The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

The Gruen Transfer On “Padvertising”

Posted by Clem Bastow on July 9, 2008

Now that the chorus of groans from dedicated Aunty viewers has died down, we can appreciate Wil Anderson’s advertising/marketing magazine show The Gruen Transfer for what it is: a funny and often enlightening look at the world of advertising.

Last week’s episode’s “How Do You Sell…” segment featured, as the rather delicate term goes, ‘women’s sanitary products’. The panel’s discussion raised some salient points – do advertisers prey on the “shame” factor in sanitary product ads (i.e. “leakage”)? Yes. Do they create “problems” in order to sell “solutions” (i.e. panty-liners for month-long protection > month-long advertising)? Yes. Are “dumb boyfriend” ads just as sexist as ditzy women ads? Yes – as well as highlighting some of the ridiculous taboos of advertising pads and tampons (no blood! No saying “vagina”!).

It’s fascinating to see these advertising and marketing professionals, in effect, selling out the world of “padvertising” (as Anderson hilariously puts it) and giving away the marketing secrets that are used to keep women shelling out cash in what they note, numerous times, is a $250-million industry (in Australia alone).

You can watch the discussed advertisements on the Gruen site, but here – in exciting two-part format, thanks YouTube’s 10-minutes only rule! – is the discussion in full.

In particular I find the panel’s take on the now infamous U Tampons “beaver” ad particularly interesting – that, in its own funny way, it’s “liberating” in the way it says ‘yes, all women have vaginas, and they’re not scary’ and so on. I mean, the fact that it has to be done via a) a cute/dorky ad and b) using the term “beaver” (I’m sorry, did we become one of the United States of America and I missed the memo?) leaves a little to be desired, but I did view it in a somewhat different and more positive light after hearing their discussion of it.

3 Responses to “The Gruen Transfer On “Padvertising””

  1. casualtyofdesign said

    I hear what you’re saying but I ask what would you do differently? You’ve raised some good points, now how to you propose to market these products differently?

    I’m just guessing but I’m betting the heads of all the marketing departments for these womens products are probably women. What do you say to that? I’m not saying it makes it any better just want to hear what you have to say.

    Women in numerous countries don’t have tampons or pads, pretty crazy to think about. It would be cool if NO money went to advertising for tampons and that money went to the Sudan or any other third world country for food and AIDS medicine… in a perfect world.

    Now that I think about it I guess commercials for leakage, stains or any other unbearable scenario are a privilege.

    Damn the man!

    Truly,

    Mr. Echo

  2. Clem Bastow said

    Mr. Echo, I can’t help but feel your argument is the equivalent of the old “there are children starving in Ethiopia, eat your dinner” line. And I think you’ll find that the money spent on dog food, perfume and prestige cars is going to go a lot further towards “food and AIDS medicine” than that spent in the feminine hygiene industry.

    Marketing heads and CEOs are not necessarily women just because the products they are pushing are female oriented. That’s a fairly naive concept. You’ll notice that even on the Gruen panel each week, the ratio of male to female advertisers/marketers is 4:1.

    The thing is, you don’t need to market pads and tampons. Women who get their period are going to buy pads and tampons, it’s as simple as that, and through a process of trial and error, they will decide upon a brand that suits them. Beyond the first few purchases when a girl is 14 or so, what the packaging looks like or how cute the ads are have nothing to do with it.

    For example, Libra could come up with the best ad in the world but I still wouldn’t like their pads. Or De Jour can make their packaging as discrete and “sleek” as they like, but I will always choose Tampax.

  3. audrey said

    Clem, I completely agree especially re De Jour. Personally, I’m a Cottons girl and I don’t recall having ever seen an ad for their products. The Moxie lady seems to have done a pretty good job, but doesn’t sell refills which seems to be a huge waste of tin.

    I think you’re being more than naive Mr. Echo. Suggesting that women must be the heads of marketing departments for women’s products (like there are whole separate secret underground lairs for SWB) seems to imply that we shouldn’t have a problem with it because it’s the work of our own kind.

    You know what else is the work of our own kind? Cosmopolitan.

    As for the beaver ad, I’ve always liked it – primarily because it intrinsically acknowledges that vaginas have hair. They could have used a bald siamese pussy cat.

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