Bodyform's latest campaign around periods focuses on the loss of sleep people face when menstruating as it promotes its Goodnight Towels.
"#Periodsomnia" by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO is based on research that people who menstruate lose about five months of sleep over their lifetime because of discomfort and anxiety.
The film, which has been directed by Kim Gehrig through Somesuch, shows people suffering from "periodsomnia" – as the brand puts it – because they are struggling to sleep. Some are seen in pain, another is shown farting, while one woman lies awake while bed sharing with her baby and partner who are soundly asleep.
Tanja Grubner, femcare global marketing and communications director at Essity (which owns Bodyform), told Campaign that the brand wanted to make sure that the work appeals to everyone that has a period so included the 1% of society that are trans men or non binary.
The brand is also referring to the people it is targeting as women+ as a way of being inclusive.
Grubner said that advertising does not do enough to represent society as a whole. "When we defined our purpose and what we as a brand want to stand for, we wanted to cater to everyone from first period to last," she explained. "We didn't put women in there and we didn't put ages in there.
"The advertising industry is always addressing women, or girls, from 12 to – at best – 29 as if we all stop bleeding when we are 29. One of our first attempts was to represent women of all ages, another point was that men are part of the conversation so we showed that women don't bleed on their own – sometimes they have partners and families, they can be mothers. So we started showing mothers a lot.
"It's a no brainer that you show a diversity of body types and ethnicities and we also wanted to be representative of the LGBTQ+ community.
"One of the areas that is very close to my heart is to showcase disabilities and this is one of the groups that is mostly underrepresented in advertising but they use our products and we wanted to give them a platform and opportunity to be seen in our ads."
Grubner added that it is important that being inclusive is not seen as a "tick-boxing exercise" so the brand takes care when choosing the right cast and the insights they bring to the campaign.
The ad mixes live action, animation and thermal imagery to highlight that "periods never sleep", the brand explained. An uptempo track, Deep Inside by Hardrive, plays over the two-minute film.
Grubner said: "The reality shown through #Periodsomnia is that it can be more chaotic for some women+. It's time to stop treating women+ like broken pipes which leak. They just have periods. By revealing these universal truths, we tackle the invisibility around the realities of nights spent menstruating to reassure women+ that what they go through is completely normal and that they're not alone in their experiences."
Mixing reality with surreal
The film launches today and has been created by Anzhela Hayrabedyan and Luca Grosso. Hayrabedyan explained that the film shows real stories from the cast, and the initial idea from Gehrig was to film in their homes. However, due to Covid-19 restrictions, the team had to recreate the bedrooms on a film set.
Grosso added: "You do all that realness but there is only a certain amount of feeling that you can get from that, so this is where the surreal part comes in. How do we express what these women are feeling and going through?
"You can show a woman being hot and kicking the sheets but what she's really feeling is something you only understand when you see her melt down the side of the bed or what a climax feels like. The thermal imagery was the portal in between the realness and surrealness."
The brand is also one of the first to tap into stories of women on the periods at night. Margaux Revol, head of brand at AMV BBDO, said that the team wanted to "pay tribute to what happens in the dark" in a way that no other brand has done before in this category.
Gehrig also directed "Viva la vulva", which was released in 2018. She said: "As a teenager I would be awake for endless hours on nights that I had my period. I would ask my mother to go to the late-night pharmacy at 3am to get me painkillers. Even though they were a little helpful, those nights were always uncomfortable, lonely and truly exhausting. Yet, in the morning I was expected to go to school and perform like any other day.
"When I started this project with Libresse, it struck me that I have never discussed these nights with anyone, ever. What is it like to have your period at night? I can only assume that others probably have not either. I am hoping this film is the beginning of a conversation and understanding of what one experiences at night, every month, when they menstruate. And how truly incredible it is that we then take on the next day just like any other."