Fat shaming. Period Shaming. Bullying. Sexist.
These were some of the complaints hurled at an ad for feminine hygiene products which first aired in Australia a few months ago.
The ad in question, for SOFY BeFresh pads, shows a thin, gorgeous woman being chased by an emotional, bloated woman apparently representing her when it’s that time of the month.
In a nutshell: she’s trying to escape from her period self.
Ad viewers have been so outraged that more than 70 complaints have been made to Australia’s Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) since it first aired in August.
Complaints have also appeared on social media where tweeters and commenters let their feelings be known.
By comparison, another campaign running at the same time – also for a company marketing women’s hygiene products – has had the exact opposite effect.
As part of Libra’s I Am Fearless campaign, the ad features Australian singer Megan Washington talking about how she overcame her stutter to become a singer.
“When I sing it’s impossible to stutter, which is the most delicious feeling,” Washington says.
“All the things that I have done in my life that I am proud of are all things on the threshold of which I felt immense fear.”
The ads have been garnering a lot of positive feedback online and on social media. There have been no complaints to the ASB about the ad either (so far anyway).
As far as advertising for a feminine product goes, Libra’s is a standout.
It doesn’t mention the products it sells, nor wheel out any of the usual euphemisms or cliches.
There are no graphics of a blue liquid being poured onto a pad to show their absorbency, bad jokes about that time of the month or guys sticking winged pads to their arms and heads (which was another of Libra’s forays into the TV ad world).
Paul Rees-Jones of Clemenger BBDO Melbourne, the company behind the ad, told B&T Magazine: “It’s significant for a brand to be tackling real cultural, societal issues in a category that has historically talked product features and benefits in a somewhat juvenile manner.”
Content Director of Media and Marketing website Mumbrella, Tim Burrowes, says it isn’t surprising the Libra ad is getting such a positive reception.
“It’s very positive which isn’t going to offend anybody and has the various attributes Libra as a brand would,” Burrowes says.
But that isn’t always a good thing, Mr Burrowes says.
“The interesting thing about that is that I remember the ad but could not tell you what the product was,” Burrowes says.
“So as a brand does it then join the dots to itself?”
Mr Burrowes says advertising that offends can be some of the most successful in terms of sales and brand recognition and trust.
Take the Kotex’s U tampons “beaver” ads, which appeared in 2008. The ads, where a woman and her animated friend – a beaver – visited the hairdressers, the beach and had coffee, were extremely controversial.
They were some of the most complained about for that year (185 complaints were received by the ASB) but lifted sales and brand trust.
The fact that advertising agencies are looking for controversy to push out the brand could be levelled at brands like SOFY BeFresh and others – but Mr Burrowes says it is a cynical view to have.
“[Advertisers] have to be very careful to stick to the ASB standards,” he says.
“They don’t want to lose the complaint and have the ad taken off the air – it would cost money to reshoot another one.”
It’s yet to be seen if Libra’s new tack, showing women in a positive and empowering light, will be as successful as more controversial ads.
But it’s refreshing to see women’s hygiene products aspiring to a bigger ideal than just product sales.
As Facebook commenter Gracie Patten said: “Megan is amazing! She has overcome such a personal struggle and given others hope!
“Thank you for endorsing her and becoming a company that recognises women who struggle.”