Client: Essity
Product: Bodyform/Libresse
Title: Bloodnormal
Media: online/ooh/ambient/branded content
Country: United Kingdom
Date Of Campaign: November 2017 - June 2018

Background: We live in a world that silences and shames women for having periods. Culture is awash with imagery of blood, in medical, crime and horror films and live sports. Yet periods are either absent or ridiculed if it is shown. This has led to a culture that makes women feel disgusting and men disgusted by periods. This effects women’s mental and physical well-being. Statistics prove it. 56% of teens would rather be bullied than tell their parents about their period. 42% of women have been period shamed. And half of women have felt embarrassed by their periods. Bloodnormal wanted to challenge this stigma and show that periods are normal and beautiful. And without shame. But it is easier said than done, broadcasting authorities still police the showing of period blood, often ruling its depiction can cause offence. But to end a taboo you must break it.

Idea: The absence and shaming of periods in culture fuels the taboo. Our idea believes that the opposite is also true: the visible and positive portrayal of periods and period blood in culture normalises them and therefore begins the process of ending the taboo.It’s encapsulated in Bloodnormal’s campaign line: periods are normal, showing them should be too. Our campaign aimed to show a world where periods were completely normal, where women openly ask for pads in mixed company, where boys unashamedly bought pads, where period pain wasn’t euphemised and the sight of period blood is treated as something beautiful and normal. However, as the ban shows, this world doesn’t exist. But if a mainstream brand is prepared to be brave enough to show periods for what they are, it could have a massive effect on this stubborn taboo that is so damaging to women’s mental and physical wellbeing. Essity sells menstrual products, so it is appropriate that it lead by example. A company ashamed of the biology it profits from will become a relic as young women question the world’s unjust stigmas they’ve inherited.Conversely, the power of a mainstream brand to challenge these taboos — to acknowledge that periods are totally normal and actually show them— could have a hugely positive effect on women and young girls.To reach women and girls (and men) we decided to defy broadcaster bans, ignore hate, and redefine the feminine care products category. The bans became a strategic weapon for our campaign. Using a provocative film to demonstrate the menstrual blood taboo, we could prove our point while generating massive debate. More importantly, we would begin to “normalize periods” by visibly injecting their discussion into mainstream media and social conversation and leave a legacy of positive images that could not be unseen.To end a taboo you must break it. And we broke many. We showed period blood for the first time, banished blue liquid, included sex, pain and men in the conversation. And we broke the biggest taboo: showing periods as beautiful and normal. We used the broadcaster ban to our advantage incorporating it into the film, proving the taboo. But shock isn’t the aim, normality is. We wanted to show a world where periods are normal, even if this world doesn’t exist. The film is just a springboard. Each scene contained real world activations designed to spread our message further into culture. We made designer period underwear with French fashion house Dessu; gave away hundreds of pad-shaped lilos; produced a graphic novel; ran period school workshops; cast influencers to spread our message; confronted hate with reactive videos and got a famous girl comic to write period jokes into her routine.

Results: Bloodnormal is working. Empathy is killing shame. The campaign launched in four countries and has reached over 32. Emboldened by the success, more and more Essity markets are preparing official launches in their territories. The US is next.To date we have a PR reach of over 4.5 billion. Love is drowning out hate with a 72% positive reaction to the campaign. Our fans and consumers took up the debate on our behalf articulating and arguing for our period positive message on news forums and social sites. During launch the campaign trended on twitter and our share of social voice rose from 37% to 90%.Our influencers and collaborations have spread our bloodnormal message through campaign to people we’ve never spoken to before. And perhaps best of all, by becoming news and a piece of culture, we found our way onto the television stations we were originally banned from.

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