Complaints over ‘offensive’ Tampax tampon advert upheld

Claims to standards authority included that ad demeaned women and contained innuendo

Complaints from members of the public that a factual television advertisement for tampon products was offensive have been upheld by the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI).

The advert for Tampax, a brand of tampons, featured a light-hearted discussion of how to use the products, in a studio chatshow-type setting.

More than 80 complaints were made to the ASAI over the advert, which included claims it was offensive, demeaning to women, unsuitable for children, and that it contained sexual innuendo.

Several complaints took issue with phrases used in the advert, including “you gotta get ‘em up there girls” and “not just the tip, up to the grip”, which they found to be vulgar, embarrassing, and crude.


Some of those complaining said they found the language used to be “over-descriptive, inappropriately expressed and with excessive detail”, the ASAI said.

Other complaints said the advert was demeaning and belittled women by implying they might be ignorant on how to correctly use tampons.

Some complaints said the advert had the potential to cause embarrassment to young teenage girls, who might be watching it with their father, brothers or male friends. One parent wrote to the ASAI to complain that their two teenage daughters had been “mortified” while watching the advert.

Sexually active

One complainant said the language and imagery used could give young men the impression that if young women were using tampons it was also likely they were sexually active.

In response to the complaints, Tampax said the advert was aimed at educating consumers on how to correctly use the products.

The company said it believed in “normalising the conversation around periods through awareness, information and education”.

The advertisement was not intended to have any sexual connotations or innuendo, the company said.

The target audience for the advert was women aged between 16 and 44, and it had not been placed in slots close to children’s programmes, Tampax told the standards authority.

The ASAI complaints committee upheld the complaints over the Tampax Tampons Compak Pearl advert, and ruled it should not run again in the same format.

‘Neither explicit nor graphic’

In its ruling, the ASAI said the advert was light-hearted in nature, and “provided factual information in a manner that was neither explicit nor graphic”.

The complaints committee “did not consider that the advertisement had caused grave offence”, it said.

However, it ruled that on the basis of the large number of complaints the advert had caused “widespread offence”, and as such breached section 3.16 of the advertising standards code.

The authority did not uphold the complaints that the advert was demeaning to women, unsuitable for children, or contained sexual innuendo.

Orla Twomey, chief executive of the ASAI, said the advert had received 84 complaints, mostly from women. Over the last four and a half years only seven adverts had received more than 60 complaints, she told RTÉ's Drivetime programme.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times