Essity’s groundbreaking campaigns for its feminine care products have been helped along by support from another agency client which took a similar approach in its own category, in what AMV BBDO’s strategy director describes as “virtuous circle of bravery”.

The category had been driven for years by stereotypes, Martina Poulopati, global brand communication manager (GHC feminine care) at Essity, told Behind the Big Idea, WARC’s daily news show in Cannes.

But roller skating on the beach in white jeans wasn’t resonating with consumers any more, which led towards the idea of redefining the whole notion of what advertising feminine care should entail with the #bloodnormal campaign for the Bodyform/Libresse brand.

“It was a brilliant idea – a scary idea – but it completely transformed the company and the category,” she said. (Read the case study in full here.)

It wasn’t an easy sell, however, and Margaux Revol, strategy director at AMV BBDO London, revealed how another client which had done some taboo-busting work in its own category had sent “a message of hope and encouragement” to Essity; and the sentiment was reciprocated after the success of #bloodnormal.

“We created a virtuous circle of bravery,” she said.

And they needed that, as some broadcasters and broadcasting authorities were squeamish about certain visual aspects of the ads. “They freaked out,” said Poulopati, and asked for cuts, “but we didn’t want to compromise on the positive message”.

The campaign was about showing periods are completely normal and there was no intent to court controversy, she added. “We were taken aback and really surprised to see this was even an issue.”

But “sometimes normality is revolutionary”.

The follow-up Viva la Vulva campaign was better received by media channels (no blood and a tongue-in-cheek creative), but still addressed serious issues around how women sometimes perceive themselves.

“We all have a vagina beyond blood management,” said Revol. “The intimate care product category was so backward and needed so much freshening.

“And culturally we had to overcome so much shame and self-hatred. There are generations of young girls and women who are exposed to either nothing in sex education or just porn culture and think their vulva is meant to look like a coin slot, but 99% of us don’t look like that.”

So, after disrupting category norms and breaking taboo, where next? “We have a very inspirational purpose,” Poulopati said, “and when it comes to this topic, unfortunately there are so many areas of insecurity and there are so many things we could tackle – it’s a wide platform for us to activate on.”

And the brand is committed to it for the long term, she added. “Braveness pays off. When you dare to do something differently and to challenge the status quo, it can be really rewarding.”

Sourced from Cannes Lion TV; additional content by WARC staff