Australian feminine care brand Libra caused a great divide with its #bloodnormal TVC, which started airing on Australian TV last month.
According to reports, advertising watchdog Ad Standards has received more than 600 complaints about the ad since it began airing, making it 2019’s most complained about ad.
Finding that the #bloodnormal adverts did not breach any of the raised sections of its Code of Ethics, or any other portions of the Code, the Ad Standards Community Panel dismissed the complaints.
The TVC is part of a broader campaign to normalise menstrual cycles within societal discourse. In its attempt to remove stigma around the subject among Australians, the ad has done well to highlight the issue.
From those offended, complaints ranged from concerns over “graphic content”, inappropriate airing times for younger viewers, obscene and “unnecessary” exposure of private matters and a general aversion to the depiction of blood.
“It is offensive and forces parents to have discussions with our children that we have a right to have at an [sic] time appropriate for our children and should not be determined by companies pushing their products or media, airing them during family programs,” writes one complainant, with others labelling it “disgusting”.
Another point raised by complainants was that showing a real depiction of period blood was unnecessary, drawing the comparison of showing faeces in a toilet paper commercial.
Prior to the campaign, Libra conducted two pieces of research: a consumer quantitative study and validation before airing and a period taboo study.
Of the 500 women between 16 and 65 shown the ad before airing, Libra says 62% agreed that ‘periods are just a normal part of life, so they shouldn’t be ignored by mainstream media’. Of the women surveyed, 67% of those between 18 and 29 agreed with the sentiment of the campaign.
The period taboo study that Libra ran in July of 2019 took 1000 men and women from Australia and New Zealand into account, finding that ‘in Australia, periods are a topic hushed up and hidden at every level of society – on a scale that transcends any other topic’.
According to Libra’s study, three in four Australian women say there is a stigma attached to having a period – with periods listed as more taboo than drugs, sex, STDs and mental health problems. The study also found that 80% of women will go to ‘great lengths’ to hide their period – 58% of women avoid swimming, 60% avoid light-coloured clothes and 56% hide feminine hygiene products when on their period.
Sadly, Libra’s study also found that 70% of young Australians would rather fail a subject in class than have their peers know they are on their period.
“As a leader in feminine care that has been manufacturing in Australia for more than 40 years, we have been challenging the stigma around periods for decades, however this research has highlighted just how far we have to go,” says Caitlin Patterson, executive general manager of Asaleo Care’s retail business unit.
“We believe that like any other taboo, the more people see it, the more normal the subject becomes. We want to lead the way with a campaign that tackles the issue in a positive way, showing periods in action in everyday life truthfully and honestly – because we really care about the wellbeing of Australian women and girls.”
Given many of the complaints raised issues that don’t normally fall within the purview of Ad Standards’ Code of Ethics, the Ad Standards Community Panel considered the complaints under six sections of the Code:
- 2.1 Discrimination or vilification
- 2.2 exploitation or degrading
- 2.3 violence
- 2.4 sex/sexuality/nudity
- 2.6 health and safety, and
- 2.0 other
As part of its response to the case, Libra noted that while the campaign has received a substantial level of backlash, there is an equally vehement cohort that supports the destigmatisation of menstrual representation in the media.
“Periods are normal and both women and men shouldn’t even bat an eyelid when discussing them! The cleanest blood in the body and for some reason we have been shamed in the past? I loved it!” writes one supporter.