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carefree discusses vaginal discharge on the telly (again)

2012 was a bit of a feminist themed vocab lesson. From misogyny to discharge, Australians were schooled in words you just don’t say on telly. You may remember this Carefree campaign that Lip gave the thumbs up to last year for daring to discuss vaginal discharge and the normalcy of it in a TV commercial.

The campaign took out the prize for one of the most complained about Australian advertisements of the year. Mass media tried to work out whether it was smart or sick to use the V word so devilishly in prime time. Yet Carefree, who are relaunching the ads this month, say that the positive feedback they got from women (yeah, from the actual target market) was all the encouragement they needed to drive the message home again.

‘We knew people hadn’t seen ads like this before, but we were thrilled with all the positive feedback,’ Michelle Forster, Women’s Health Manager at Johnson and Johnson tells Lip of the campaign. ‘We surveyed women and 72% said the ads made them feel more comfortable about their bodies, whereas 66% had previously been concerned about vaginal discharge.’

The brand had factored in a little disquiet when they launched the ad, given they knew past campaigns for sanitary items have been painfully euphemistic. But overall, it’s the idea of making women aware of their bodies and talking plainly about them that was the drive behind the campaign.

‘I think it’s really about working towards breaking taboos for all women,’ Forster asserts.

The advertising of pads and tampons is an interesting thing because mass marketing of  them isn’t a very old thing. While you’ve got a slew of sanitary inventions going back in history to the Ancient Egyptians (or further), the mass production and advertisement of such products is more of a 1940s thing.

Straight talking on the period front seems to have taken a while. And yet there is a trend of boldness happening, perhaps led by consumers fed up with their nether regions being referred to as furry woodland creatures. In some ways, the past couple of years have seen straight talking product promotion become attractive to a surprising range of celebs and brands. Check out the Kardashian ladies doing free n’ easy Period Q & A while making art out of panty liners, and compare up against these offerings from the 1980s which skate around the issue ever so slightly.

Focus groups seem to be turning up similar messages from the lady folk: that it’s less cringe worthy to consider the truths of their bodies than it is to sit around pretending that they don’t often do annoying things. The ears of promotions folk everywhere are pricking up, and the times may be a’changing. The question of why it took so long is certainly up for discussion. For the moment, though, chatting about discharge in the ad breaks of soapies is a concept that’s here to stay.

‘It’s about breaking the silence about normal bodily functions, of liberating women through driving awareness about their bodies,’ Michelle Forster says.

Perhaps all those beavers and anxious girls in swimming pools are symbols of a less enlightened past. Here at Lip, we think the fight over naming genitals on telly is far from over, but it seems like letting brands know how you want them to portray your cycle, and your life, could be a kind of realistic option. Try telling those who advertise to you how you’d like to be treated, and let’s see if they listen.

What do you think about the ad? Are you happy to see it re-broadcast? We’d love to know your thoughts, so share them below!

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