The Vagenda

What Women Really Think About Tampon Advertising

So, this morning, someone sent us this:

Everyone loves an infographic, right? Well, the Mail, who reported it as though it were news, certainly did
Anyway, it got me thinking about ‘sanitary wear’, and the way that it’s advertised. We already took a look at Tampax’s bizarre Mother Nature adverts, but I thought I’d do a little survey, see what everyone else in the dark and murky world of feminine hygiene product advertising was up to. 
Lil-Lets have gone for the ‘tampons as sweetie’ paradigm in a big way. Their website is a cacophony of pastel colours and little bows that would not look out of place on a Cath Kidson tribute site. With Lil-Lets, it’s all about discretion. ‘Oh, what? You mean these? Oh, they’re just little drawstring bags for my macaroons!’ This is their teen range:
I mean, fair enough, right? It’s for teenagers. And teenagers are all, like, totally ashamed of their periods. Unfortunately, the patronising marketing doesn’t really improve when it’s targeted at women: 
It gets worse when we look at this little film on the Lil-Lets website, which explains how their pads work: (now for the SCIENCE BIT)

‘Lil-lets pads contain FreshLOCK which wraps around the bacteria and stops them multiplying and odour developing’.

Now ladybros, I must confess that I am no scientist. All I have to my name is a B grade in GCSE biology. But if one of you clever sciency type people could explain how perfume molecules are able to wrap themselves around bacteria, thus containing it in some kind of hygiene bubble, then I’d be really keen to hear that. We all would.

I then came across the site for Lil-Lets South Africa. It seems to centre around being a woman, and all the things that that like, totally entails:

You big bunch of girls.
Kotex, meanwhile, have gone for the empowerment angle. If your stomach is feeling a little delicate, then look away now:
That’s the US campaign. Obviously we don’t go in for that kind of mushy crap in the UK (ew, feelings) so us girls get ‘the only rustle free sanitary wrapper’. ‘We women love to share’, goes the advert, ‘just not with the whole world’ Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! (video here)
Personally, I quite like the noisy ripping sound you get when you tear your pad off. It gives me a sense of satisfaction. But I can understand how some women might not like it. If this is you, then you can always sing show tunes while you’re doing it. Once I had to pee in a bush near the Eiffel Tower and my friend distracted everyone by singing ‘All That Jazz’ from Chicago. See? Us laydeez have been developing modesty-protecting measures since time immemorial- do we really need a rustle free wrapper?
It’s strange how things seem to have changed so dramatically in the world of period advertising. Back in the nineties, it was all about allowing women to live out their daily lives without their period interfering (the tag line is ‘confidently kotex’, all to a backing track of saxomaphones. Now it’s all about how cringe it is to be menstruating, and how we can minimise the shame.
Paradoxically, though, if you click under ‘fun stuff’ on the Kotex website, there’s a screensaver that you can download. Doesn’t seem all that discreet to me. It’s also a TRAVESTY that this one never made it across the pond:
Woah, Postmodernist. That is some self-aware shit. 


Meanwhile, in the world of Always, they’re plugging (pun intended) something called Actipearls, which appaz stop you smelling like, gross and stuff, and allow you to have a ‘happy period’. Meanwhile, this perky lady is having a fabulous time with Always dallies:
Is it just me or does the ‘fresh pair of knickers’ bit make you feel a bit, I dunno, weird? She just sounds so thrilled about it, like it’s the best thing that ever happened to her, or something. 
The Always website is pretty boring. It’s not my fave, let’s put it that way. The sheer amount of products is mind blowing:


I’m an Always girl. My mum bulk bought them when I was a teenager and now I have enough to last me through to menopause. Speaking of menopause, I was on the website this morning, and it encourages you to select what Always dubs your ‘Lifestage’. So, being the happy feminist lady I am, I chose ‘fulfilled and experienced’ (I’ve slept with loads of people) but the website was all ‘oh, no, this is not for you my friend’ :

‘You’ve been there, done that and got a few grey hairs to prove it (no one else needs to know that though!). You’re loving life and you’re definitely not going to let anything stop you from loving it even more.

That’s why we’re here to give you the advice you need on the menopause and the answers you’re looking for about sensitive and weak bladders…’

Oops. Better select another Lifestage. So I pick ‘Every woman’. Way to make me feel special, Always.  

Here’s a little tip from me to you: in ignoring Bon Jovi, you are missing out on a stellar marketing opportunity. It even SOUNDS like the music to an eighties tampon advert. It even has the lyrics ‘I’m drowning in the flood’. C’MON PEOPLE. Do I have to do everything around here?
Everyone knows that Bodyform peaked in the 1980s. All together now:
Nowadays they’ve opted for a much less power-ballady advertising style. They have cutesy website wallpaper and polls such as this
(er, neither), as well as the chance to set up your own ‘period calendar’. HURRAH!
Massive Fail
The worst advert ever, however, goes to American brand Playtex. Jesus, what were they thinking?
Fuck you, Playtex.
What is it that we want from a period advert?
For me, it’s something non-patronising, that doesn’t try to tell me what it’s like to ‘be a woman’ by breaking down what ten people in a focus group said about Kate Middleton into a fucking infographic. For me, it’s having red liquid instead of blue liquid, and not telling me I stink, that I can’t get shit done when I’m on my period, or that I’m a stroppy harpy. For me, it’s something with humour, that doesn’t involve the protagonist talking about ‘fresh knickers’ or ‘happy periods’ or ‘discretion’. It’s something like this:
How about you?


