Many ads are designed to inspire joy, get a laugh or create empathy. But this one wants you to see red.
The new film from feminine products brand Hey Girls was deliberately crafted to get viewers as angry as possible in order to motivate them to take action on "period poverty."
Titled "Seeing Red," it was created by agency Adam&Eve/DDB and addresses the fact that period poverty has surged during the pandemic. A survey by the charity Plan International U.K. showed that as many as one third of 14- to 21-year-olds in the U.K. struggled to access or afford period products during lockdown; it's an issue that has more attention than ever now, as countries including Scotland and New Zealand have moved to make sanitary products free.
The film, directed by Margot Bowman of Prettybird, uses an array of techniques to evoke rage, informed by psychological insight by Dr Philip Gable, associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Delaware. It starts with a "trigger warning" on screen, followed by a graphic scene girl caught unprepared in a school bathroom when her period starts, capturing her frustration and distress. The film goes on to touch on the stories of other characters, such as women being teased or bullied for being on their periods or leaking, a new mom who can't afford sanitary products and a trans man who's also experiencing period poverty and is afraid to use products in a restroom (something the agency believes has not been featured in advertising before).
The film was tested extensively with Dr. Gable's students. Editorial, storyboard, music and sound decisions were all informed by neurological science to inform the final film, says Richard Brim, chief creative officer at Adam&Eve/DDB. (See the behind-the-scenes film below for more on how it was done.)
The process was sometimes counterintuitive, says Laura Rogers, global creative director at Adam&Eve/DDB. "As a creative you are so used to refining and shaping and trying to make things better in the process, but here you almost had to try and trick yourself. So, it was really interesting not to listen to your instinct but to the science."
There were some surprises: "One of the things we found is that showing people who are angry doesn't evoke anger in the viewer. One of the ways is to give them a particular character to empathize with and to feel angry on behalf of the injustice towards."
Bowman's direction and her embracing of the process and "unusual feedback" was also key. "Normally directors balk at this sort of feedback," says Brim. "That was a real consideration."
The film is designed to encourage action to combat period poverty by buying Hey Girls period products; the brand operates on a buy-one-give-one scheme that gives away a comparable product to those in need for each one of its products bought. "As women we are often encouraged not to get angry and for a brand, focused on an issue that affects many women, why can't we use anger for a positive end?" adds Woods.
On average, watching the film made participants feel over three times angrier, results showed. Further, the more intense they found the film and the angrier they were, the stronger their desire to take action and buy Hey Girls products.
The ad will run across social platforms. It can't be shown on TV in the U.K. due to broadcasting regulations, including showing blood and also the use of flashing images, although the brand is also looking at a cinema release. The campaign will also include print ads featuring anonymous, real quotes about negative reactions to period poverty to elicit anger. "There is some pretty horrific stuff being said," says Brim. Media was donated by the 7stars.