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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: March 31, 2010 @ 12:28 pm

    What would Don Draper do?

    Fiona McCann

    When Kotex launched its new ad for lady products tampons and sanitary towels, some of America’s television networks were unhappy. Kotex’s strategy was to combat the trend in feminine care advertising which has become so sterilised that the products have been almost entirely removed from their purported function and the reality of having a period. But three broadcast networks refused to screen the new ad because it used the word vagina. Yep, vagina. You know, the place where the tampon goes? Because though vagina is not a four-letter word, it’s still somehow unsavoury and unmentionable. Because apparently there are body parts that still should not be named, even when they are the body parts directly affected by periods and the products being sold. Kotex compromised, and reshot the ad using the euphemism “down there”. That wasn’t good enough for two of the three objectors, however, who clearly wanted to no reference at all to the location of all the business that sanitary products are being sold to help with. The upshot was that the final advertisement contains no direct reference to where a tampon or sanitary towel is used. It’s still funny. But it’s also a disgrace that such a compromise ever had to be reached. Where’s Roger Sterling when you need him?

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    • Dani says:

      Apparently a lot of those brands avoid the colour red in their ads as well. But i think it was kotex who had an ad on TV that used the word “period” in the Amercian “full stop” context, and the full stop after “period” was red. I don’t understand the puritan attitude to periods in advertising, when usually sex is used to sell everything else.

    • Catherine says:

      Femine products in general appear to have the worst advertising. Whether that’s down to brands having to compromise so much they’re left with the dregs of an idea, or whether it’s because they’re too afraid to even try, who knows?
      The biggest offender is the one with the ‘have a happy period’ tagline – how patronising.

    • Eleanor Fitzsimons says:

      I well remember attending RTE copy clearance meetings when I was brand manager for a well known brand of “those products”. We had the first ads on Irish TV, were very restricted in what we could say and show, had to adhere to a watershed and I was on the receiving end of a hate mail campaign afterwards. And that’s not all that long ago!

    • Ian Glen says:

      Actually, I’d like a little more euphemism in my TV ads – and the programs too. The ads for Viagra and its ilk are far too explicit for prime time, I think, and reruns of adult comedy shows earlier in the day include detailed discussions fo French-kissing, getting to ‘third-base’, and other matters that deserve to be somewhat more private. Kotex wanted the shock value, and I’m glad they couldn’t get it – I’m shocked enough already, thanks.

    • minnie says:

      I don’t really get the logic Dani @1. Because sex sells products, we need more graphic detail in tampon ads? Perhaps the ad could begin with some frantic screeching maenad in the throes of a psychotic pre-menstrual frenzy tearing out her flaming RED (symbolism) hair whilst trying to strangle an increasingly perplexed, shell-shocked young husband (for example) for no reason other than he refuses to say that black is white or that she looks good in pink. Switch to Day 1 of the period and having secured footage of the now more subdued, what appears to be, wounded mortal doubled-up on the floor, arms clutched around abdomen, writhing in torment, the zoom lens now aims to capture in vivid colour the first bright red…….graphic details………….. because you’re worth it.
      Always keep a tampon handy girls — you never know when a famous Japanese director is going to drop by with a telephoto lens.

      Actually, I think the ad is quite funny and fine the way it is without being too graphic and it does a good job ridiculing those earlier atrocities. The ad girl is lovely. She reminds me of Sandra Bullock. Ultimately, I agree with Ian @4.

    • Sarah says:

      Thought you might be interested in this if you haven’t seen it already – a slide show of advertisements for feminine products over the years….
      http://www.doublex.com/content/how-sell-tampon

    • Dana says:

      I am also fine with a bit of euphemism in ads. Look at toilet paper ads – would you prefer that instead of fluffy white kittens, tabby cats could be used as an ‘after shot’ to illustrate exactly what happens once the pillowy white softness is put to business?

    • Wyn says:

      How embarrassing these ads can be when watching TV in company! Nothing is private or personal anymore. Women are totally exploited by Pharmaceutical industry in every aspect of their life. All for financial gain. Certainly it puts me off buying any of the products which offend my privacy.

    • Ken says:

      They are out to make money, not educate so on that basis alone they are fair game for objections. Unfortunately the word doesn’t have any lesser-known alternative like say erectile dysfunction and is likely to be uncomfortable for some people to say never mind hear in an ad.
      I am also a fan of euphemisms in the area of any bodily functions that are our own private business.

    • Sibhy says:

      For Gods sake ! Its a period, ALL women have them we shouldn’t be made to feel bad about having them. These adds make women feel periods shouldn’t really happen or you should hide away when you menstruate because its not natural for some reason. What a joke. And VAGINA, its about time we became comfortable with the word, and we start by using it! Vagina, vagina, vagina vagina. And Ian Glen have you a daughter? a mother? a sister? well they all had periods and they all have vaginas so deal with it.

    • Steve T says:

      America is the most sexually repressed society on earth and the above nonsense is prima facia evidence. Take a US term of abuse – douchebag – which almost noone uses on this side of the pond mainly because the idea of douching – washing the old vagina – isnt classified as inflammatory material (bully for us). So in the US, not only can you not hint at the existence of blood, vaginas, periods and the rest (?), you cant even mention the fact that occasionally a woman has to wash herself “down there” for hygiene and cleanliness reasons. In the US, they call it douching (and the French use a bidet for the same purpose). Douche bag is I presume the device used to do whatever needs to be done down there (see, Im at it now as well). A double layer of repression, none of your namby pamby euphemistic wonderland. Just plain straightup fear of sex, sexual power and sexual freedom (female I mean). Feminine hygiene, my (dirty) ar*e.

    • Margo says:

      in the english language, penis is a 5-letter word!

    • Tom Cosgrave says:

      In a world often dominated by men, this is no surprise. Sexual health issues? Not a priority – especially if it’s uncomfortable viewing and focuses on the average aspect of femininity, as opposed to the hyped-up, sexed-up advertising led version!

    • The majority of women have periods at some time in their life. Thank heavens the days of bulky loops and pins are long gone!

      PMT & bloating was bad enough. Followed by cramps, chaffing and everything else – worst of all – looking like a man for seven days of each month. Discretion is everything, so let’s be a little more discrete…

      Modern sanitary products HAVE made periods so much easier, but we don’t want to talk about them all day long or watch them on the TV – sanitized or otherwise!

      Advertising is purely for the purpose of making sales & generating revenue. Who says WE need these adverts anyway – news about these things travels fast regardless…

    • kynos says:

      I’m amazed Stephen King got away with Carrie.

    • Sarah GS says:

      Steve T hit the nail on the head:

      “Just plain straightup fear of sex, sexual power and sexual freedom (female I mean). ”

      As did Tom Cosgrave: who decides what ads get on the telly? Probably not scary, menstuating women.

      The fact is that if women are menstruating, they are fertile, they can become pregnant, and therefore give birth, literally and metaphorically, to more life. This is an assertion of female power, which perhaps is none too palatable in today’s society as we question what it is to be feminine.

      I. for one, would rather forget the whole bloody thing and talk about cupcakes, butterflies and how best to paint my nails.


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