Changing the Conversation: How Adland is De-Stigmatizing the Period

If you’re strolling down Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue this weekend, you may notice a different kind of storefront amidst the traditional glitz and glamour — a pop-up shop devoted to “all things period.”

U by Kotex’s Period Shop is kicking off an extensive campaign called ‘The Period Projects,” aimed at changing the public conversation about menstruation by working with real women to highlight their experiences through a series of creative initiatives.

The first woman to inspire a project is Fashion Institute of Technology student Sarah Michelson, whose Tumblr post calling for a period shop caught the eye of Kotex’s agency Organic.

“Organic does a lot of social listening, and when we saw the Tumblr post from Sarah, we were inspired to bring her vision to life,” said Organic Creative Director Crystal Boersma. “She was heavily involved in curating the [pop-up shop’s] products, and this is just the beginning of our work with real women to create real change.”

The shop indeed seems to be a haven for any woman in the midst of menstruation, complete with everything from handcrafted chocolates and an ice cream bar to beauty products and period underwear to, of course, U by Kotex products. Women-run companies who support the feminist and women’s empowerment movements create all the shop’s products, which represent a combination of curated items and custom merchandise. Additionally, all the proceeds will be donated Susan’s Place, a New York City transitional residence for homeless women.

While there’s no set future for The Period Shop as of now, there are plenty more ‘Period Projects’ to come, and the response to the pop-up has been overwhelming.

“It’s been great to see the conversations already happening on social media,” said Organic’s Associate Creative Director Karen Koziatek. “People are asking, ‘Why hasn’t this happened before?’”

U by Kotex isn’t the only brand to recently address the social stigma that revolves around menstruation and other women’s issues. It’s also been a hot topic among the media. Newsweek recently ran a cover story on the fight against menstruation’s stigma, and outlets like Huffington Post and NPR have also addressed the topic recently.

“There’s certainly a movement happening in the de-stigmatization of periods, and we’re happy to be a part of it,” Boersma said. “If we can do anything to further the conversation and bring it out into the open, that’s what we’re going to do.”

One of the first brands to bring the conversation to the forefront was HelloFlo, a tampon subscription service. The brand’s comical long-form spots have been upending ad norms since 2013, using language and imagery that address menstruation and women’s issues directly, instead of beating around the bush.

"My goal is to show and normalize the confusing stuff,” said HelloFlo founder Naama Bloom in an interview with Adweek.

 

Thinx, a special period underwear brand, has been another active participant in breaking down the menstruation taboo, with its print ads that incited controversy last fall. Although they eventually ran, the ads — featuring suggestive imagery and the word “period” (gasp!) — were under threat of being rejected by New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which Thinx co-founder Miki Agrawal and marketing director Veronica del Rosario called out as a “sexist double standard” compared to the cosmetic surgery and racy ads ever-present on the subway.

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