Industry POV

India's first ad on tampons is here...

14 Sep 2017

In its launch films for this segment, feminine hygiene brand Sofy discards euphemism and subtlety, opting for 'real words'.

The feminine hygiene narrative, specifically the ad lingo related to menstruation, has come a long way; slowly making an adamant transition from predictable visual imagery with motifs like the 'blue liquid' and 'white clothing', to communication that is more frank, open and 'unembarrassed'.

And, riding this wave of 'frankness in feminine hygiene' is Sofy Tampons who under its fresh campaign - #EmbraceTheNew - claims to have launched India's first commercial campaign for tampons. Starting with two digital films, the brand uses the 'inform and educate' treatment to tackle fears and myths around the product and does so by embracing words like 'vagina' and 'virginity'.

Tampons sales aren't as high as those of sanitary pads in India, but the last couple of years has seen tampon brands move beyond pharmacies and trickle into supermarkets and general stores in urban India. Sofy, a brand owned by Japanese FMCG major Unicharm (also the makers of MamyPoko Pants diapers), entered India in 2012 with their sanitary napkin range.

On the timing of this new campaign, Hiroki Nada, Sofy brand manager at Unicharm, says that while tampons have been on the shelf for some time, no brand has taken the responsibility to educate the young Indian girl about the barriers and myths surrounding their usage.

"Search volumes have been rising and the category is also growing; hence, we spotted this opportunity as a huge potential in the market and have taken the onus to share information that educates girls and solves their problem in a fun and forward thinking way," explains Nada.

How did the creative team interpret this? Bindu Sethi, chief strategy officer, JWT, Delhi, says, "In India tampons are invisible - on the shelves or inside a women's mind. As an all-women team across planning, servicing and creative, all we had to do was mirror our own experiences of using or not using a tampon. In fact, while working on the brief, we had our own 'Tampon Initiation Moment'. Within the team there were two camps - one rooting for it and the other resisting it, much like the Tampons 'all you need to know' film."

The category, globally, has kicked taboos and 'chased change' in its communication over the years. From a Tampax ad with Friends star Courtney Cox and ads with chirpy pirouetting women in the 80s, to the viral videos by Hello Flo's 'Camp Gyno', and UbyKotex a few years ago, to Bodyform 'bloody tampon' work in 2016, tampon ads have transitioned from 'subtle and cheery' to 'frank and funny'.

For the India market today, how would one tackle the 'awareness-generation' alongside the contemporary 'light, fun and frank' requisites? Sambit Mohanty, national creative director, JWT, Delhi, says that the all-girls team working on the campaign felt that the challenge was to put the consumer at ease about a topic they'd otherwise be closed to. "I think they tackled this very cleverly by placing a product demonstration in a very candid setting," he adds.

Sumitra Sengupta, executive creative director and vice president, JWT, Delhi, says, "For the first time, we set out to educate, dissolve myths around tampons and launch the product at the same time. Instead of being overwhelmed by the task, we decided to spark off a conversation that girls were dying to have. And their unasked questions suddenly had answers."

Sengupta explains that the first film busts every myth a girl has about tampons and that 'it does that in a candid way - pretty much like a locker room conversation between girls.' "This is important, because for someone to adopt a personal hygiene product like tampons, she needs a personal recommendation," she adds.

On the second film, the team explains that "it is about that one girl we all know, who sits by the poolside and can't have fun because she is unaware of the power of tampons. And once she becomes aware, she realises that there's no stopping her."

Commenting on the copy-to-execution process, Sengupta says, "Before cracking the communication, the team asked themselves - 'What is the single most important thing that tampons do? Simple, it lets you get into water while on your period! Once we identified that, everything was simple."

Have the films done their job well in introducing this segment?

Narayan Devanathan, group executive and strategy officer, Dentsu Brand Agencies, says, "Somebody had to start somewhere; Sofy is that somebody and this is their chosen starting point. And perhaps that's all that matters. Someone may have a problem with the tampon-in-beaker as the demo device. Others may have an issue with the idea that women even have fun on their minds during their periods. Sofy will learn and sharpen their message and make it more interesting as time goes by."

He also adds, "Like its parent company Unicharm did in another category with Mamy Poko Pants pant-style diapers - and its softest critics will accuse that brand of being formulaic -Sofy will probably create and win this category before the competition wakes up and decides it's worth playing catch up."

Kainaz Karmarkar, chief creative officer (west) at Ogilvy & Mather, says that the video delivers on its title, which reads - 'Everything you need to know about using tampons.' "You cannot fault this communication on clarity. They have not been shy about calling out body parts and explaining unabashedly how and why a tampon works", she adds, "There is nothing embarrassing about using a tampon so why be embarrassed to talk about it? The performance of the actors and overall execution could have been calibrated better. If one looks at it as an educational video, then it does its job. It answers the sensitive questions."