Campaign Aims to Tackle ‘Period Poverty’ by Placing Fake Sanitary Pads in Newspapers

adam&eveDDB, Hey Girls raise awareness of a common problem

More than 10% of young women in the U.K. can't afford sanitary products. - Credit by Hey Girls
Headshot of Patrick Coffee

One in 10 teenage girls in the United Kingdom cannot afford proper sanitary products.

One in seven has had to borrow from a friend “due to affordability issues.”

And most strikingly, 12 percent of young women have at some point been forced to “improvise” with socks, toilet paper or even newspapers.

The results of this late 2017 survey show that “period poverty” is a very real problem that leads thousands of women to miss school every year. Now, a social enterprise brand called Hey Girls U.K. and its creative agency adam&eveDDB came up with an ingenious way to help raise awareness of the matter: by including fake sanitary pads in free newspapers available in top retailers Asda and Waitrose.

While the work is not intended to be a functional pad, the back of its two-sided print ad delivers the expected shock by reminding consumers that far too many young women do, in fact, turn to newspaper as a substitute for proper sanitary products every day.

“Period poverty is a degrading inequality which sees girls right here in the U.K. left to improvise,” said adam&eveDDB CEO Mat Goff. “When we met [founder Celia Hodson] and the team at Hey Girls we knew we wanted to get involved and help shine a light on their social enterprise approach to ending period poverty in the U.K.”

Hey Girls operates on a simple premise: for every box of its “environmentally-friendly” and “ethically sourced” pads sold, the organization donates another box. Hodson founded the group along with her two daughters because she believes that girls and young women “should never have to compromise their wellbeing or their health.”

She’s hardly the only one who thinks so. Teenager Amika George launched the #FreePeriods campaign in 2016 to press the idea that menstrual care should be a human right, not a matter of economic ability.

As unfortunate as these circumstances in the U.K. may be, young women in the developing world are even more likely to require assistance in meeting their basic health needs. And it happens in America, too: according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s annual report assessing the state of the U.S. homeless population, tampons and pads are “some of the most requested, yet least donated, products” in shelters across the country.

Yet they remain subject to taxes in 37 states because they’re seen as optional, not necessary.


Brand: Hey Girls
Agency: adam&eveDDB
Campaign: “Pad Ad”

Chief Creative Officer: Richard Brim
Deputy ECDs: Ant Nelson, Mike Sutherland
Copywriter: Sali Horsey
Art director: Zoe Nash
Design: King Henry Design
Designer, King Henry Design: Santi Rey
Artwork, King Henry Design: Emma Vincent-Pagden
Agency Producer: Nickie Dixon
Planner: Milla McPhee
Managing Partner: Charlotte Cook
Account Managers: Kathryn Gooding, Katie Briefel
Media Agency: 7Stars
Managing Partner, 7stars: Liam Mullins
Media Planner, 7stars: Isaac Atite
Sampling Agency: Pod Staffing

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.
Publish date: August 13, 2018 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT