I’m guessing that most of you will by now have seen one of the videos by the U by Kotex marketing campaign, in particular the widely circulated “Apology” video and television commercial, in which a young woman delivers a hilarious deadpan skewering of feminine hygiene advertising clichés.
I’ll be upfront in admitting my initial shock and mildly jealous irritation at seeing what has essentially been our message for the past 10+ years being trumpeted by a disposables manufacturer. Realizing that widely broadcasting these kinds of messages to the mainstream is simply not within our financial means, I was consoled by the fact that at least somebody is doing it.
I had decided not to give the campaign more airtime than it was already getting until I happened to view the TV ad for the Australian version of U by Kotex - “Platinum”. The ad, in which a young woman (whose hair is “great”, an attribute mocked in “So Obnoxious”, another of the video series) breathlessly sighs “Only U can take me there”, is completely absurd and falls squarely within the tradition that the other videos nominally seek to confound. The ad is so bad, in fact, that it made The Frisky’s “12 Stupidest Menstrual Advertisements, Period” list. If Kotex is genuinely sincere about presenting "a whole new attitude in protection”, why create a different message for Australian women? Is it because Australian women are still falling for the same old message, or is this an attempt to play multiple sides of the field: those who can still only deal with blue liquid and leaping around in white spandex, and those who are ready to call a spade a spade?
I feel certain that the American campaign’s message was drawn straight from some pricey market research that told them that young women were (surprise!) pretty ok with talking about their periods and vaginal health, enjoy humorous online videos and are of the view that old school menstrual marketing clichés are kind of dumb and over. While it would be nice to think that Kotex is sincere about wanting to “Break the Cycle” (U's social media campaign dedicated to eroding the decades of shame its own marketing has heaped upon women and girls), their mixed message to Australian women tells me that it’s more a clever move driven by the research speculated about earlier. What really gets me is that despite this new marketing campaign, the products haven’t changed, (unless you count sleek black boxes and brightly colored wrappers as meaningful innovation, which I don’t so much) - still the same, bleached disposable junk heading to a landfill near you.
Last but not least, a little sleuthing at Drugstore.com reveals that those bold, cycle-breaking neon colored wrappers are pretty pricey - while OB and Tampax are $0.19 and $0.18 each, U by Kotex are a whopping $0.30 apiece. I guess progress (or rather, fancy packaging and expensive marketing campaigns) has its price.