How a cartoon in The New Yorker led to a revolution in advertising to women
Blue liquid poured on pads. Bikini-clad girls frolicing in the surf. Young women wearing white. The cliches in period ads had made the advertising all but meaningless. And the brands interchangeable.
In Episode 4 of Meet the Makers, we meet Nadja Lossgott, Nick Hulley and Margaux Revol - the collective driving force behind Bodyform’s #wombstories.
If you have your own industry cliches to push against, they have three pieces of advice for you.
1. Unearth category norms, then break them.
“Why?” It’s still the most interesting question in advertising.
Why do customers buy one product over another? Why do some brands connect while others don’t? And, when the goal is to stand out, why is anyone using cliches?
As an agency, AMV BBDO has a long history of asking “Why?” in tackling tropes. But, when Bodyform wanted to break the category, they found the perfect conduit.
Margaux explains; “I saw this cartoon in The New Yorker which represented the character Waldo at a bar and the caption read “No one ever asks How is Waldo?’ In the period category it had always been: How can I absorb it? How can I stop worrying about leakage? No-one was ever asking: How are you feeling about having your periods? That became the brief.
2. Rethink how research can build insight.
Research has long been the scourge of the creative department. Ideas get compromised or killed completely by the dreaded Thursday evening focus group.
Which is why the way Bodyform used research is so revealing.
Far more than a last-minute gauntlet to be negotiated, #wombstories asked women provocative questions in creative ways. Their answers directly transferred to what’s on screen.
Nadja clarifies; “We wanted people to describe if your womb had a personality who are they? If it was a room, what wallpaper is on the walls? What music is playing? And actually, starting to create a really visceral and visual world that then informs the kind of relationship that you actually do have with your womb.
3. Find collaborators who build on your vision.
Choosing creative collaborators is never easy. Directors. Animators. Editors. Sound mixers. Each choice has a direct influence on the final work. So it’s fascinating to hear Nadja and Nick’s selection of animators was not based on who had the best reel or book.
It was far, far more personal.
Nadja explains; “You wanted to feel that the person that animated understood the emotional complexity. Carine, the animator who did the endo section, used to suffer from endometriosis.”
Nick adds: “The amorphous, shapeless nature of this monster, I think you can just feel it. It’s her real lived experience.
As for the future of the brand, Margaux puts it perfectly; “There is an entire dimension of women’s life that has been completely hidden and it’s time to change that.”