Garfield's AdReview

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You've come a long way, baby.

Yes, ma'am, in the eyes of Madison Avenue, you surely have-and no longer expressed merely in swiveling your hips catwalk-style while declaring your sexual liberation by smoking yourself to death.

Suddenly, instead of pandering to your repressed independence or documenting your many alarming and unsightly deficiencies or filling your dreary fantasies with aspirational poppycock, the marketing world seems prepared to let you-nay, encourage you-to be you. You! No matter how horrendously normal you are.

First, as documented in this very space, Dove struck a blow against Bulimia Chic by portraying actual women with actual hips as proud, happy and attractive. Next thing you know (as reported elsewhere in this issue) Nike upped the ante by paying rebellious tribute to the big female butt. Not a slightly padded booty, no, no. We're talking mud flaps such as, by all previously writ holy, are supposed to make you freebase SlimFast and step-aerobic your way into knee surgery.

Forget that baloney. Just say no liposuction. Phil Knight has suddenly decided your fat ass is fine.

But all that is nothing. From Procter & Gamble comes now maybe the ultimate emancipation of the self-loathing cohort: the hitherto unimaginable license not to hate your menstrual period.

"This is the time of the month that chocolate was created for," begins one print ad, a manifesto of militant self-indulgence. "This is the time when no toenail should go unpolished. When the gym will get along just fine without you. This is the time when, if something is even slightly annoying, the world should know about it. And if you feel like crying there is no inappropriate time or place.

"It's your period. You have the right to make it the best period it can possibly be. And we're here to help."

The "we" is Always, the wafer-thin pad/panty shield that at first glance would seem to be skating on wafer-thin ice with this approach. First of all ... Always? AdReview has long insisted the product should be branded "Periodically." Secondly, with the bleeding, cramps, bloating and hormonal Whack-a-Mole game that monthly bedevils so many women, how can P&G and Leo Burnett in good conscience invite their customers to "Have a Happy Period?"

Happy? Compared to what... electrocution?

But, of course, "compared to what" is exactly the point. Because society, and advertising as much as any institution, has historically equated menstruation not just with unease but with filth and weakness and shame-which is not only sexist and condescending but just plain stupid. Being ashamed about your period is like being ashamed of respiration. ("Oh, I am soooooo embarrassed. Let me just disappear into the powder room to breathe. And please don't tell Walter! It makes him very queasy.")

Previous campaigns for feminine hygiene, notably Tampax, have done their best to de-stigmatize menses, but till now no one has had the inspiration to celebrate it as a sort of red badge of courage. OK. Not courage, but martyrdom-martyrdom that at long last deserves to be pampered, surrendering to discomfort but never to denial.

There are many iterations of the theme, in print, outdoor and on TV, all presented in the strange-but strangely fitting-style of pastel confrontation. They all make the point eloquently, but our favorite is a transit poster in a genteel script. It reads:

"Those cookies in your desk aren't going to eat themselves."

Strength through weakness! Either it's a bold and welcome new concept or, baby, we haven't come so far from the Virginia Slims pitch after all.

Review 3.5 stars

Ad: Always

Agency: Leo Burnett

Location: Chicago

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