The "Blood normal" campaign by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO banishes the blue liquid that conventionally stands in for period blood in ads and instead shows real-life scenarios of young women dealing with their periods.
These include a couple having sex, a woman shaving in the shower with blood running down her leg, a man buying pads at a supermarket, and another woman asking for a pad at a dinner party.
Breaking today, the ad will run across YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and programmatic. Bodyform will air a 20-second film in the UK, while Libresse will run a two-minute 20-second version globally in markets such as the Netherlands and Nordic countries.
In addition to the films, the campaign will include a graphic story by illustrator Victo Ngai, specially-designed period underwear by French lingerie company Dessu, period jokes by 12-year-old stand-up comedian Saffron Herndon, and a range of pad-shaped lilos.
Working with the production company Flare Studio, Libresse and Bodyform will also fund the creation of three further short films that openly reference periods and offer a bursary to aspiring filmmakers to produce them.
Bodyform has made previous attempts to overturn period stigma in mainstream media. Last year the Essity brand ran a campaign that showed women bleeding from playing sport, with the tagline "No blood should hold us back". But the depiction of actual period blood is a first for the brand.
Tanja Grubner, the global marketing and communications director at Essity, said: "Periods are a normal part of life, but are largely ignored by mainstream media. They simply don’t feature in the representation of female characters that we see every day.
"As a leader in feminine hygiene, we want to challenge the stigma around periods. We believe that like any other taboo, the more people see it, the more normal the subject becomes. We want to lead the way with a campaign that tackles the taboo head on by positively showing periods in action in everyday life truthfully and honestly – because we feel it’s the right thing to do for society."
A recent survey of 10,000 people conducted by the brand found that more than one-third of respondents thought of periods as taboo – ahead of mental health problems and the gender pay gap. Nine out of ten women attempt to hide their periods, and 56% of girls expressed a preference for being bullied at school rather than talking to their parents about periods.
"Blood normal" was written by Nicholas Hulley, art directed by Nadja Lossgott, and directed by Daniel Wolfe through Somesuch. Zenith is the media agency.
Wolfe said he was inspired by a quote he saw on social media which said, "Can’t wait for the day when women no longer pass tampons to a friend like they are a Class A drug."
"We wanted to create something that provided a platform for discussion rather than trying to tell people what to think," he said. "A film which both women and men will take something from, hopefully helping instil the idea of a new normal."