Grooming Gone Wild

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When posed with questions regarding his agency's new integrated campaign for RFSU, the Swedish association for sex education, Akestam Holst's interactive CD Paul Collins can only preface his replies with knowing laughs. It's a fitting reaction when you consider the campaign's website is titled "Shave the Pussy."

Allusions to porn aside, the Scandinavian campaign, which officially launches this week via outdoor, print and the web, is literally meant to teach women proper grooming tips down you-know-where. But rather than be overly didactic, the Stockholm-based agency is using a fictional, 80-year-old midwife named Miss Fifi as its campaign spokeswoman. On the "Shave Your Pussy" website, the illustrated character plays judge and jury on how well you can virtually shave a "fiffi" (the Scandinavians' cutesy term for a vagina) using standard cutting tools as well as RFSU grooming products such as gel.

For Collins, the bold campaign was a direct result of having a progressive client like RFSU. "We've worked with the client before and they've been pretty edgy with all the advertising that they've done. You can actually present a lot of crazy ideas. With this, it was finding a balance where it wouldn't be disgusting. If there were real images uploaded, then that wouldn't be the same. That's why we decided to do it in a fully illustrated manner. Everything's hand-drawn and this older woman who's actually a midwife gives you tips. It's a bit funny but also a bit serious at the same time."

Targeted mostly at younger women who are curious about proper shaving techniques, the campaign according to Collins isn't really intended to encourage the practice, but merely be a product push if women do decide to shave down. "There are a lot [of younger women] that do shave these days. So, RSFU is saying if you are going to shave, then use [their] products. If you look at some of the products, like the shaving cream or gel, you have different items you can rub in that help afterwards, like a special type of balm with a very low pH value. So, it's really good for downstairs."

The site's main feature is the shaving contest, where those who properly use the provided tools get a higher score from Miss Fifi based on a scale of 1 to 10. Visitors can not only design and name their finished work, but those who score a 10 win a free shaving kit courtesy of RFSU. Collins offers participants a couple of tips. "You've got to do it in the right way or you don't get the right points. If you start with a razor straight away, it's all going to go red. You've got to wash it first, and your skill level goes up. Then, you can apply shaving gel and also comb it without any problem."

Collins claims the site, which also includes a Facebook option for you to embed your fiffi and show off to your friends, has currently racked up over 1,000 submissions and 100,000 unique visitors in soft launch. When the campaign officially goes live, the CD says that peculiar banner ads will appear on a dozen or so other sites ranging from women's blogs to MSN. "We've done a micro-version of the site in the banners, but what we've done is [implemented] an online 'pussy poll' in them that depending on how you vote, you can learn how much women shave." The print and billboard ads, meanwhile, feature an image of a bouquet of flowers arranged in such a way as to be a likeness of a woman's private area.

With all the suggestive material involved, Collins does concede that the campaign could face some backlash. "I think there is going to be a bit of controversy. It's a very sensitive subject. It's how you draw a fine line and knowing where the balance goes. Some people are going to be offended, but we've done it in quite a funny, tame manner. There have already been discussions about this regarding just the products. It was like, Christ why are you encouraging kids to shave? But the client took it well and said we are not encouraging kids to shave, but if they do, these products are going to help. When we release, there are going to be some mad people. But I haven't got a clue as to how it'll all [turn out]."
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