28 thoughts on “What Women Really Think About Tampon Advertising

  1. It’s all about the Menstrual Cup. Yes, it has a knit-your-own-yoghurt brand name (the Mooncup) but it is BRILLIANT. Lasts for years, will save you £1000s in your menstrual lifetime, comfortable and eco friendly. It doesn’t give you thrush and it (if you’re so inclined) allows you to get to know the flow rate, colour and even consistency of your menses. I found it really interesting to actually know what my period looked like when it was being soaked up by tampons or pads.
    Get one.

    And if you need help inserting, removing, general FAQs etc, there’s an awesome community here with support and guidance:

  2. I would prefer no advertising (unless it was purely informative to everyone, as in ‘this isn’t weird or something that makes you a smelly freak) because sanitary products should be FREE! I still don’t understand why we pay for them?!

  3. I hate my periods because I have a phobia of blood, so patronising adverts telling me ‘it’s all ok, the packaging is all sweet and cute’ make me particularly agitated. Also, I may be scared of blood but I know I’m not a freak if I menstruate, and anyone who tries to drum it into women’s heads that this is the case ought to be displayed on a podium, while we all point and shout ‘this person is an IDIOT.’ I’m also going to put this out there, particularly to the advertisers, but I have never been approached by someone in my locality, proclaiming, ‘YOU smell of PERIODS.’

  4. If they did some REALLY CLEVER SCIENCE (which I don’t even know if it is possible) then they could have attached perfume molecules to phagocytes which would engulf bacteria and destroy them. However, as phagocytes are white blood cells, I think it’s highly unlikely that they impregnated their tampons with them. Unless they have a way of attaching perfume molecules to your OWN phagocytes, which I would personally find a little invasive. Also, how they get away with making smelly things to sit next to/inside something that is so carefully controlled (by your OWN BODY) for pH and a million other things I don’t know. Perfume + Vagina = Poorly Vagina as far as I am concerned.

    That rejected tampon advert is AMAZING. I laughed so hard!

    P.S Sorry for the rant!

  5. Good article, I agree!

    Side note though – that “short string” ad that you list as a massive fail is actually a comedy bit and not an advert.

  6. Ha Bec Hill’s “ad” is brilliant. I have never seen a sanitary product ad that didn’t annoy me, except for Lunapads (though that’s too much work for me, I’m lazy.)
    OT: When I watched that “postmodern” ad, Youtube gave me a pop-up ad for a dating site. What’s more, it was a dating site for men to pick up married women. “Do you want to date a married woman?” Er, no, Youtube, I’m watching a tampon ad, WTF?

  7. This was excellent, like I want to twirl around pretending butterflies come out of my vagina every month. Am I right in thinking there’s some legal issue with showing bodily fluids in adverts? Someone told me they had to be shown in blue to comply with regulations – but i’m not sure if this is true. Ridiculous anyway.

  8. I REALLY don’t get on with the Mooncup. I’ve not had the greatest experience with it and after using it a couple of times had to go back to the ol’tampons. I found the Mooncup more of a hassle than giving me freedom. Just wish tampon companies would stop being so patronising! Love the last commerical though. Shame it didnt’ get picked.

  9. Also, for the always dailies… I don’t know about anyone else, but for that ‘fresh knicker’ feeling, I just wear a fresh pair of knickers every day? Just me?

  10. Do you not think it’s weird that condoms are (rightly) free, for a mostly voluntary act, but tampons etc aren’t even though it’s not something I can stop, and is actually rather vital to the human race continuing?

  11. I love Bec Hill’s commercial! As in “hey, it’s that time of the month again, i’ll go watch that funny video!” I can’t hear “don’t stop believing” in the propper way anymore

    I use Always. But they P*ss me off! And i’m not even PMTing yet. What’s my issue? Always Dailies.

    Dear Always, STOPIT! Women dont need Always Dailies daily! And we dont need you always, Always! Just once a month. Now stop being so clingy and go find someone else to hang out with until I need you again!

  12. When I watch too much My Drunk Kitchen and cat videos on youtube the adverts are ALL for “date geeks!”
    but… i am dating a movie/music geek and we’re happy, it’s just… i need my cat video and drunk cooking show fix!! he understands that!

  13. I don’t think it’s that weird. I don’t think volition is really the issue; condoms are freely provided to stop unwanted pregnancies and STI spreading, both of which can be life-threatening or life-ruining, And cost the taxpayer far more the condom provision. Whilst providing sanitary products would be *nice* in an ideal world, and possibly economic if the policy favoured mooncups, I can’t see it being anywhere near as ‘necessary’.

  14. I’m like Kate, didn’t get on with the Mooncup at all. Kind of glad to hear it’s not just me! Of course, there are reusable pads and tampons rather than the disposable kind. Takes a bit more thought when going out though.

  15. I don’t know about free, but I do object to having to pay VAT on them. Luxury items, are they? Why thank you, government.

  16. Kotex made a brilliant series of adverts about this, including ones where they combatted mens reluctance to get sanitary products for their lady folk, but they never made it across the pond. I guess us delicate brits could not handle non-patronizing advertising, and non-blue liquid clearly would have us all retiring to our fainting couches with the smelling salts. Its not like any of us ever have to see real blood on a tampon.

  17. I am using tampons and it keeps me comfortable in travelling during my periods. Tampons provides 100% safety from the out flow of blood.Moreover tampons are really soft and made up of quality cotton. Tampons are disposable and made from softened papyrus.I would say if you want to keep yourself comfortable during your periods then you should try good quality tampons.
    tampones ob