From bloodstains to farting, Libresse tackles 'periodsomnia' in next taboo-busting ad

Kim Gehrig directs new AMV BBDO film depicting how menstruation disrupts sleep

Published On
Jul 06, 2022

Editor's Pick

If you've never heard of "periodsomnia," get ready for Libresse to introduce it to you, as the Essity-owned feminine hygiene brand coins the new phrase with its latest new taboo-busting piece of work.

This time Libresse, known for its Cannes Grand Prix winning WombStories and BloodNormal campaigns and other groundbreaking work around menstrution, is focused on what happens when you have a period at night.

It's promoting a new night-time product, Goodnight Towels, and has conducted a survey that revealed that on average, women lose five months of sleep over their lifetime due to the discomfort, anxiety and fear of nights on their period. Among the findings are: 62% have poorer sleep on their periods; 33% struggle to sleep because of the anxiety around their sanitary product leaking or staining and 62% don’t enjoy staying over at others’ homes or going on holiday during their period.

To highlight these issues, many of which are never openly spoken about by women, Libresse created a powerful new film with AMV BBDO, directed by Somesuch's Kim Gehrig, with whom it previously collaborated on "Viva La Vulva." The film tries to capture what it's like at nighttime on your period. We see a series of protagonists experiencing pain, worries about leaking and staining the bed; tossing and turning; bloating and even farting.  And in another new taboo-busting moment, there's even a brief  hint of a woman masturbating while on her period -- something that Essity's research uncovered that some women do to relieve pain while on their period.

Other insights, some of which came directly from the film's cast, include women laying down towels on the bed, wearing multiple layers of underwear, taking showers in the middle of the night or popping painkillers before they go to bed. The film, which ends with the words: "Periods never sleep. But why shouldn't we?" mixes live action scenes with animation, images of spreading blood and thermal imagery.

The spot is set to the techno track “Deep Inside” by Hardrive, with the clubby vibe was deliberately employed by the creative team with the aim of conveying an anxious feel, in contrast to the restful, "sleeping beauty" tropes that they felt usually characterize depictions of women and sleep.

"Nobody seems to have been talking to women in a really empathetic way about what's happening at night, " said AMV BBDO Strategy Partner Margaux Revol. "We felt like there was a beautiful blank space that we could just go and tackle. In ads, we usually see a smiling women waking up and yawning with pleasure because she's so happy. That's usually what happens in the period category, but more broadly in culture, we noticed that in every single film, if you see a woman in bed she’s either having sex or sleeping beautifully. Considering women are on their period every few weeks, more likely she's just having a really sh*t night."

The ad also aimed for authenticity by showing women sharing the bed with babies, pets, partners or just alone, she added, all of which are "things you never see with women at night when they're shown in bed." And it added aspects like the farting, she said as "a charming moment of levity."

Libresse, which is also known as Bodyform in the U.K. and Saba in the US, is launching the campaign digitally and on TV in global markets, with different versions according to different regulations. According to Tanja Grubner, FemCare Global Marketing and Communications Director at Essity, although the brand's campaigns have done much in the way of breaking down censorship in different markets, there are still some, such as the Middle East, in which blood cannot be shown. But she said that five years on from its breakthrough ad #BloodNormal major markets were now prepared to show red blood, including in Germany where, she said, "until recently, we were bombarded with blue liquid with years." 

"Periodsomnia" is Kim Gehrig's second collaboration with Libresse, and she "shared the vision we all had for this project," said Luca Grosso, one of the creatives behind the project. "She also understood the brand's DNA."

"As a teenager I would be awake for endless hours on nights that I had my period," commented Gehrig in a statement. "I would ask my mother to go to the late-night pharmacy at 3am to get me painkillers. Even though they were a little helpful, those nights were always uncomfortable, lonely and truly exhausting.  Yet, in the morning I was expected to go to school and perform like any other day. When I started this project with Libresse, it struck me that I have never discussed these nights with anyone, ever. What it is like to have your period at night? I can only assume that others probably have not either. I am hoping this film is the beginning of a conversation and understanding of what one experiences at night, every month, when they menstruate. And how truly incredible it is that we then take on the next day just like any other."