Fat-Shaming? Period-Shaming? A Sanitary Napkin Brand Explains Its Divisive Ad
A new sanitary napkin ad from J. Walter Thompson Melbourne sums up what it's like to have your period. You sprawl on the couch in sweats, whining into the phone, "I feel like I sat on a jam donut." You order pizza and shout at the delivery guy. You tell your cat, "I don't need you, I don't need anyone."
Thus the Australian ad for a new line of sanitary pads, Sofy BeFresh, taps into some common (if tired) stereotypes about women turning crazy during their periods. But the thing that really annoyed some viewers is the two women cast in the ad: a thin actress and a larger actress who plays her alter ego, the hormonal mess who takes over when it's that time of the month. On Twitter, some commenters called it fat-shaming and period-shaming.
To be fair, some found the ad funny and said they related.
Am I the only one who thinks the #sofybefresh ad is a refreshing change from the frolicking on boats/wearing white and grinning B.S ads? 😂— Just Gill... (@Gilligan88) August 20, 2015
The products were released by Unicharm Australia, part of Japan's Unicharm Corporation, which also makes babycare and health products. The company said it "unreservedly apologizes to anyone who is offended."
"The intention of the advertising is to highlight that women do not feel themselves during their menstrual period, and that it is not the woman herself but rather a less effective product that makes her feel this way," the company said in a statement.
Unicharm said the insight was based on extensive research, and that 72% of women tested believed the commercial showed "understanding of what it is like to be a woman."
The company's statement also had some footnotes citing research into how women feel during their periods:
 54% of Females are concerned about dirty / gross feeling during period days. Source: AC Nielsen Usage and Attitude Study 2013
 It's not her period that makes her feel dirty. It's her sanitary pad. Source: Onion Qualitative Research and Lonergan Home Visit Research
J. Walter Thompson developed the product name and pack design, as well as the integrated campaign including TV, print, digital and social elements. In a statement when the campaign was released, J. Walter Thompson Melbourne Creative Director Tim Holmes said: "The result is a creative platform that changes the rules of periods – say goodbye to ugh and hello to feeling fresh and clean."