This Birth Control Ad, Fed Up With Stigma, Is Unapologetic About Saying ‘Vagina’

McCann blows up 'the V-word' with a frank and stylish campaign for Annovera

Annovera continues a trend of more direct, stigma-busting marketing to women. Annovera

News flash: women have had vaginas since the dawning of the ages. But sadly, in 2020, many people still feel uncomfortable calling it what it is—which, Annovera birth control would like to remind you, is a “Va.Gi.Na.”

In a new campaign by McCann, the brand challenges the phrase “the V-word,” a shorthand that makes the female reproductive system sound embarrassing, shameful or obscene.

“Let’s talk about ‘the V-word’—not vagina, but literally ‘the V-word.’ When we talk like that about reproductive health, we’re apologizing, so consider this an un-apology,” states the narration of the ad, which promotes an annual contraceptive ring.

“It’s a new annual birth control ring. It goes in your vagina. Va. Gi. Na,” the narrator says. “What we’ve put up with just to not get pregnant is not normal. But now there’s annual, comfortable, controllable birth control.”

The spot continues a trend in recent years of advertising aimed at women in a way that not only drops the longtime euphemisms and metaphors used by marketers but also directly confronts the stigmas that have made such approaches seem necessary.

In 2018, agency AMV BBDO’s #BloodNormal campaign for Essity’s feminine care brands won the Cannes Glass Lion by tearing down the traditions of tampon and pad marketing in favor of candid portrayals of realities like period sex, cramping and red blood rather than mysterious blue liquid.

Since then, Essity—whose brands include Bodyform, Libresse and many more—has remained a leader in provocative and progressive advertising, launching the highly visual “Viva La Vulva” in 2019 and, most recently, the powerful and artistic 3-minute film for its “Womb Stories” campaign.

Some marketers have focused on highlighting the taboos and gender inequalities around menstruation. Period-proof underwear brand Thinx and agency BBDO New York created a 2019 spot imagining a world in which men have periods—and how it might change how openly menstruation is discussed in public. Menstrual access advocacy group Period also created a marketing stunt in which men in a bathroom stall were told to insert coins to buy toilet paper, pointing out the inconsistency of which vital products are offered for free.

Annovera, made by TherapeuticsMD, won FDA approval in 2018. McCann’s New York office was selected as the new brand’s creative agency in March 2019.

Chief commercial officer: Dawn Halkuff,
Vice president of marketing: Kristen Landon
Senior director of marketing: Jerrold McRae
Director of marketing: Tom Moody
Marketing coordinator: Jennifer Salokar
Insights director: Julie Loving
Co-chief creative officer: Sean Bryan
Co-Chief creative officer: Thomas Murphy
EVP executive creative director: Maru Kopelowicz
Senior art director: Craig Bishop
Associate art director: Lucas Shanks
EVP, executive account director: Darla Price
Account director: Dana Markiewicz
Account supervisor: Christen Koribanics
Account executive: Chelsea Freitas
Chief strategy officer: Erica Yahr
SVP group strategy director: Anna Andreis
Senior strategist: Rosalind Mowitt
Senior producer: Katie Boyko
Spang executive producer: Melanie Cox
Director: Marysia Makowska
EVP client experience: Jamie Dowd
SVP client experience: Paddi Hurley.

@saramayspary Sara Spary is a freelance journalist based in London. She's been a reporter for eight years, covering advertising and consumer brands.