Thinx is launching its biggest campaign ever—with spots directed by actor Pamela Adlon—looking to capitalize on growing sustainability concerns and tampon shortages that are helping create new potential for change in a historically brand-loyal business.
A cash infusion from new majority owner Kimberly-Clark Corp. also helps set the stage for the 9-year-old reusable period underwear brand to make a move. Even before the effort, Thinx cites NielsenIQ data showing 30% year-over-year growth for sustainable period products.
Adlon, British-born co-creator and star of “Better Things” on FX and Emmy-winning voice of Bobby Hill on the former Fox animated series “King of the Hill,” is making her commercial directorial debut on the Thinx campaign. The ads were written and developed by Oberland and other agencies involved include Tatari in TV buying and analytics, Tinuiti in search and Twelvenote for PR. They were produced out of Girl Culture films, to which Adlon is newly signed. The company was founded by award-winning filmmaker Lauren Greenfield, who was also the director on the award-winning Always "Like a Girl" campaign.
The first 30-second spot, “Saved by Sister,” which will run on TV, digital and social channels, supports the launch of Thinx Teens, a new line of period pants with affordable entry-level pricing (starting at $16) for teens and preteens. It features a sister interrupting a mom’s heart-to-heart talk on tampon usage basics to show her little sis the advantages of Thinx pants.
A second funnier 20-second spot titled “Moon Landing” aimed at women features a grandmotherly woman admiring Thinx when her daughter introduces them. “When I was younger, we managed to put a man on the moon,” she says. “But for 35 years I had to search for a string in my butt crack.”
Adlon was a perfect choice to direct the spots, said Thnix Chief Growth Officer Crystal Zerrenner.
“Through her work creating authentic family moments around taboo conversations, she was a natural fit,” Zerrenner said. “Given her comedic timing, her acting, her work with FX and as a mother of three, she not only has told beautiful stories, she’s actually lived these moments. So it was a huge synergy. And she’s a user of the product, so she’s a brand fan.”
'Social consciousness' and industry shortages
Although the focus of both ads is ease of use and convenience, sustainability is also playing a big role in winning people to Thinx, Zerrenner said.
Indeed, sustainability issues also have fueled growth in period underwear and menstrual cups for Essity, which markets products primarily in Europe, Latin America and Asia, said Tanja Grubner, global marketing and communications director for the company.
The new Thinx campaign also represents a bigger focus on educating teens. Winning over teens has been harder because they’re often not even told about Thinx or reusable products, Zerrenner said.
“Historically we’ve had very low investment in our teen product,” Zerrenner said, “so the majority of the current brand is women who switched” out of disposables for reusable products for convenience. “But we anticipate this will change as social consciousness around sustainability grows,” she said.
Kimberly-Clark, whose feminine care products include Kotex sanitary pads and U by Kotex tampons, announced a deal in February making it a majority owner of Thinx. Funds from Kimberly-Clark are helping fuel the new effort, Zerrenner said. “K-C’s investment has allowed us to scale our marketing investment much faster.”
The campaign also comes amid reports of tampon shortages, particularly for category leader Tampax, whose Procter & Gamble Co. sibling Always also leads in sanitary pads. Tampon shortages have been spotty, with availability seemingly strong at Walmart stores, but shelves bare of all but one Tampax product line on Sunday at a Chicago area store.
"We understand it is frustrating for consumers when they can’t find what they need," said a spokeswoman for P&G and Tampax in an email. "We expect this is a temporary situation, and the Tampax team is producing tampons 24/7 to meet the increased demand for our products. We are working with our retail partners to maximize availability, which has increased over the last several months."
Media coverage and spot shortages have helped drive online search around tampons and period products, so Thinx is increasing paid search and stepped-up search engine optimization efforts too, Zerrenner said.
“Luckily enough, we haven’t experienced any supply-chain issues,” Zerrenner said. “It’s specific to a very few brands, and so there are people who are brand loyal not able to find their brand vs. it being a pervasive problem.”
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CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported who wrote the commercials and that Oberland was a longtime agency for Thinx.