New Ads Talk Frankly About Adult Incontinence

Adult incontinence is one of those topics that’s not widely discussed in ads. But that’s changing due to recent marketing efforts from Kimberly-Clark and competitor TENA, which bring the category to light through new product introductions.

In ads launched by K-C this month, via JWT, New York, men and women are shown sharing their viewpoints on life. For instance, they’re asked to address questions like: “Who are better drivers, men or women?” The point of the ads is to show that men and women are different, and therefore, they have different needs when it comes to adult incontinence products. The campaign supports the launch of K-C’s new gender-specific male and female underwear.

Ads from SCA Personal Care North America, the parent company of TENA, which makes Serenity products in the U.S., take a more educational approach. One ad promotes TENA’s male guards with copy that reads: “They made you wear a cup in junior high with a good reason . . . Now that triangular shape is the basis for TENA incontinence protection just for men.” The ad states that “millions of men” suffer from incontinence and directs consumers to a Web site, Tenadryfacts.com, to learn more.

TENA also has begun selling male- and female-specific lines of briefs, and is using the campaign to inform consumers that its Serenity brand will now officially be known as TENA in the U.S.

Both campaigns attempt to change the stigma behind adult incontinence, which affects roughly 25 million Americans, per the National Association for Continence, an organization dedicated to awareness and education of the issue.

Unlike current ads that are running, the new K-C and TENA ads speak frankly of leakage and not of “having to run to the bathroom” or having an “overactive bladder,” said Rachel Levkowicz, health education manager at NAFC.


The ads bring to light another issue: That it’s no longer just the elderly who are suffering from this problem. Gary Evans, owner of XP Medical, which sells European-manufactured adult incontinence products to nursing homes and hospitals, said past print ads addressing adult incontinence usually skirted the issue by showing a stock image of a senior citizen or couple enjoying a walk outdoors, followed by a small product shot in the corner.

“The time has finally come. It’s not a new problem. It’s not a new product. It’s not a new industry, but I do think this new advertising push is bringing [this health problem] out in the open,” said Evans.

Adult incontinence is a big category in the U.S.: More than $1 billion sales-wise, by K-C’s estimates, and $2-2.5 billion, according to TENA. K-C is, by far, the category leader, with a 55 percent market share, while TENA is the No. 3 manufacturer in the U.S., with a 20 percent share across retail, home care (assisted or independent living) and healthcare channels (hospitals, nursing homes.)  

Researchers at Kimberly-Clark found that men and women alike found incontinence “traumatic,” said Mark Cammarota, brand director for Depend. For women, the condition usually results from childbirth, while men may suffer from it due to a decline in prostate health or surgery.

The consumer insights team at TENA found that up to 60 percent of men “don’t do anything about it,” said Spence Deane, marketing vp for personal care products at SCA Personal Care North America. “There are products out there, but there is not enough information [or awareness of the problem],” he said.

In addition to the campaigns, the adult incontinence product makers have introduced additional components that provide such information. K-C has created an online Learning Center with health advice focused on the individual sexes. Meanwhile, TENA has teamed up with Men’s Health Network and Us Too International to raise awareness of bladder control, and has a similar program for women called Core Wellness.