“No blood should hold us back”: A feminine-hygiene ad finally gets women’s empowerment right

Bodyform isn’t afraid to get bloody.
Bodyform isn’t afraid to get bloody.
Image: Bodyform/AMV BBDO
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A potent new feminine-hygiene ad gets unabashedly bloody to talk about periods—and, in the process, it nails what’s missing in the rest of the advertising world’s ”female empowerment” movement.

The ad for Bodyform, a UK maker of pads and liners, features a host of badass women—surfers, boxers, rugby players, dancers, and even a medieval knight—getting bloodied, but never backing down. From the blood-pumping score and quick cuts, you might think you’re watching a Nike ad. That is, until the tagline appears: “No blood should hold us back.”

It makes a simple, relevant point that women’s periods should never be a deterrent, with the implication that Bodyform’s products can help with that. There are no platitudes, and no lofty, far-reaching goals that have nothing to do with the product that’s being touted—menstruation pads. It’s just a clear, powerful message.

That’s where many ads for feminine products that are meant to empower women often miss the mark.

Take, for example, Always’ “Like A Girl” campaign. It arguably kicked off the “girl power” bandwagon in advertising that brands from Verizon to Intel to Ram Trucks have jumped on, and sends a meaningful message about confidence in young girls, but ultimately undermines that with the suggestion that Always’ menstruation products can somehow improve their self-esteem.

Then there’s this insulting 2011 Summer’s Eve ad, “Hail to the V.” It equates women throughout civilization with their vaginas, under the guise of honoring them, in an attempt to sell feminine cleansing products.

To be fair, feminine-hygiene ads have come a long way in the last 20 years. Before 1985, advertisers never even used the word “period” in commercials. Based on the images used to convey messages about the products’ absorption capabilities, advertisers also seemed to think that women leaked blue dye once a month rather than red blood, at least up until Always finally recognized the obvious in an ad from 2011.

With the help of startups like Thinx, brands are even starting to talk about blood in ads, as sure a sign as any that the days of squeamish feminine-hygiene advertisers being afraid to mention periods are nearly over.

Bodyform’s “Blood,” created by agency AMV BBDO, hits that sweet spot of being both empowering in a larger sense while drawing attention to an issue that its products actually speak to—the frustrations of being active on your period. The spot also promotes an effort by the brand, in partnership with UK-based universities, to improve education around menstruation and its effects on women’s bodies.

And yes, those effects sometimes include enough blood to cause leakage. But menstruating didn’t stop this inspiring runner from completing the London marathon. Why should it stop anyone else?