Imagine a product category with the euphemistic name “intimate care,” a female body part that can’t be shown by media and which many women can’t properly identify -- much less discuss -- and a challenger brand trying to break in with its new product line. PR was tasked with driving an earned multi-country cultural conversation and media-driven education campaign (with zero paid media support) to break down taboos surrounding the mysterious and misunderstood female vulva, and launch a new line of intimate washes and wipes for Libresse.
Libresse is the Nordic brand of parent company Essity’s global line of feminine hygiene products. In 2018, Libresse was launching its first line of women’s personal washes and wipes, a fast-growing, but crowded, segment.
Libresse is known as a brand that advocates for women to “live fearless” and free of stigmas and taboos that continue to be imposed on women. Now we wanted to bring that fearless attitude to the intimate care category, where our research discovered that a toxic cocktail of prudery and pornography had created an unrealistic image of the “perfect” vulva. 68% of women don’t know exactly what their vulva is; 44% are embarrassed by how their vulva looks/feels/smells; 57% believe their vulva should look a certain way – so much so that labiaplasty procedures and “designer vagina” surgeries are sharply rising.
Clearly, women were buying intimate care products in shame.
Describe the creative idea (20% of vote)
Vulvas were being shunned, shamed, and described in euphemisms. Everyone was dancing around vulvas. So we decided to let them sing instead.
“Viva La Vulva” became the platform for a Libresse-branded celebration of the misunderstood body part, with an irresistible music video as the catalyst.
Set to the iconic track ‘Take Yo’ Praise” by Camille Yarbrough, it was lip-sync with a twist, showcasing a diversity of vulvas of every shape and colour, all singing loud and proud to the equally diverse women who love them back. The brand video subverted taboos in every scene: oysters, conch shells, juicy fruits, cupcakes, self-love, self-exploration, the infamous camel-toe, and even Barbie popping up, anxiously searching for her genitals.
From there we drove awareness and conversation around the simple message that there’s only one perfect vulva: Yours. And, we set out to prove that the “perfect designer vulva” doesn’t exist.
Describe the PR strategy (30% of vote)
PR needed to help turn vulva shame into celebration, and put the vulva in the public spotlight through influencers, consumer education and earned media. Our research came to one conclusion: unless women were exposed to the real diversity of vulvas and encouraged to look at their own vulva as beautiful and normal, genital embarrassment and dissatisfaction would never change.
We knew young females were skeptical of advertising, so instead of selling to them, we would entertain them with provocative branded content to normalize the vulva, and tap experts to help with much-needed anatomy lessons carried in news and lifestyle media. We’d push comfort zones and the boundaries of representations to be truer than ever to women and their vulva, and overturn a long history of shame and objectification. To start a groundswell of conversation, we’d harness trusted micro influencers with large followings.
Describe the PR execution (20% of vote)
The campaign launched in Sweden, Norway and the U.K., coinciding with the Libresse/Bodyform retail introduction. The “Viva La Vulva” brand video drove activation, earning organic views, reactions, shares and reach — supported by short format videos to increase social sharing. Getting the taboo-breaking material on social platforms was a first unto itself.
Teaming up with Nina Brochmann and Ellen Støkken, authors of ‘Wonder Down Under,’ we launched an education effort through earned lifestyle media, encouraging women to become more comfortable and knowledgeable about their own bodies. We extended education through social influencers and employed provocative teasers like branded hand mirrors and creative vulva origami.
For our most recent activation, we staged Viva La Vulva Bathroom Takeovers in London, enlisting renowned illustrator Oliwia Bober to redefine bathroom graffiti — notorious for its depiction of penises — with an artistic celebration of vulva diversity.
List the results (30% of vote)
Word of the campaign is spreading around the world, collecting praise from the U.S. to UK to India.
With £0 media support, the brand video garnered over 5 million organic views in less than two weeks. Earned media stories appearing in Sweden, Norway and the U.K have generated 231 million impressions.
And despite being novel and groundbreaking in subject and approach, 96% of all social comments on the campaign have been positive and supportive.
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).
With no paid advertising support, Libresse has reported strong and immediate sales around its Scandinavian launch, capturing 33% market share of the washes and wipes segment in less than two months. (Nielsen data, Dec. 2018).
An important goal of Viva La Vulva was to break down the stigmas and taboos that prevent the media from covering personal and intimate topics of importance to women’s health and education – like vulvas. We set out to help vulvas gain the right to exist in the world, and succeeded.