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Advertising Pays 8 essay: Margaux Revol

/ March 4th 2020
Ad Pays Series

The following piece is taken from our report – Advertising Pays 8: UK Advertising’s Social Contribution – and is written by Margaux Revol, Strategy Director, AMV BBDO, on how advertising might deliver even more around social contribution in the years ahead.

Libresse/Bodyform (ESSITY) is a global challenger brand in Feminine Care.

In 2016, we broke the taboo of periods in sports with Redfit, and in 2017, we made a big red splash with Bloodnormal, a ban-defying, taboo-breaking and boundary pushing campaign that redefined the entire category. The next challenge was to help Libresse be known for more than just periods as they were expanding into intimate products.

To show women how much we cared about their vulvas, we would bring our empathy and bravery to the intimate care category. And boy, this category needed it.

Apart from reinforcing fears of smelling bad or treating women’s anatomy like broken cars that needed serious “intimate experts”, it hadn’t been up to much in the last few decades.

And it had been adding shame to an already toxic cocktail girls drink up from a young age: a historical prudery and censorship around women’s genitals mixed with an exploding porn culture – leaving women to believe their genitals weren’t right.

To break the shame and quest for the perfect vulva, we would confront it. Showing a beautiful, healthy diversity of women and vulvas. Not to shock, but to normalise. Because the only imperfect vulva is the one that’s unloved and silenced.

Viva la vulva is an ode to women’s vulvas, taking the art of lip-sync to a whole new level, where vulvas sing loud and proud to the women who love them. Everywhere it went, women loved it. It was “funny, but it was taking [them] seriously”.

First released in Scandinavia, the campaign travelled and got praised around the world, and with £0 media support, the long film reached over 5 million organic views in a couple of weeks.

Despite being so novel and controversial, it gained 96% positive comments on social media, smashed all brand benchmarks and saw an immediate sales uplift meeting or surpassing targets across the campaign period, with products Libresse had never sold before. The tour de force of Viva La Vulva was to gain the right to exist in the world. Between blurry “decency” regulations and media owners trying to ‘sanitise’ their platforms, it’s a real catch 22: When your category is about women’s intimate area, how can you embrace your responsibility to challenge harmful taboos if you’re not allowed to?

Despite platforms’ official approvals of our content, we see them regularly taken down for ‘decency’ reasons. And in France, where it aired on TV, we had to defend it against vocal haters demanding its ban. But the ethical committee overruled the complaints and Marlene Schiappa, French Secretary of Gender Equality, supported it publicly.

There are two big learnings for us.

One – You always have a choice to challenge
the status quo.

In a world that’s either censoring or pornifying women’s genitals, Viva la vulva is the proof that you can refuse both censorship and sexualisation to represent women in a respectful way.

Two – Creative madness can restore sanity.

We all want to make great work that can change culture and society. And purpose-led work is on the increase in the industry. But we do not have to be deadly serious to be taken seriously.

Singing vulvas are crazy. But have you seen the world out there? Sometimes it takes a big vulva party to dynamite shame.

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