How One of Today’s Boldest Marketers Is Shattering Stigmas Inflicted on Women Worldwide

Essity, maker of Bodyform and Libresse, is rewriting the rules on how ads talk about periods, vulvas and more

'Viva La Vulva,' a visually delightful spot from agency AMV BBDO for Essity's feminine-hygiene brands, just won top honors at the D&AD festival. Essity
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LONDON—For decades, marketing around women’s periods and genitals has often been laughably unrealistic at best and destructively shame-inducing at its worst.

In 2017, Essity dramatically dumped out the blue liquid and other ridiculous tropes of tampon and pad advertising with the launch of #BloodNormal, a campaign nearly unprecedented in its ambition to rewrite an entire category of marketing aimed at 51% of the world’s population.

On Thursday, the company’s newest campaign—”Viva La Vulva,” created in 2018 to promote a new line of washes and wipes—was honored with a Black Pencil, the highest award given at the London-based D&AD festival. It’s the third Black Pencil earned in the history of AMV BBDO, which says it’s the first agency ever to amass three of the coveted awards.

Shortly before the award was announced for “Viva La Vulva” (which also won seven other trophies at the festival), Adweek caught up with AMV BBDO creative partner Nadja Lossgott and Essity exec Martina Poulopati for a conversation about how their work together is successfully dismantling stigmas around the globe.

You can listen to the podcast of our interview below, subscribe via any podcast platform such as Apple Podcasts, and read the following transcript of the interview.


Adweek: For context, remind us which brands Essity might be known for around the word.

Martina Poulopati, Essity

Martina Poulopati, global brand communications manager, Essity: Essity Feminine Care is a Swedish-founded company that has feminine care brands across the world. Actually, more than 50% of our business is in Latin America. These are the brands Saba and Nosotras in South America—these are our pride and joy, the No. 1 brands in that region. And then in Europe, we would be known as Bodyform in the U.K., Libresse in Scandinavia and The Netherlands, Nana in France, Nuvinia in Italy. Different brand names, but they all stand for the same thing, they all have the same vision, they all have the same look and feel. So despite the different brand names, we try to to see ourselves as one Essity Feminine Care.

How would you describe the concept of #BloodNormal?
Nadja Lossgott, creative partner, AMV BBDO: In 2016, Bodyform/Libresse commissioned some global research, and out of that research came some shocking facts. Like, 50% of girls would rather be bullied at school than talk to their parents about their periods. Nine out of 10 women hide their periods. So they’ll, for example, just never even mention that they’re on their period, or try and make a covert mission to the toilet across the office by putting their pad down their boot and then run.

"The way that we treated the idea was to treat it the same way that you would get a tissue to blow your nose. Half the world's population goes through that every month."
Nadja Lossgott, creative partner, AMV BBDO

Half of women have been period shamed. So in the world that we were living in at the time, absolutely no one spoke about it, and it was completely shrouded in shame and was literally in hiding—everyone would use euphemisms like “it’s Shark Week” or cute little names, but no one was really talking about it.

Nadja Lossgott, AMV BBDO

We realized the power of representation and we realized that as a mainstream brand, if we were able to go out there and show period blood for the first time and then do it as a normalization exercise…it’s really important that it wasn’t done to shock. The way that we treated the idea was to treat it the same way that you would get a tissue to blow your nose. Half the world’s population goes through that every month. If we were able, as a mainstream brand, to go out in the world and say, “What’s the big deal? We’re showing it. It’s nothing. It’s cool.” We were able to shift that paradigm and open a door that could never be closed again.

@griner David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."