Libresse's "Blood Normal," a campaign that put period blood front and center to help destigmatize menstruation, earned the Glass Lion for Change Grand Prix on the final night of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. The category honors work that promotes positive cultural change impacting gender inequality and imbalance.
"It's a masterfully art-directed, very well thought-out, multilayer campaign that sheds light on the dark corners of period shame," said Jury President Madonna Badger, founder and CCO of Badger & Winters.
"Girls and women get their periods, and yet we were squeamish and freaked out about this entry, so uncomfortable as a group talking about it," Badger said. But when the team behind the work gave its live presentation before the judges, "They reminded us of why the work is so important. So many women and young girls are ashamed of their periods and it happens at an important right of passage--when our bodies are changing in a natural way just as the sun goes up and comes down."
The anchor of the campaign, created out of AMV BBDO, is an artful spot actually directed by a man, Daniel Wolfe,via Somesuch, Ad Age's Production Company of the Year. It's full of vignettes that take period shame head-on: a young woman and her boyfriend have sex during that time of the month, women endure painful cramps and, most significantly, there's real blood, as in bright, red blood, not the blue stuff--it appears on a pad, we see it trickling down the legs of a woman taking a shower. "Periods are normal. Showing them should be too," the spot reads at the end.
"Without holding back they showed period blood on a pad instead of blue water, a construct advertising created," Badger said. "Blood is no problem in other areas of culture, in movies and TV shows."
The integrated campaign also included elements such as "period underwear" created by French lingerie company Dessu, pad-shaped pool floats, a short film competition and even stand-up comedy performed by twelve-year-old talent Saffron Herndon.
According to juror Rafael Rizuto, chief creative officer and co-founder of TBD in San Francisco, one of three men on the ten-person jury, the judges had that work pegged as the Grand Prix from very early on. "Of all the judging I've ever been part of, that was the first time the jury decided the Grand Prix first," he said. "It was unanimous. A brand invested a lot of money into being brave. The message we wanted to give is that this should be done all over the world, not just in the U.K.
At No. 2 in the year's best of TV/Film advertising, sanitary product brand Libresse, along with AMV/BBDO enthusiastically broke traditional taboos in this artful film directed by Daniel Wolfe. In it, we see scenes of young women clutching themselves in pain from cramps, others having sex on their cycle and, perhaps most notably, plenty of blood--blood running down a leg in the shower and even realistic red liquid on a pad. The ad, we hope, has served to change the conversation around the category even more than ever before, in a year when women's voices have come powerfully to the fore.
The taboos around advertising for sanitary products are gradually being broken down, but there's still a long way to go. This year has seen retailers and brands around the world protest the tax on pads and tampons, while last year Essity-owned brand Bodyform ran an ad that used showed actual blood, although not of the menstrual kind, followed by a spot that showed a sanitary pad in underwear for the first time.
Now, the same brand (known as Libresse in Scandinavian markets) has gone further, with an even more graphic depiction. A new online ad, by AMV BBDO, not only shows realistic blood being poured onto a sanitary pad (as opposed to the dreaded blue liquid); we also see blood running down a girl's leg in the shower.
The spot also contains other vignettes aimed at emphasizing the normality of periods. There's an out-of-office auto-reply that says someone's not coming into the office, as she has a very heavy period; there's a boy passing a pad to a girl in class; a man buying sanitary towels. We see women with period pain, and women just going about their normal activities. The film ends by showing a girl going to the bathroom and removing a pad from her underwear. At this point, the screen pixelates as we are told that, according to "assorted TV broadcast authorities worldwide" in 2017, "the sight of period blood is unacceptable." The ad ends with the message: "Periods are normal. Showing them should be too."
Daniel Wolfe at Somesuch was the director and cinematography is by Monika Lenczewska. The film is running online and on social media in Scandinavia as the long-form version seen here, and in the U.K. as a 20-second edit.
According to Wolfe, in the weeks before the shoot, articles on periods that had run in the mainstream press, as well as the social conversation around them helped inform the production. "Can't wait for the day when women no longer pass tampons to a friend like they are a Class A drug" was one comment that proved especially inspiring, he explains in a statement. "We wanted to create something that provided a platform for discussion rather than trying to tell people what to think," he adds. "And we hopefully made a film which isn't defined by the gender of its director--a film which both women and men will take something from, hopefully helping instill the idea of a new normal."
The campaign also includes other activations to promote positive period images. These include a graphic story by illustrator Victo Ngai, "period underwear" by French lingerie company Dessu, menstruation jokes by twelve-year-old stand-up comedian Saffron Herndon and a range of pad-shaped inflatable mattresses.
Libresse and Bodyform will also be funding the creation of three new short films openly referencing periods in order to continue the normalization of periods in global culture. These will be made by aspiring film talent, working with production company Flare Studio, which will offer a grant to the filmmakers.