Kiwis complain about sanitary pad ads showing blood

Two Kiwis have complained about an ad for sanitary products that shows menstrual blood.

The 'Bloodnormal' video was produced by feminine care brand Libra, and is intended to challenge stigma around periods. It shows a woman asking her friend for a pad at a social gathering, a man buying pads for his partner and a couple having sex while the woman is on her period. 

The ad also features a shot of blood running down a woman's leg while she showers, a pixellated image of a used pad being removed and a shot of red liquid being dripped onto a pad to demonstrate its absorbency. Period product ads have often used blue liquid to represent menstrual blood because it's seen as less confronting.

"Periods are normal," a slogan reads at the end of the video. "Showing them should be too."

More than 600 Australian viewers complained about the ad after it aired on prime-time television. It was the most highly-complained about ad of the year so far, but industry regulators dismissed all of them and praised the campaign for promoting the "de-mystification of menstruation".

The ad hasn't screened on New Zealand television but it is available on social media and has played on TVNZ On Demand. It's prompted just two complaints so far, from two people identified only as R Kennedy and R Ward.

Kennedy called the ad, which they saw while watching TVNZ On Demand with their child, "absolutely disgusting".

"I realise they have made a campaign to 'normalise' periods but I believe this has gone too far," they said. "I actually nearly felt sick when I saw blood poured onto a pad. It should be a parent's choice when periods are discussed, not when Libra decides... This to me is blood and should be R16. Played after 8.30pm."

Ward identified herself as a woman "and not a shy one at that" but said she was revolted by the video. 

"I don't like seeing an ad about period blood leaking down some girl's leg in the shower or period blood in a pad while I'm eating or not eating my dinner, just any time of the day. This isn't ok, this is a yuck, inappropriate ad. What's next? Semen on ads because that's also normal? Well, I hope not, but hey if you're letting stuff like this be aired then it would not surprise me."

The Advertising Standards Authority has rejected both complaints, pointing out that the ad was only shown to TVNZ On Demand viewers who were female and over 18.

The Complaints Board said Libra's ad was "advocating an important social message by trying to break down the taboo about menstruation and advocate that periods are normal and talking about them should be too". It unanimously ruled that the complaints not be upheld.

In response to the complaints, Libra's parent company Asaleo Care Ltd said the brand had conducted research before launching the Bloodnormal campaign and found 62 percent of women surveyed agreed periods are a normal part of life and shouldn't be ignored by mainstream media. 

A separate survey found that in Australia, periods are treated as secretive and many women feel ashamed about them, with almost 70 percent of young women saying they'd rather fail a class than have their peers know they are menstruating.  

Libra included a number of supportive comments from women who praised the ad for normalising the reality of periods. 

"This message is too important and it's about time we get it loud and clear," read one Facebook comment on the ad.

"Wish I had seen this ad when I was 12," a woman tweeted in reaction to the video. 


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