It’s a long way from women rollerskating and playing football to a Dad rock soundtrack.
There’s a certain generation who, when they hear the brand name ‘Bodyform’, will immediately reach for their air-guitar and extol the virtues of sanitary pads guaranteed to improve your performance in front of goal.
Back in the 1990’s (yes, I’m from that generation), Bodyform took the taboo subject of menstruation to the mainstream with a TV advertising campaign. It was designed to show how their products could liberate the women wearing them, and was eye-catching and memorable for a number of reasons. Hang on, are those women playing football? How dare they. Having fun while having a period? Soaring, positive lyrics soundtracked it all as the pads were shown in a clinical demonstration, successfully absorbing something that looked like blue mouthwash.
Put my Dad right off his dinner, it did. But it was a different story for my Mum and my sister.
Make no mistake, it was groundbreaking at the time and those who saw it remember it still. Now, in 2020, Bodyform has created something that’s not only memorable and taboo-breaking, but a brilliantly emotive piece of storytelling.
It’s the latest step on a fascinating creative journey which has continually sought to normalise things which were once only ever tackled with a very long bargepole. In 2017, Bodyform’s #BloodNormal campaign ditched the blue mouthwash for product demonstrations and replaced it with a more truthful and realistic red, blood-like substance. This campaign, from agency AMV BBDO, came a year after their film ‘Blood’ which featured women bleeding while taking part in various sports, showing that it didn’t stop them from powerfully competing and triumphing. Director Daniel Wolfe had been inspired by a message on social media which read “Can’t wait for the day when women no longer pass tampons to a friend like they are a Class A drug”. On both occasions, AMV BBDO and their client succeeded in bringing periods into mainstream discussion through clever, honest and evocative advertising.
So, back to Bodyform’s latest offering, released this month. Set to the thumping, ethereal vibe of Pumarosa’s Shura remix of ‘Priestess’, it uses a blended mix of animation and live action sequences to explore the constant and often difficult relationship that women endure with their menstruation cycle. It’s all there, all brought to the forefront. The first period. The last. The agony of endometriosis. Hot flushes. IVF. The ecstatic highs and devastating lows of pregnancy.
However, it’s not just the fact that these issues are being presented and spoken about. It’s the way in which it’s done. What starts off as colourful and charming soon descends into something more brutal and heart-wrenching, the emotions all too real and raw. You’re there, feeling the pain with these women. This is life.
There’s even humour and knowing nods and winks of recognition. Passion. Joy. Nipple-hairs. Look closely, and the footballers are still there too. This story is a journey of experiences shared, a masterful illustration of what women around us every single day are going through. With this campaign comes the clear message that there’s no shame in it, only pride.
As part of the creative process, each of the wombs featured in the ad were curated by a different illustrator. They brought their own personality to their animations and storytelling; after all, despite the shared experiences, every womb is different, every one with its own #wombstory.
As a bloke, I have to put my hand on my heart (somewhere above my wombless innards) and say what a powerful effect this ad had on me. It’s storytelling of the highest calibre, and fantastic advertising as a consequence. So real. So emotive and so powerfully resonating. I have often looked on at my wife, my Mum and my sister with embarrassingly clumsy incomprehension and wonder when it comes to their innermost feelings towards their bodies.
While the clumsiness will no doubt remain (it’s a key part of the lovable idiot that I’ve become, for chrissakes) there are moments in life when the connection happens and you come closer to ‘getting it’. An understanding about something you can never feel. A lightbulb turning on or whatever, when you can turn to your closest and say “Fuck me, this really is shit, isn’t it?” It was my wife that showed me the ad on YouTube and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.
With #wombstories, Bodyform have a storytelling campaign that does the most powerful things a story can do: make a connection and move you.
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