By Saumya Tewari Mint, New Delhi
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) A new advertising campaign in India aims to break the silence around the taboos of menstruation.
Whisper, the P&G-owned brand which showed a sanitary pad on prime time advertising two decades ago, is asking young girls to break the silence on periods in a new digital campaign.
Not just hygiene, periods in India are often associated with innumerable societal and religious taboos which place several restrictions on women. In some parts of the country women are not allowed to touch food items like pickle, visit a temple or even wash hair.
Whisper which leads the sanitary pad market in India with 50.4% share as of 2016, through its advertising, looks at attacking such taboos. The new campaign further aids the ongoing conversation around periods with India's first film on menstruation, Padman, releasing on Friday.
Made by advertising agency Leo Burnett, the minute-long video features young girls experiencing their first period which not only makes them vulnerable but makes them lose confidence. At such a stage, all they need is an open and healthy dialogue on periods from loved ones to put their anxiety at rest.
"We have always believed that sanitary napkins should not be a product or category shrouded in silence and taboos.
Our latest campaign brings to life the role that every whisper of encouragement plays and has played in breaking the silence around periods. We salute millions of teachers, fathers, mothers, elder sisters or best friends who've broken silences with words of encouragement. We hope this will enable more girls to break the silence around their periods and bring out the strength, talent and character," said a spokesperson from P&G.
The digital-only campaign is currently being promoted across social media platforms, including streaming site YouTube, social media website Facebook and micro-blogging platform Twitter.
"Whisper is one of the very few brands that walk the talk--right from helping women break taboos around menstruation, to setting up personal hygiene awareness programs for millions of schoolgirls, brand Whisper has been behind hundreds of life-changing initiatives. I am so proud of this piece of work; it shows the power of the brand and how millions of whispers can break a silence. I believe the campaign works brilliantly in empowering our schoolgirls and women," said Rajdeepak Das, chief creative officer, Leo Burnett, South Asia.
Since its launch in the India market in 1989, Whisper has continuously worked towards educating women about using sanitary napkins over cloth towels. Apart from television and print advertising, Whisper educates girls on menstruation in schools through its Mother Daughter Menstrual Hygiene Program. The brand claims to educate more than 4.5 million girls in 20,000 schools annually across the country.
However, it was its Touch the Pickle campaign, made by BBDO India, which urged women to defy menstrual taboos that ended up winning the Grand Prix award at Cannes 2015. In October last year, the brand has released a campaign Sit Improper, which challenged the societal norms and cultural barriers girls face on a daily basis.
Kunal Roy, head of integrated strategy at advertising agency Cheil India, said the new digital spot by Whisper touches upon a sensitive yet pressing topic. "The film required the right amount of restraint and assertiveness, in that light I felt the film balanced the emotions beautifully," he said. Roy said the ad takes the Touch the Pickle narrative forward by focusing on the crucial age where the stigma sets in and in a stirring manner empowers girls by making them feel unapologetic about getting periods and talking about it.
However, he added that the sanitary napkin brand category still lacks soul with its advertising harping mostly on clinical attributes. "They refer to moments of truth but handle those moments in a dispassionate and solution-oriented manner. Until now, most of the advertising has lacked any point of view which I hope will change," he said.