2017: A disruptive year
2017 was a year of disruption; everything from our homes to our political institutions to the way we talk about sexual assault saw huge shifts, some of which inevitably left us feeling somewhat uncertain.
But disruption (and even uncertainty) can be positive; it can help us to see the world differently. We explored this theme in a short book, the content of which we will be sharing on our website over the coming weeks.
We identified 10 brands, movements, concepts and trends that were all disruptive in some way in 2017, and that have the potential to signify further disruption in the year to come. First up, we look at the shift in conversation around women's bodies and the role brands have played in this.
Perhaps the only shocking thing about the appearance of menstrual blood in an advert for tampons or pads is that it took so long to appear. But cultural taboos are powerful things. And while women have been rolling their eyes for years at the bizarre blue liquid that TV swore they secreted, actually taking the step to show something resembling menstrual blood took a significant dose of adland bravery.
But that’s what Bodyform/Libresse did with its #bloodnormal campaign, which marks a bold addition to the growing number of plucky brands that have spent the last few years flipping the script on apologetic, euphemistic narratives around women’s bodily norms. US brand Hello Flo racked up 42m views on YouTube in 2014 with its love letter to the awkwardness and excitement of periods: First Moon Party; and Always’ Like A Girl followed with its viral celebration of girls’ strength and confidence.
But it was in 2017 that things started to get truly ‘real’. From the blood-stained sweatpants in poet Rupi Kaur’s Instagram selfie -- which launched her career as the primary chronicler of global millennial femininity -- to Kiran Gandhi free-bleeding in the London Marathon; menstrual blood, once invisible, is claiming a defiant presence.
In the US, start-up Thinx continues to grow its free-bleeding underwear brand by rejecting coyness in favour of design-led simplicity and a human-centred pragmatism. “For people with periods,” says its tagline.
Flamingo spoke to Nadja Lossgott, creative partner at AMV BBDO, the agency behind #bloodnormal, about her role in this tide of disruption.
FLAMINGO: What was the thinking behind the #bloodnormal campaign?
NADJA LOSSGOTT: We all know about the period taboo, and research backs it up – 56% of teenagers (from a group of 10,000) said they’d rather be bullied than talk to their parents about their period. And it struck myself and my writing partner, Nick Hulley, that periods are such a great invisible in culture; they are hardly shown or spoken about, and when they are, it’s usually to demean.
It made us think about being a young girl and the most significant thing that happens to you and the fact that no one is openly talking about or showing it. You’d be forgiven for thinking it was something shameful or taboo. We wanted to push back; we wanted to create a world where periods didn’t feel shocking or gross.
F: Did you meet much resistance?
NL: In the beginning, when we first submitted the film to broadcasters and platforms, they pretty much wanted to ban every scene.
It was completely ridiculous and we pushed back hard. But we also faced a lot of resistance just trying to make the campaign. Lots of people kept saying to us: “sure, but what’s next? Poo or urine in ads?” It sort of proved the taboo to us. The fact that people want to compare it to poo when a much closer, better example exists -- other blood -- (which is routinely shown on TV) is proof that menstrual blood is treated differently.
F: Do you feel that this is part of a bigger movement?
NL: There was a Guardian article referencing #bloodnormal with the headline: “when periods got woke” and museums have requested our imagery to sit alongside other work that is pushing against these taboos, so it does feel that we are part of a groundswell.
We started this campaign more than a year ago, under the climate of President Trump bragging
about “grabbing ‘em by the pussy”, but in the time since then, it certainly feels like women
(and men) are pushing back.
Susie Hogarth, Flamingo