The Future of Menstrual Product Advertising: Menstrual Chic At Last?
Discontinuous and fleeting as menstrual product advertising may be, it presents one of the very few culturally-normative menstrual narratives available to women. This is problematic, given that analyses of this advertising have repeatedly found it to negatively impact women’s body image and self-esteem, presenting menstruants in a state of “tainted” femininity due to the “hygienic crisis” of menstruation. Efforts to create a positive menstrual narrative within the context of menstrual product advertising have come from smaller companies targeting the “niche” market segments of feminists, spiritual feminists, ecofeminists and environmentalists. However, these alternative menstrual narratives are overly specific for the much larger demographics targeted by global companies, vis-à-vis spiritual beliefs, ethnicity, age, political affiliation and socioeconomic status. Is it possible to create advertising based on a positive menstrual narrative, and yet at the same time, effectively market to these larger demographics?
This paper, and accompanying exhibit of menstrual advertising prototypes, works from a menstrual narrative in which menstruants are in a state of “enhanced” rather than “tainted” femininity, and menstruation is “self-care opportunity” rather than “hygienic crisis.” Multiple, nonstereotypical, and even contradictory definitions of “femininity” and “self-care” will be explored. As well, marketing techniques commonly used for non-menstrual-related products, but avoided by menstrual product advertisers, will be identified and taken advantage of.
The exhibit will consist of at least 30 menstrual product advertisements (print, packaging, and video) accompanied by brief written explanations. At least two advertisements will be in French; two in Spanish; the rest in English.
Although much research has demonstrated the negative impact of contemporary menstrual product advertising, very little has identified alternative menstrual narratives, much less the requisite marketing techniques for them to be used successfully by global companies competing in a global marketplace. Under the pressure of menstrual suppression advocacy within the medical establishment and the contraceptive industry, and with the release of the Seasonale menstrual suppression pill in the United States slated for 2003, perhaps menstrual product manufacturers will be more open to switching from a negative to positive menstrual narrative in their advertising.