Surprise — periods are not blue.
In a new ad campaign making its rounds on social media, U.S.-based U by Kotex posted a new advertising campaign for pads featuring red liquid instead of the traditional blue.
Posted on Instagram on Wednesday, the quick ad shows red liquid being poured on both a U by Kotex pad as well as a competitor pad by Always. The ad points out how absorbent each pad is.
“Blood is blood. This is something that every woman has experienced, and there is nothing to hide,” said Sarah Paulsen, creative and design director for Kimberly-Clark to the Wall Street Journal. The company owns U by Kotex.
On social media, some users were impressed with the company’s bold move.
“Thank you for using red liquid,” one Instagram user said. “It’s so unbelievable how some brands are still using blue liquid to represent period blood … it’s 2020.”
Others agreed, while some found the video “too much.”
One Instagram user argued you would never show realistic fluids in diaper commercials for example, and pads should be no different.
Why blue anyway?
For decades, menstrual companies have used and still use blue liquid to show consumers how absorbent their products are. According to Bustle, televised advertising of blue liquid in pads started in the ’90s.
“After Courtney Cox, in a Tampax ad in 1985, became the first person to say ‘period’ onscreen, American advertisers now felt capable of showing pads onscreen, but needed to balance the need to demonstrate the products’ absorption with the audience’s possible cultural disgust reflex at seeing any menstrual blood-like substance. Their solution? Blue liquid,” author JR Thorpe wrote.
Other experts have noted the colour blue itself was also directly linked to cleaning products like soap or bleach, further putting emphasis on feeling “clean” during your period.
“The debut of liquid that bears resemblance to blood (it’s still a sanitary red liquid, after all) in period product ads instead of inorganic, lab-brewed blue liquid represents a new point in a long journey of de-mystifying and re-imagining menstrual flow.”
Brands working to be more realistic, inclusive
And besides the taboo of actually seeing blood-like liquid on screen, periods in general are still taboo, making it uncomfortable for people to talk about it.
Experts, like Dr. Jennifer Blake, CEO of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, previously told Global News this makes it harder for people to know what’s considered a “normal” period and what could be an underlying medical issue.
“It’s hard for women because we don’t know how much blood other women lose, so people tend to think that what’s normal for them is normal,” she said.
Blake says people should appreciate their “elegant” cycle and not be ashamed of it.
And other brands are also paying attention.
In fall 2019, Procter & Gamble, the parent company of Always, announced the female symbol would be removed from all of their packaging in the near future. In 2011, the company also featured an ad in the U.S. depicting a pad with a dot of blood.
The company previously told Global News it is “committed to diversity and inclusion” of all consumers.
“We routinely assess our products, packaging and designs. We take into account a broad array of factors, including feedback from consumers, to ensure we are meeting the needs of everyone who uses our products,” the company said in a statement.
Some other brands, like U by Kotex, have also changed liquids used in commercials and advertising campaigns. In 2017, Bodyform was the first brand in the U.K. to feature red liquid on pads in one of their advertising campaigns, the BBC reported.
The company’s video campaign, hashtagged #bloodnormal, featured a woman in the shower with blood running down her leg.
Last year, an Australian advertising watchdog dismissed hundreds of complaints against the company Libra, the sister company of BodyForm, the Guardian reports.
Libra ran a similar advertising campaign featuring red liquid to mimic blood — it resulted in a barrage of complaints.
The company ran with the statement, “Why is it considered unacceptable to show period blood?” and “Periods are normal. Showing them should be too.”
— with files from Global News’ Laura Hensley, Leslie Young