In Libresse's new film, a woman lies on the bathroom floor writhing in pain and suddenly we see an animation of a tunnel of fire, clawed at by an angry, faceless monster. As a same sex couple finds out that one of them has miscarried, we view a dark and desolate internal landscape. A menopausal woman having hot flashes feels like her house is being set on fire inside her. And as another couple have sex, a little boat at a fork in a river decides whether to follow the kids or no kids route.
These are all images from the bold new film by Essity-owned feminine products brand, which together with London agency AMV BBDO, has followed up award-winning work such as Viva La Vulva and Blood Normal campaigns with “Wombstories,” a campaign based on insights from real-life stories.
The film documents the female experience by visualizing what’s going on inside the uterus. Mixing live action and animation, it weaves together several different stories that anthropomorphize different conditions and experiences: from getting your period when you've just put on your best underwear, to miscarriages, childbirth, infertility and endometriosis pain. Much as the Pixar movie “Inside Out” took human emotions and gave them characters, the work illustrates the internal landscape of women’s bodies.
Ahead of the creative work, Libresse conducted a “listening project” in which it asked women to visualize their uterus as a place, and to talk about their experiences. The campaign itself will take this further by asking women to share their own "#wombstories" on social media. “The relationship that a lot of people have with their womb is via their biology textbook," says Nadja Lossgott, executive creative director at AMV BBDO who worked on the project with partner Nicholas Hulley. "But nobody describes it in biological terms—you had comments like it's a crazy person with a chainsaw in there."
Lossgott adds that the decision to bring in animation was to illustrate the relationship women have with their wombs, bodies and fertility in a more "visceral" way. "By bringing in the emotional and visceral sensibility that you get in animation we felt we could find more a beautiful poignancy."
AMV worked with Emmy-nominated director Nisha Ganatra, who has worked on “Transparent” and “Girls,” as well as a group of all-female animators and illustrators, in partnership with production house Framestore, for the animated segments.
Ganatra said in a statement: “Imagining the uterus as its own little universe, sometimes working in our favor, sometimes working against us in stories of strength, vulnerability, exultation, devastation, mundanity and pleasure makes this film a truth teller in all its messy complexity."
While creative was filmed in December, the pandemic has made its release even more timely, says Tanja Grubner, FemCare Global Marketing & Communications Director at Libresse's parent company Essity. “Although this campaign was conceived long before the pandemic changed everything, the issues women face didn’t just get put on hold or go away because of what was going on around us. In many instances, Covid-19 has increased the isolation women feel and the complexities they experience. The pandemic has seen women forced to give birth alone, have their fertility treatments and endometriosis surgeries delayed and postponed. Now more than ever is a time to ensure women speak up about their bodies and experiences.”
Libresse (which is known as Bodyform in the U.K.) won the Glass Lion Grand Prix at Cannes for BloodNormal, the first feminine product film to graphically depict blood and periods, in 2018, while Viva La Vulva has also garnered multiple awards and nominations. The work has paved the way for more authentic depictions of menstruation in U.S. work, such as MENstruation by Thinx and BBDO New York.