean Bodyform gets a lot more frank than that, with a level of transparency that might not fly on US television networks but thrives on 'channel internet.'
"There's no such thing as a happy period," says Bodyform's faux CEO in the spot. "[There's] the cramps, the mood-swings, the insatiable hunger, and yes, Richard, the blood coursing from our uteri like a crimson landslide."
Still there Richard? The British commenter didn't respond to Shine's request for comment by press time, and hasn't posted a reaction since the video went viral.
Maybe he's still processing all the new information delivered to him on the commercial. It's a lot for some guys to absorb.