Tampax gets Amy Schumer to pitch tampons
Getting celebrities to pitch tampons isn’t easy. But Amy Schumer was all over the idea when Procter & Gamble Co. came to her about doing ads for Tampax last year. The result is very funny advertising that’s a particular departure for the category’s relatively staid leading brand.
The new “It’s Time to Tampax” campaign, created by Publicis Groupe, MSL and Schumer alongside her comedy writing team, opens with a series of videos in which the comedian and actress has frank and funny talks in a restroom, store, doctor’s office and mall about tampon sizes, how to insert them and taboos around shopping for them. The series, directed by Kathy Fusco of Hungryman, also includes mall-intercept interviews Schumer does with young females and males about tampons, periods, female anatomy and sex.
Much of it is not safe for work or TV, but some cuts do pass muster to air on broadcast, says Melissa Suk, vice president of North America Tampax and Always for P&G.
The ads were shot before the pandemic, which explains the store and mall scenes. The project goes back more than a year, to when Suk watched Schumer’s Netflix comedy special that debuted in February 2019.
“We really wanted to normalize things by making period and tampon conversations as normal as periods,” Suk says. “There’s a lot of taboo really preventing people from asking the right questions, and a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to education about both your body and your periods and how you use tampons. We knew the only way we were going to be successful at that was to use humor. Frankly, in our category, a lot of celebrities may not be interested in talking about tampons or periods.”
Schumer is not one of those celebrities. This is something Suk discovered one weekend, after a Friday brainstorming session on how to develop the campaign, when she got some free time from caring for her 5-year-old daughter and turned on Schumer’s Netflix special.
“Fifteen minutes in, she’s talking about periods,” Suk recalls. “And then she’s talking about tampons. And she’s talking about all the stuff that we do as people who have periods don’t want to talk about.”
Suk immediately texted her communications manager, Cheri McMaster, about the idea. The following Monday, she asked her brand manager, who also had seen the Schumer show. And P&G immediately reached out to Schumer.
“It was like fate, really,” Suk says. “From the beginning in the conversation with us, she fully enrolled in the cause. She was like she wants to drive education, close the knowledge gap, and enable anyone who gets a period to feel confident and comfortable in how to use a tampon and be comfortable talking about it. From that point on we really never looked back.”
Feminine product advertising has become increasingly frank and funny in recent years, starting with the launch of Kimberly-Clark Corp.’s U by Kotex a decade ago and including HelloFlo’s funny viral videos about menstruation. But enlisting celebrities in the effort has been a higher hurdle, though K-C’s Poise did sign Whoopi Goldberg and Kirstie Alley for ads that also aimed to end taboos around female incontinence.
“When I started working with Tampax, it made my heart hurt to hear about the discomfort people are putting up with because they don’t understand periods or even how to use a tampon properly,” Schumer said in a statement, “and I want to do everything I can to change that.”
Even a decade or so into the trend of franker discussions about menstruation and feminine products, a Tampax-commissioned survey by Harris found considerable ignorance among the U.S. public. The survey found that 94 percent of U.S. adults don’t know how many days the average menstrual cycle lasts, 77 percent believe a tampon can get lost inside a woman’s body and 62 percent of women can’t locate a vagina on a diagram.
The steep education hill is one reason—besides the expectation that people will like It—that Suk expects “It’s Time to Tampax” with Schumer to be a long-running campaign.