Outsmart Mother Nature!

Tampax's ad campaign sells girl power ... at $4.99 a box.

Published March 24, 2009 6:40PM (EDT)

It's no secret that the marketing of lady-products has, historically, been an evil-genius sort of affair, making a killing for pharmaceutical companies by convincing women that our bodies are a little gross, and that we should spend our hard-earned cash on products that ameliorate the yuckiness. The upside of this phenomenon is that "feminine hygiene" advertising has provided years of unintentional hilarity, filled with soft-focused moments and a dictionary's worth of creative euphemisms. But according to a recent story in the New York Times, Tampax is trying to break from all the old cliches. According to a creative director from Tampax's ad agency Leo Burnett, "There are no walks on the beach, no riding a white horse or sitting on a white couch."

Instead, the ads (posted above), launched last summer, encourage us menstrual types to "outsmart Mother Nature." They feature a vaguely deranged, skirt-suited woman (Mother Nature looks like a crazy sitcom aunt, apparently) who accosts nubile young damsels with a little red box containing their "monthly gift." She then adds, in case you didn't get it, "You know, your period." Just when it looks as though date-night is ruined, the wily gals pull out their Tampax Pearl tampons -- take that, Mother Nature! (The TV ads are supplemented by some off-the-cuff, online hijinks, in which an actress presents the same little red box to hapless, real-life women on the street. Unscripted merriment ensues.)

The big change here is supposed to be the use of humor and candor, wrapped up in a grrrl-power package. According to the Leo Burnett ad exec: "The idea of having this worthy opponent really resonates with younger girls, because when someone tries to tell them how to lead their life or what they can or cannot do, they want to outsmart that person." Procter & Gamble (which owns Tampax, along with Olay and Always and several other lady products) goes a long way to pose the campaign as empowerment -- click on the "outsmart Mother Nature" link at Tampax.com, and you'll end up on a special website that claims to be "by girls, for girls," replete with pastel graphics, hip abbreviations, quizzes and other "kewl stuff" (if you ever wondered what happened to the old design team from "Tiger Beat," look no further). The site purports to teach girls about "confidence" and "control," but it turns out that those aims are primarily achieved -- surprise, surprise -- by purchasing Procter & Gamble products.

In the end, the campaign delivers the same old message (your body is gross) with the same old objective (capitalizing on women's shame to make them pliant consumers). Really, it's enough to give a girl that not-so-fresh feeling.

By Abigail Kramer

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