Story at a glance

  • A new ad for a sanitary pad shows red menstrual blood, a bold move that companies have historically shied away from.
  • The ad reflects a growing trend to destigmatize women’s bodies and their bodily processes by more accurately depicting them in commercials.
  • Companies are appealing to millennial women by updating their commercials and also marketing themselves as more feminist brands.

We all bleed red, even from the vagina. But for the longest time, advertisers of tampons and sanitary pads have shown the ability of their products to absorb menstrual blood using unspecified blue liquids. 

So, when a Kotex ad for Ultra-Thin Pads on Instagram showed red simulated blood being poured on both their pad and a competitor's — it was revolutionary.

Users commented their excitement and gratitude over an ad accurately portraying menstrual bleeding and destigmatizing the monthly cycle experienced by about half the female population in the world. Globally, menstruation can be highly stigmatized, leading to poor menstrual hygiene that can cause long-term health issues. 

In a response to a user's comment, Kotex said, “We believe in challenging the negative perceptions of periods and being real with how our products work is part of that.”

The trend of more accurately portraying women’s bodies and their bodily processes is new for companies that sell women’s products. Ads for razors often show women running a blade over already shaved legs. Recently, Billie, a shaving company for women, started Project Body Hair, and began airing ads online showing body hair on women to market their products. 

“Everyone has short stubble, long strands, or something in between. What you do with yours is up to you - grow it, get rid of it, or comb it. It's your hair, after all,” the company says on their website. 

The company has even started an image library and encourages people to upload photos of body hair online. Research shows that less millennial women are shaving their legs and even fewer are shaving their underarms.  

These trends also coincide with a movement targeting the “Pink Tax,” or the higher prices that women pay for products marketed as more feminine, such as pink razors. Billie advertises a "Pink Tax Rebate," or a coupon offered to those who use a referral code for their products, and other companies also claim to be eliminating those added costs. 

Published on Jan 24, 2020