In 2018, Bodyform/Libresse, better known for period products, expanded beyond periods into caring products.
Apart from telling women what to do (“the right soap for your intimate area”), reinforcing fears of smelling bad or treating women’s anatomy like broken cars that needed serious “intimate experts” wearing white coats, the intimate care category hadn’t been up to much in the last few decades.
Despite being a new entrant, we wanted to be the much-needed lighthouse and break the cycle of shame.
In 2017-2018, our campaign #Bloodnormal had been a ban-defying, taboo-breaking and boundary pushing campaign that had redefined the period care category and had been praised globally for breaking the patriarchal stigma around periods.
We wanted to bring the same empathy, the same taboo-breaking spirit and the same brand purpose to intimate care, to show women how much we cared about them – and about their vulvas.
Describe the cultural / social / political climate in your region and the significance of your campaign within this context
All our research (academic studies, articles, books, quant research…) pointed towards the same diagnosis.
A toxic cocktail of historical prudery and taboos around women’s genitals, combined with the recent explosion of porn culture (where most vulvas have been shown as neat hairless slots) had created an unhealthy quest for the perfect vulva.
As a result, almost half of women are embarrassed by their vulva, 7/10 don’t know what normal looks like, an increasing number hate the way it looks to the point that labiaplasty is the fastest growing cosmetic surgery in the world (a surgery also called “designer vagina” to cut off the protruding labia minora to make the vulva look “sleeker”), and too many avoid cervical cancer tests out of embarrassment.
Girls aren’t born feeling ashamed of their bodies. But somehow, society and culture carry such taboos and objectification of women’s bodies that they make women lose ownership of their genitals and fill them with ignorance and self-loathing.
To show women how much we cared about their vulvas, we’d confront the issue head on.
Not to shock. But to reclaim pride and ownership. This approach was completely new and progressive for advertising but nothing about it was gratuitous.
Describe the creative idea
There’s no one perfect vulva. There are billions.
So we’d show a beautiful diversity of vulvas through a mixed media, multi-channel approach, working with dozens of female artists to create a new visual language for the female form.
We’d create a celebratory anthem to women’s vulvas – a love song to a part of us that doesn’t get enough love. And we’d tackle multiple taboos around the vulva along the way, fighting shame with pride. The world was dancing around the issue. So we decided to make it sing.
Then we’d expand outwards from the film, putting as many different vulvas as possible in as many different places in culture as possible.
Describe the strategy
All the reports and research we found were consistent: unless women were exposed to the real diversity of vulvas and encouraged to look at their own vulva, they’d carry on feeling anxiety and dissatisfaction with their own.
And “even in young women with a relatively positive genital self-image, exposure to pictures of a large variety of natural vulvas positively affects genital self-image”. (Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology 2016).
Just like Bloodnormal challenged taboos around representing periods, we’d confront taboos around representing vulvas in order to overturn a long history of shame and objectification. And we’d celebrate vulvas in all their diversity to help women be at peace with their own bodies.
Describe the execution
At the heart of Viva La Vulva is a lip-sync music video that with a twist – hundreds of vulvas of every shape and colour, all singing loud and proud to the women who love them back, subverting Camille Yarborough’s iconic ‘Take Yo Praise’ track into a feminist anthem to self-love.
A mixed media approach amplifies their diversity and the film subverts taboos along the way, heroing oysters, juicy fruits, embracing the much-shamed camel-toe, encouraging self-exploration, and even Barbie makes a cameo, outraged she doesn’t have a vulva.
Scenes within the film set up further activations: vulva mirrors, origami books, GIFS in social, educational content online from ‘The Wonder Down Under’ authors, print ads tackling the causes and consequences of genital shame, giant vulva murals in public toilets to tackle the gender graffiti imbalance, and a ‘designer vagina’ fashion bursary to celebrate vulvas and wear them with pride.
Describe the results / impact
Released in Scandinavia and the UK, the campaign immediately received praise around the world, from the US to India. With £0 media support, the brand video has garnered over 5 million organic views in under 2 weeks. And despite being novel and ground-breaking in subject and approach, 96% of all social comments on the campaign have been positive. The brand video has smashed all benchmarks in brand engagement and interest, with over half of women reporting that the video sets the brand apart in the intimate care category – over double the norm (Ipsos Dec. 2018). Sales reflect the impact: from 0% to 33% market share in the Nordics in under 2 months.