What's Behind the Genius Kotex Commercials?
By Michelle Ruiz Posted Apr 5th 2010 10:42AM
If you weren't fast-forwarding through the commercials during last week's 'Gossip Girl,' you may have caught it: An ad with a woman who wasn't cartwheeling on the beach at sunset, frolicking through a field of daisies or even wearing white spandex. Instead, the edgy U by Kotex commercials show regular girls just going for the funny -- by mocking the cliches of period ads past. Caught by the ads' awesomeness, PopEater reached out to the marketing brains and one actress behind the ads, and picked their brains on how -- and why -- the brilliant spots came about.
"How do I feel about my period? I love it," the ad's star says over serene piano music. "It makes me feel really pure," she adds, as the commercial cuts to a woman releasing butterflies. "Sometimes I just wanna run on the beach."
As the blue liquid all-too-familiar with feminine hygiene commercials pours, she delivers the kicker: "The ads on TV are really helpful because they use that blue liquid and I'm like, 'Oh, that's what's supposed to happen!'"
The commercial ends with the million-dollar question: "Why are tampon ads so ridiculous?" Suddenly the jig is up on the usually-cheesy feminine product ads and viewers are left laughing like they've just seen an 'SNL' digital short.
So what prompted the creation of the first-ever cool tampon commercials?
With the launch of the youth-driven U by Kotex product line this week, Kotex and Kimberly-Clark, the brand's parent company, decided it was finally time to get real about what's up "down there."
Kotex brand manager Aida Flick told Popeater that the new ads aim to stop pulling the wool -- or shall we say, the super-absorbent cotton -- over women's eyes.
"We just felt like, 'Well, we're gonna try and be truthful and transparent,'" she said. "With this generation, we know humor is big and so we thought, sometimes actually laughing at yourself is a good place to start."
"Yeah, I have a period. And a vagina, not a va-jay-jay. It's what makes me a woman," reads the 'Declaration of Real Talk' on the U by Kotex Web site. "But society and the media aren't being straight with me."
New York advertising agency JWT had to look no further than Kotex's own ad archives to find material to mock in the new spots. Many of the cheesy clips used as fodder in the new ads are actually pulled from past Kotex commercials.
"It was great to hear that we were allowed to go to the archives of pink flowers and smiling girls and butterflies and use them," Sarah Barclays, executive creative director at JWT, told Popeater. "It was really nice for a client to want to be a little self-deprecating and take the piss out of themselves as well as everybody else. We both just wanted to shine a light on the ads that were out there and say, 'This is stupid. Why do we have women twirling in fields of daisies?'"
Even after major networks said they wouldn't air ads that said "vagina" or even "down there," JWT helped to turn traditional tampon ads on their heads with a little humor -- and straight-up honesty.
In another U by Kotex ad, a woman dressed in head-to-toe white pulls no punches while introducing herself, saying, "Hi, I'm a believably attractive 18-to-24 year old female. You can relate to me because I'm racially ambiguous and I'm in this tampon commercial because market research shows girls like you, love girls like me."
In fact, Kotex hopes girls will love the real live woman (read: non-actress) starring in "Apology/Reality Check," the YouTube-style ad airing now in the U.S. Her name is Kelly Diaz and she's a former JWT intern who helped come up with the concept for the ad in 2008 and even starred in an original pitch video for Kotex.
"I'm pretty sure it's the highlight of my career and I just started," Diaz, now 27 and working at an advertising agency in San Francisco, told Popeater. "I don't think I'm ever going to top filming in this beach house in Malibu, when I'm, like, this girl from the 'hood in Miami."
Diaz said she and her then-partner at JWT, Raquel Jimenez, pulled an all-nighter to come up with a video that pretty closely resembles the ad running today on networks like CW, Fox and MTV.
"When my partner and I heard they were putting us on Kotex, I rolled my eyes and I was like, 'Of course, because I have a vagina,'" Diaz told Popeater. "My partner and I were scared to death that we were going to have to produce a crappy commercial that we hated... but we did our own thing and the client was so brave and just really took a risk."
For the record, Diaz, wasn't shy about telling Popeater that she was scared to use a tampon until age 21. Now that she does, is she a fan of twirling in slow motion during her 'time of the month?'
"All the time," she joked. "And then I go salsa dancing!"
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