Self-Deprecation in Advertising: How Kotex Campaign “Gets” Me

Who wants to watch a commercial about tampons? Not me. Usually. But I love what Kotex did with this ad.

It gets me. Even more than those wizards at end.

Advertising for feminine hygiene products can’t be an easy job. Almost every woman needs them, but 99% of them don’t want to talk about it.  In honor of International Women’s Day tomorrow and all the women’s health buzz in the media lately, I want to talk about how Kotex is doing some really cool things. Cool things that helped the brand pass the billion dollar mark just last month.

Making Fun of Themselves

Kotex’s whole self-aware campaign started with the 2010 release of its new product line targeting the teen and twentysomething market, “U by Kotex”.  Here’s their flagship commercial.

If only all commercials were this sarcastic.

The advertisement got a lot of buzz from big names when it came out for being not only funny, but unpatronizing to women. Even the New York Times reported on it. The best part of this advertisement was a little more under the radar. The footage that the woman makes fun of in the commercial…is all from previous Kotex ads.

That’s pretty brave.

It’s not every day you see a company commercial completely discredit its previous advertisements. But for Kotex, making fun of themselves worked so well that they took it up another level this year. Take another look at the woman from the first commercial I posted. That’s comedian Andree Vermeulen. Kotex hired a comedian to make fun of their company. In their commercial. To sell their products. Consider my mind blown.

Getting “Real” With Customers

I would never wear white spandex yoga pants when I’m on my period. Even when I was a cheerleader, I don’t think I was ever that peppy. Ok, so maybe the athletic happy women these commercials portray is a little off. But I don’t “monstrate”, aka cry at everything and yell at people, the way this controversial episode of Modern Family seems to think I do either.

The great thing about these advertisements is they are some of the first to tell it like it is. Not something to look forward to necessarily, but not something to be ashamed of either. Real women lie somewhere between the cheerleader/”monstrate” line, and we’re the ones who are actually buying the stuff. This commercial addressed me as a person, not a stereotype.

Giving Back to Women

Yes, funny ads are a great way to send out a message. But if you go to the “U by Kotex” website, you can see that the company puts its money with the “Break the Cycle” campaign.  With the pictures of lockers and younger models, the website targets a middle and high school demographic with the message that it’s ok to be a girl. Design your own crazy patterns for pads or carrying tins. Sign a petition to promote that vagina is not a dirty word. Learn about Girls for Change, a social action group that pairs female students with mentors. Ask health experts questions. Whatever. Just break the cycle of shame associated with being a woman.

A great commercial is all well and good, but enforcing a positive message to a younger audience? That’s pretty awesome.

Thanks for reading! Lindsey Kirchoff

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