Period Ads Are Red, Violets Are Blue

Everyone bleeds. Yet Americans hide it from themselves in television commercials, video games, movie violence, and in other ads and images by turning the red liquid — get this — blue, black or green. The British aren’t as squeamish. So should American marketing grow up?

“No blood should hold us back,” reads the caption under the commercial on YouTube. “And periods shouldn’t stop us from keeping fit.”

This commercial from the United Kingdom got a lot of attention in the U.S. on Tuesday for depicting blood as actually being red, but the commercial doesn’t go as far as demonstrating the true use of the product. Conversely, the years-old ads the New York Daily News and articles mocked actually showed the effectiveness of sanitary napkins — though with blue liquid poured onto them instead of a more bloodlike substance.

In movies, directors film particularly gory scenes using black or green blood in order to keep R ratings from the Motion Picture Association of America. Using red for some of those scenes could mean the movie gets an explicit rating or is unrated and, therefore, probably not shown in mainstream theaters. While the movie isn’t an ad, its rating could impact brand awareness if product placements aren’t even seen. Players complain that the same kind of censorship happens in video games.

A similar kind of censorship appears to make it difficult for many American brands to do what Bodyform is doing in its commercials. For instance, Band-Aid doesn’t show blood or even cuts in its ads. Insurance companies, hospitals and personal injury attorneys similarly don’t show bleeding — or even injured consumers.

So is that because the American public can’t handle the truth?

On Sunday, Melia of Atlanta writes on Bodyform’s Facebook page: “I LOVE your mission, page and company! So glad to have found you. Thank you for your voice in the world! Keep up the good, hard work!”

Charlie Sarah Payne of Fredericksburg, Va. is happy, too, she writes on the page Monday: “As a woman who turns 40 this year and lives in the U.S., thank you for this ad! I highly doubt anything like this will ever air here, but it was wonderful to see.”

On Monday, a different mother excoriates Bodyform for not going far enough — not depicting childbirth.

On Tuesday, Nicole Lyn Pesce of the New York Daily News says Bodyform’s marketing is making a welcome social statement.

“The commercial is the latest blow against period-shaming,” she writes. “In just the last year, we’ve see Thinx period-proof underwear ads on the subway and no less than President Obama talk about the absurdity of taxing tampons and pads as ‘luxury items.’ Now, if we can only lose dumb euphemisms like ‘feminine hygiene products’ and ‘sanitary napkins.’ ”

What do you think, marketers? What other products and services could stand to be depicted in a more realistic way? What’s stopping you?

Please respond in the comments section below.

Heather Fletcher is senior content editor with Target Marketing.
Publish date: June 8, 2016 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT