Bodyform shows ‘realistic’ blood in ad to normalise periods

The feminine hygiene brand has ditched the well-known ‘clear blue liquid’ for a more realistic red colour in its latest ad campaign.

Bodyform is looking to normalise periods by portraying them more realistically in its advertising, a strategy which since being adopted three years ago has led it to grow ahead of the market.

The new #bloodnormal campaign portrays a series of true-to-life references to periods in a bid to demonstrate that periods are just a normal part of everyday life – and that showing them and talking about them should be too.

For example, the ad shows a young man casually purchasing pads from a convenience store, a woman in the shower with period blood running down her leg and a woman turning up to a fancy-dress party dressed as a bloodied sanitary towel. The clip also features the first-ever product demonstration using realistic red liquid instead of the infamous blue fluid.

Bodyform believes a lack of realistic representation of periods in mainstream culture, including advertising, can be detrimental to girls’ self-esteem.

Its brand research shows 61% of women believe the portrayal of periods in feminine hygiene advertising is unrealistic, while one in five women polled said their confidence was damaged because periods weren’t discussed with them openly. Another 42% believe girls’ confidence will continue to be at risk in the future if this silence continues.

As a result, it hopes its “provocative” digital campaign will encourage people to start discussing periods, and make women feel less self-conscious about it.

“That’s the nub of the challenge for us. If something is a taboo, it’s going to be difficult at times. Periods are a normal thing, but even in Western society it does ultimately have an impact on women’s confidence. And our brand has a right to discuss and debate this issue, as we’re in that arena,” Nicola Coronado, marketing director for Bodyform owner Essity, tells Marketing Week.

“Why is violent blood acceptable to show, yet this is a subject we can’t talk about? We want people to start discussing it, because the more you see it the more desensitised to it you become.”

Being provocative for a purpose

When asked if the brand is simply looking to be provocative and could be in danger of putting people off, Coronado says she fully expects the campaign to be polarising due to its nature. The brand also had a lot of internal debates on “how far to take it”. Yet she insists it’s important to have a purpose and break the taboo.

“Yes it generated a lot of internal debate, and we did test the ad with a large group of women. More than two thirds of women liked or really liked the film. Of course it was polarising, but everybody in general agreed it’s a topic that needs discussing. Mainly under-35s are ready to see it in the right context,” she explains.

Why is violent blood acceptable to show, yet this is a subject we can’t talk about? We want people to start discussing it, because the more you see it the more desensitised to it you become.

Nicola Coronado, Essity

Besides playing a part in changing how society talks about periods, Bodyform claims its purpose, which it adopted three years ago after doing a brand audit, has led it to grow the brand’s market share and sales. It also believes it has become “more relevant” to younger women.

She concludes: “We are in our third year of outperforming the market, which is flat overall. We have been the fastest growing brand for three years. The brand is now worth £29m in retail value sales, which is the last 52 weeks up to middle of September. That [shows] it has been about bringing new consumers into the brand. We have seen all our brand measures increase, including brand relevance.”