UK-based feminine hygiene brand Bodyform’s recent Bloodnormal campaign has taken everybody by surprise, by introducing the first advert for a sanitary towel that features a depiction of actual period blood. Finally there is a brand willing to break the silence around the topic with a more accurate and realistic representation of female menstruation, although this should have happened earlier.

The advert contains a series of scenes to make periods more realistic to viewers. This includes a testing scene where red liquid is used to show the product’s absorbency, instead of the blue liquid that is commonly seen in other similar adverts, as well as a shower scene in which period blood runs down a woman’s leg, and a scene where a man buys sanitary towels without any signs of discomfort.

These groundbreaking scenes demonstrate the brand’s intention to remove the social stigma associated periods. It encourages consumers, regardless of gender, to accept female menstruation as a natural part of life and something they should not shy away from discussing. This is embodied by the adverts’ tagline: “Periods are normal. Showing them should be too.”

The campaign went viral. Two weeks after it was uploaded, the ad had attracted over two million views on Bodyform’s official Youtube channel, and 51k views on its Facebook page. Many women praised Bodyform’s effort on social media for realistically representing and normalizing periods, and its attempt to challenge and break the taboo.

Challenging the stigma around periods

The emergence of ‘real blood’ in a sanitary towel advert should also provoke thoughts in the industry. Despite the common nature of blood-related scenes and violence in mainstream media, many brands continue to use artificial blue ‘blood’ and whisper the word period as if it is something shameful.

It shows how little the industry has progressed in its attempts to relate to its target audience and encourage acceptance of everyday bodily functions. It also shows a lack of initiative and willingness to destigmatise the period, a normal physical phenomenon that the industry depends on to make a profit.

In 2016 the Feminine Hygiene market was worth just under $30bn worldwide. Sanitary pads accounted for almost two-thirds of this, and tampons represented an additional 10%. While Bodyform celebrates its commercial success, the wider industry should be doing some serious reflection.